Geoffrey Bindman

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Person.png Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Geoffrey Bindman.jpg
BornGeoffrey Lionel Bindman
3 January 1933
Alma materOriel College (Oxford)
British solicitor specialising in human rights law.

Sir Geoffrey Bindman KC is a British solicitor specialising in human rights law, and founder of the human rights law firm Bindmans LLP, described by The Times as "never far from the headlines."

He has been Chair[1] of the British Institute of Human Rights since 2005.[2] He won The Law Society Gazette Centenary Award for Human Rights in 2003,[3] and was knighted in 2006 for services to human rights.[4]

In 2011 Sir Geoffrey Bindman was appointed Queen's Counsel.[5]

Family and early professional life

Bindman was born and brought up in Newcastle upon Tyne to a family descended from Jewish immigrants. His father Gerald [1904-1974] was a GP who married Rachael Lena Doberman in 1929. Bindman attended the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, and then graduated from Oriel College (Oxford), with a Bachelor of Civil Law in 1956, qualifying as a solicitor three years later. He became Legal Adviser to the [Race Relations Board in 1966, a job he retained for seventeen years. He was also a legal adviser to Amnesty International and represented satirical magazine Private Eye.[6] In the late 1980s, Bindman visited South Africa as part of an International Commission of Jurists delegation sent to investigate Apartheid[7] and subsequently became editor of a book on the topic, South Africa and the Rule of Law.[8]

Bindmans LLP

In 1974, Geoffrey Bindman established Bindmans LLP as a firm with the aim of "protecting the rights and freedoms of ordinary people."[9] Since then, he has personally acted as lawyer for numerous high-profile people including James Hanratty,[10] Keith Vaz[11] and Jack Straw.[12] Bindman also continued his international human rights work, acting as a United Nations observer at the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994[13] and representing Amnesty International's interests in Augusto Pinochet's arrest and trial in the late 1990s.[14]

In December 2006, Bindman signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Tony Blair to compensate and substantially increase the FCO pension of British diplomat, Patrick Haseldine, whose Article 10 right to "freedom of expression" was breached when he was sacked for writing a letter to The Guardian 18 years earlier. The petition was unsuccessful.[15]

In September 2012, Bindman told BBC Radio 4 he agreed with Desmond Tutu that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair should be prosecuted on the grounds that starting the Iraq War was a "crime of aggression" in breach of the United Nations Charter.[16]

EHRC picked apart

Geoffrey Bindman was Legal Adviser to the Race Relations Board from its establishment in 1966 until 1976 when the Board became the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). He continued as Legal Adviser to the CRE until 1983. The functions of the CRE were taken over in 2007 by the newly created Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

In 2022, Sir Geoffrey Bindman contributed a highly critical introduction to the JVL/Verso book "How the EHRC Got it so Wrong: Antisemitism and the Labour Party". The controversy around alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party was unprecedented in its protracted ferocity. It contributed to Labour’s electoral defeat in 2019 and tarnished the reputation of the movement that propelled Jeremy Corbyn to Party leader.[17]

The EHRC investigated these allegations and, in September 2020, delivered its report. Those groups which had spearheaded the campaign against Labour on this issue heralded the EHRC’s findings as a vindication of claims that Labour under Corbyn was institutionally antisemitic. The Party directed members to accept the findings without question. Yet this ebook report shows that the EHRC’s investigation did not remotely uphold the dominant public accusations against Labour, while even those limited findings it did make cannot withstand factual or legal scrutiny. The study examines the EHRC’s conclusions and finds:

• no evidence of widespread antisemitism, direct discrimination or victimisation in the Labour Party

• no evidence that Corbyn or his office were responsible for the Party's poor handling of complaints

• no evidence that Corbyn or his office sought systematically to undermine antisemitism complainants or protected those accused

• a dangerous disregard by the EHRC for the elementary democratic as well as legal principle of free speech.[18]

"EHRC picked apart by leading lawyer"

Interviewed by Crispin Flintoff on the Not the Andrew Marr Show of 19 February 2023, Sir Geoffrey Bindman gave an authoritative answer to the four questions put to him:

What is the background of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)?
Why would the EHRC conduct a report into antisemitism in the Labour Party?
What did the EHRC uncover?
Does the EHRC report give Keir Starmer a justification to stop Jeremy Corbyn standing as a Labour candidate?

