Anthony was at the heart of a thirty-year campaign that resulted in the Human Rights Act, as well as the struggle against discrimination because of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief that culminated in the Equality Act 2010.
He was inspired by the American civil rights struggles during his time as visiting fellow at Harvard Law School. He went to the Deep South for Amnesty International during the “long hot summer” of 1964 to report on racial injustice. On his return he became legal adviser to CARD – the Campaign against Racial Discrimination. He worked at the Home Office as Roy Jenkins’ Special Adviser (1974-76) developing what became the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976.
Back at the English Bar he argued many leading cases on free speech (Thalidomide and Spycatcher among them) and sex and race equality in our courts and in both European Courts. He took the first British case to Strasbourg in 1967, and represented British Asian refugees in successfully challenging Parliament’s racist legislation depriving them of their right to live here as British citizens.
Since 1993, when Anthony became as Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords (Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC), he has initiated reforms resulting not only in the Human Rights and Equality Ac but also the Civil Partnership, Defamation and Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Acts.
Anthony is an accomplished public speaker and witty raconteur drawing on a huge fund of stories about his life in politics and law. His wife is an asylum and immigration judge, his daughter is a QC, and his son directs theatre studies at Bard College in New York.
Anthony Lester’s recently published book – Five Ideas to Fight For: How our Freedom is Under Threat and Why It Matters – is about human rights, equality, free speech, privacy and the rule of law. These five ideas are vitally important to the way of life way enjoy today. The battle to establish them in law was long and difficult. He has fought to maintain them both in the courts as a leading human rights advocate and in Parliament. His book is a clarion call to action.