Keir Starmer

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Sir Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service, UK (8450776372).jpg
Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St Pancras
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded by Frank Dobson
Director of Public Prosecutions
In office
1 November 2008 – 1 November 2013
Preceded by Ken Macdonald
Succeeded by Alison Saunders
Personal details
Born (1962-09-02) 2 September 1962 (age 60)
London, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Victoria Alexander
Children 2
Alma mater University of Leeds
St Edmund Hall, Oxford
Website Official website

Sir Keir Starmer, KCB, QC (born 2 September 1962, Southwark) is a British politician and barrister who has served as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition since 2020. Since the 2015 General Election, he has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Holborn and St Pancras. He was the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) from 2008 to 2013.[1] He has prosecuted in numerous cases for the CPS during his career, acting principally as a defence lawyer specialising in the law of human rights.[2] Ideologically, Starmer identifies as a socialist and has been described by his political allies as being on the soft left within the Labour Party.

Early life

Starmer was the second of four children. He was named after former Labour Party leader and socialist Keir Hardie.[3] He passed the 11-plus examination and gained entry to Reigate Grammar School,[3] then a voluntary aided school. He studied law at the University of Leeds and graduated with a first class Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 1985. He then undertook postgraduate studies at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and graduated from the University of Oxford Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree in 1986.[4]

Legal career

Starmer became a barrister in 1987, appointed Queen's Counsel in 2002, and was joint head of his chambers, Doughty Street Chambers.

Acting in several appeals to the Privy Council for defendants who had been sentenced to death in Caribbean countries, his legal submissions led to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty in those countries.[citation needed] He worked with lawyers in African countries towards the same end. In 2005 he persuaded the House of Lords that evidence obtained by torture should be inadmissible in court.[citation needed] In 2007 he represented two alleged terrorists in a case in the House of Lords in which he successfully challenged their control orders on human rights grounds.[citation needed] He has also acted in 15 other cases in the House of Lords since 1999, including two cases about the conduct of British soldiers in Iraq, and representing David Shayler in his appeal against conviction for breaching the Official Secrets Act 1989. He gave free legal advice to the defendants in the "McLibel" case,[5] and was interviewed twice — ten years apart — in Franny Armstrong's 2005 documentary, McLibel.

He was a human rights advisor to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Association of Chief Police Officers. He is a member of the Foreign Secretary's Death Penalty Advisory Panel. In 2007 he was named "QC of the Year".[6] While in office he was widely viewed to be favourable towards the Labour Party.[3]

Director of Public Prosecutions

On 25 July 2008, the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, QC, named Starmer as the next head of the CPS, to take over from Sir Ken Macdonald, QC on 1 November 2008.[1] Macdonald (now Lord Macdonald of River Glaven), himself a former defence lawyer, welcomed the appointment.

On 22 July 2010 Starmer announced the controversial decision not to prosecute the police officer Simon Harwood in relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson resulting in accusations by Tomlinson's family of a police cover up.[7]

On 3 February 2012 Starmer announced that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP and his former wife, Vicky Pryce would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Huhne became the first Cabinet minister in British history to be compelled to resign as a result of criminal proceedings.[8] Starmer had previously stated in relation to the case that "[w]here there is sufficient evidence we do not shy away from prosecuting politicians".[9]

In the summer of 2012 British newspapers reported allegations that Starmer was personally responsible for the continued prosecution of Paul Chambers, a traveller who, frustrated at airport delays, had posted a joke about the airport on Twitter. In the case known as the "Twitter Joke Trial" Chambers had been convicted of sending a "public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character". The trial and conviction provoked widespread protest by free-speech activists, but the Crown Prosecution Service maintained a long-term opposition to Chambers' appeals. According to Chambers' defenders, prosecutors had been willing to stop opposing the appeals, but Starmer had overruled his subordinates because he was "trying to save face by refusing to admit he was in the wrong."[10]

He left office on 1 November 2013 and was replaced by Alison Saunders.[11][12]