A YouTube commentator wrote:

"Thank you. An excellent programme, Crispin, with two extremely knowledgeable speakers, one of whom at least, has an impeccable pedigree; which is no way to underestimate the credibility of the other. Two legal minds at either ends of long and successful careers in law, I am sure.
"We must trust that the two appeals will succeed and that this whole sorry mess of a smear campaign and political stitch-up will eventually be exposed and that those responsible will held to account.
"The hopes and aspirations of tens, if not hundreds-of-thousands of people are at stake, not to mention the political integrity of our entire system of representative government."[19]


In November 2007, Sir Geoffrey Bindman wrote an article in the New Law Journal about efforts by Sir James Goldsmith to put Private Eye magazine out of business. Buccaneering businessman Tiny Rowland helped fund the legal defence of Private Eye against Goldsmith's libel writs, as detailed in Richard Ingrams' book "Goldenballs"!

Lord Gnome, the legendary proprietor of Private Eye, frequently required the services of his solicitors Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne. I was lucky enough to occupy that role for the real life editor, Richard Ingrams, for some 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s. A highlight of the period was the prolonged litigation between the magazine and the late billionaire entrepreneur Sir James Goldsmith. In 1976 Goldsmith attracted the interest of Private Eye. One of its stories linked him, through his solicitor Eric Levine, to the criminally convicted former leader of Newcastle City Council, T Dan Smith, and another to some alleged skullduggery involving the well known City finance house of the day, Slater Walker. A third claimed that Goldsmith had attended a lunch for friends of Lord Lucan, who had recently disappeared following the murder of his children’s nanny. Private Eye suggested that Lucan’s friends had met to discuss how they could help him to escape the clutches of the law. However, it later emerged that Goldsmith had been absent on this occasion.

Avalanche of writs

Goldsmith was angry, as well as rich. He set out to destroy the little magazine that had presumed to offend him. He sued over all three stories. But he spread the net far beyond Private Eye. In a novel exercise in overkill, he issued separate writs against all the distributors and wholesalers of the magazine. There were over 60 writs. Private Eye faced a huge financial burden. It was liable to indemnify all those whom Goldsmith had chosen to sue.

The first task was to reassure the recipients of these writs that the indemnity would be honoured. Private Eye lacked the resources but had a lot of supporters. A drive to raise money began, inspirationally named the "Goldenballs Fund".

The next imperative was to challenge the proliferation of writs as an abuse of the legal process. Attacking the distributors was designed to put the Eye out of business, not to redress the libels, if there were any. We said this was not a legitimate reason for suing and we persuaded a judge that we were right. He dismissed all but the three actions against Private Eye itself. Goldsmith appealed and Lord Denning, presiding over the Court of Appeal, agreed with us and gave a resounding judgment in our favour. Unfortunately, his two junior colleagues, one of whom was the future Lord Scarman, let us down badly by outvoting him. So Private Eye continued to face the whole avalanche of writs and the prospect of extinction.

Appetite for vengeance

Nor did his success in the Court of Appeal satisfy Goldsmith’s appetite for vengeance. He applied to the High Court for leave to bring a private prosecution against Ingrams and other Private Eye journalists for criminal libel. Such prosecutions were, and have remained, rare. The court must be satisfied that there is a strong public interest in a prosecution. It was also widely believed that prosecutions would only be allowed where the libel complained of threatened public order. Naturally, we challenged this move vigorously but the judge was mesmerised by Goldsmith’s commercial brilliance. He ruled that the public interest test was satisfied and that the absence of a threat to public order was immaterial. He gave leave for the prosecution to go ahead. The prospect of imprisonment now hung over the journalists.

