Andrew McCulloch and Mike Coates remember the lawyer who helped Nelson Mandela escape the death penalty. Plus Giles Oakley shares the late Barry Norman’s advice about dressing up for redundancy
In his obituary of Lord Joffe (28 June), John Battersby suggests that Joffe was important among those who prevailed upon Nelson Mandela, in his famous speech from the dock in 1964, to not offer himself directly for martyrdom, thus saving the impetuous Mandela from himself. However, all of the eight defendants were found guilty of high treason, a capital crime. Nevertheless, Mr Justice Quartus de Wet deliberately chose not to impose the death penalty for reasons of state and sentenced all eight to life imprisonment. Decades later, the result of a long rapprochement between the imprisoned, moderate Mandela and the increasingly threatened apartheid state was Mandela as the first president of post-apartheid South Africa.
• Thank you for the quality and range of John Battersby’s obituary for Joel Joffe, who was one of the most gracious and inspiring people I have met. It was very pleasing to note that the piece mentioned Allied Dunbar Charitable Trust’s support for projects concerned with mental illness. In 1987 the trust established its schizophrenia policy and this ran until 1992 – contributing about £2m to a variety of innovative approaches across the UK. A six-member advisory committee was set up to oversee this work; I served as a housing adviser and my close colleague David Lyne served as leader of Making Space, a mental health charity based in Warrington. Joel chaired the team with passionate commitment, a grasp of the policy and practical questions we faced – and a wonderful sense of humour. I feel truly blessed to have worked so closely with him.