In December 2013 the Labour Party announced that Starmer would lead an enquiry into changing the law to give further protection to victims in cases of rape and child abuse.[13] On 28 December, Starmer refused to deny the possibility of entering politics, saying to BBC News "well, I’m back in private practice; I’m rather enjoying having some free time, and I’m considering a number of options."[14]

Political career

Starmer was chosen on 13 December 2014 as the Labour Party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, following the decision of the sitting MP Frank Dobson to stand down.[15]

Starmer was elected MP at the 2015 general election by a margin of 17,048 votes over the next candidate.[16]

He was urged by activists to stand for Leader of the Labour Party in the 2015 election,[17] but he ruled out doing so, citing his lack of political experience.[18] During the campaign to elect a new leader of the Labour Party, following the resignation of Ed Miliband, Keir Starmer backed Andy Burnham for the leadership.[19]

In September 2015, Starmer along with Tulip Siddiq and Catherine West wrote a letter to British prime minister David Cameron seeking urgent action to address the refugee crisis due to the Syrian Civil War.[20][21][22]

Personal life

He married Victoria Alexander, a solicitor, in 2007 and has a son and daughter.[23] The couple live in Camden.


KCB breast star


Starmer is the author and editor of several books about criminal law and human rights.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Nina Goswami: "Keir Starmer QC appointed DPP" (25 July 2008), The Lawyer
  2. Frances Gibb: "Human rights lawyer Keir Starmer named as new prosecution service chief" (26 July 2008), Times online
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Moss, Stephen (21 September 2009). "Keir Starmer: 'I wouldn't characterise myself as a bleeding heart liberal . . .'". The Guardian. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Debrett's People of Today
  5. Interview transcript (14 August 1996),
  6. Stephen Bates: "Profile: Keir Starmer QC" (1 August 2008), The Guardian
  7. Dodd, Vikram; Lewis, Paul (22 July 2010). "Ian Tomlinson death: police officer will not face criminal charges". The Guardian. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. M. Settle, "Huhne forced to resign as points court battle looms", The Daily Herald, (4 February 2012)
  9. Keir Starmer QC, "Letter to the Daily Mail from CPS about the Chris Huhne case", The blog of the Crown Prosecution Service, (23 November 2011)
  10. Nick Cohen. "'Twitter joke' case only went ahead at insistence of DPP | Law". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-09-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Branagh, Ellen (23 July 2013). "Stephen Lawrence barrister Alison Saunders to take over from Keir Starmer as new Director of Public Prosecutions". The Independent. London. Retrieved 23 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Saunders to replace Starmer at DPP". Liverpool Daily Post. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Keir Starmer heads Labour's victim treatment review". BBC News. 28 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. [1][dead link]
  15. "Keir Starmer to stand for Labour in Holborn and St Pancras". The Guardian. 13 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Holborn & St. Pancras Parliamentary Constituency". BBC. 8 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Matthew Weaver (15 May 2015). "Labour activists urge Keir Starmer to stand for party leadership". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Caroline Davies (17 May 2015). "Keir Starmer rules himself out of Labour leadership contest". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Wilkinson, Michael (13 September 2015). "Splits emerge as Jeremy Corbyn finalises Labour's shadow cabinet". The Telegraph'. Retrieved 27 September 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Cadwalladr, Carole (28 December 2014). "Rising stars of 2015: politician Dan Jarvis". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Pasha, Syed Nahas (5 September 2015). "Tulip Siddiq urges PM Cameron to take urgent action to address refugee crisis in Europe". London: Retrieved 10 September 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Tulip seeks action to end refugee crisis". Dhaka: Prothom Alo. 5 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Law | The Times". Retrieved 2013-07-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60728. p. 3. 31 December 2013.
  25. "The New Year Honours List 2014 – Higher Awards" (PDF). 30 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "University of Essex :: Honorary Graduates :: Honorary Graduates :: Profile: Keir Starmer QC". Retrieved 2015-06-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "University of East London :: Honorary Graduates :: Honorary Graduates :: Profile: Keir Starmer QC". Retrieved 2013-07-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Ken Macdonald
Director of Public Prosecutions
Succeeded by
Alison Saunders
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Frank Dobson
Member of Parliament
for Holborn and St Pancras