Strange confession

Referendum Party's candidate in 1997

Even this was not enough for Goldsmith. He believed the Eye was about to publish another damaging story—this time about his solicitor, Levine, who before setting up his own practice had been a protégé of the commercial lawyer Leslie Paisner. It was rumoured that Levine had left Paisners under a cloud. Surprisingly it was Goldsmith, not Levine himself, who decide to apply to the High Court for an injunction.

Apart from the obvious defence that Goldsmith had no standing to sue on behalf of his solicitor, we were confident of defeating this latest assault by revealing information about Levine which had been supplied by Paisner himself to a Private Eye journalist. The day before the hearing a copy of an affidavit by Paisner was delivered to my home by Levine’s messenger. It echoed the confessions made under torture by the accuseds in the Soviet show trials of the 1930s:

“After Eric Levine left Paisner & Co., the firm of which I am senior partner, in October 1969, I have on a number of occasions seriously defamed him...I hereby unequivocally acknowledge that all these statements and allegations were lies and without any foundation whatsoever. They were part of a vicious vendetta perpetrated by me on Eric Levine...Despite my attacks against Eric Levine, he prospered. The success of his firm embittered me the more, especially when I learned that the successful Jimmy Goldsmith had become his client.”

The court was electrified when this remarkable document was read out. The judge, Mr Justice Donaldson, succinctly summarised its impact:

“Either the man’s mad or he’s had his arm twisted.”

Unfortunately, we were unable to cross-examine Paisner. He did not appear when summoned to give evidence. Instead a doctor turned up to report that he was too ill. He died a few months later, leaving unsolved the mystery of his strange confession and the likely role of Goldsmith in extracting it.

We won that round but the civil and criminal libel trials still loomed. Then, an opportunity to resolve the whole affair occurred. Goldsmith fancied himself as a newspaper magnate and tried to buy The Observer.

The journalists on that paper were incensed by his persecution of Private Eye and objected strenuously to the prospect of becoming his employees while the litigation continued. Goldsmith realised he could not achieve his ambition without ending the dispute. A settlement was negotiated on terms very favourable to Private Eye: publication of an apology and a modest contribution to Goldsmith’s legal costs, by instalments spread over 10 years. The criminal prosecution was withdrawn at a brief hearing at the Old Bailey.

Settling the dispute was not, however, enough to clinch a deal with The Observer. The wealthy bully who tried to use the law to intimidate had overreached himself. A warning, perhaps, to others similarly tempted.[20]

[[Display born on::3 January 1933| ]]  

Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:EHRC avoids response to QC’s submission that Labour investigation breaches Equality ActArticle3 August 2019Jewish Voice for Labour's submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission points out that many of the worst aspects took place under the tenure of former general secretary Iain McNicol, while significant improvements have been made under his successor Jennie Formby.
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  5. Appointed Queen's Counsel". The Daily Telegraph. United Kingdom. 3 March 2011. p. 28.
  7. Milne, Seumas (21 June 1988). "Final knock at the door of Downing Street". The Guardian. United Kingdom.
  8. Brittain, Victoria (19 August 1988). "Books: third world". The Guardian. United Kingdom
  10. Bennetto, Jason (27 January 1997). "I'm dying tomorrow, please clear my name". The Independent. United Kingdom. p. 8.
  11. Watson, Roland (17 March 2001). "Lawyer claims human rights were breached". The Times. United Kingdom.
  12. Wintour, Patrick (4 January 1998). "Named, but not shamed". The Observer. United Kingdom. p. 19.
  15. "Petition to compensate British diplomat Patrick Haseldine"
  17. "How the EHRC Got It So Wrong – Antisemitism and the Labour Party"
  18. "Geoffrey Bindman & Jenny Manson on 'Not the Andrew Marr Show'”
  19. "EHRC picked apart by leading lawyer"
  20. "Sir James Goldsmith’s tale is a warning to those tempted to use the law to intimidate, says Geoffrey Bindman"
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