‘Ben had limitless energy, determination and resolve’

Benedict Michael Birnberg was born on September 8, 1930 in Stepney to parents who were schoolteachers.

His father was mathematician Jonas Birnberg, who had taught for almost 40 years at Colfes Grammar School in Blackheath, and at Goldsmiths College.

Mr Birnberg, pictured right, read history at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, before going on to become a solicitor.

He set up his company B. M. Birnberg in 1962, operating from cramped offices in Borough High Street in Southwark, and practising as senior partner until his retirement in 1999.

He died on October 13 peacefully at home in Blackheath with his wife Felitsa and Ariadne with him and after a short illness.

In tribute, former MP Simon Hughes said: “Ben Birnberg was one of the great British civil liberties lawyers of my adult life, whom I had the privilege to come to know well, work with often and respect hugely.

“When as a young lawyer, I became MP for Bermondsey and North Southwark in 1983, I was proud also to become the MP for the
campaigning and radical Birnberg solicitors in Borough High Street.

“I regularly referred constituents and others to Ben’s firm and worked on several of the legal campaigns for which Birnberg’s became
famous – such as to secure the posthumous pardon for Derek Bentley.

“I also came to know Ben really well when he offered large amounts of time, support, advice and wisdom to local and national campaigns which were not principally legal – such as the very successful local and national fight to Save Guy’s Hospital from closure and to protect and save Borough Market.

“Ben was a man of almost limitless determination, energy and resolve and used his intellect, skill and unwavering commitment to justice successfully to challenge established British views throughout his long life.

“To his family, I add my warmest appreciation for all Ben did for so many for so long. Long may his legacy continue through the lives of all the civil liberty lawyers and others whom he inspired, led and taught so well.”

Sir Simon Hughes
By email


Picture: Ariadne Birnberg

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