Lawyer who made a huge contribution to Britain’s groundbreaking legislation on racial and gender equality

The lawyer Anthony Lester, who has died aged 84, was the author of the groundbreaking legislation on racial and gender equality introduced in Britain by Harold Wilson’s Labour government in the 1970s. He was also the single most influential voice in establishing the recognition of the concept of human rights in the courts and its enshrinement in domestic law in 1998 by the succeeding Labour administration under Tony Blair.

The reforming home secretary Roy Jenkins, who has been credited by history with responsibility for the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976, happily conceded in his memoirs that his commitment to the principle of human rights was thanks to the encouragement and direction of Lester, to whom he also gave credit for writing much of the legislation almost single-handed.

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