Gary Slapper, 1958-2016

A leading expert on corporate crime and social responsibility, who also wrote extensively about the funny side of the law, has died

December 15, 2016
Obituary: Gary Slapper 1958-2016

Gary Slapper was born in London on 25 September 1958 and studied law at University College London (1980). He then became head of law at Elm Park Community College (1981-85) while gaining a postgraduate certificate in education at the University of Manchester (1984).

He went on to serve as principal lecturer at Staffordshire University Law School (1990-97) and then as professor of law – and head of the law school – at the Open University (1997-2011).

Along the way, Professor Slapper picked up a master’s from UCL (1992) and a PhD in law from the London School of Economics (1995). He was a member of the corporate manslaughter team at a London chambers and visiting professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He ended his career as a global professor at New York University and director of New York University in London.

In his core area of academic interest, Professor Slapper was the author of Corporate Crime (with Steve Tombs, 1999) and Blood in the Bank: Social and Legal Aspects of Death at Work (1999), with an introduction by Noam Chomsky, which looks in depth at 40 commercially related deaths.

A later study, Organisational Prosecutions (2001), explores the other side of the coin, when companies and major public bodies take to the courts. Better known were his standard overviews of The English Legal System (with David Kelly; 17th edition, 2016) and English Law (with David Kelly; third edition, 2010). This latter was the first British book of its kind to incorporate a companion website for all necessary updates.

Along with these more specialist texts, however, Professor Slapper was always passionately interested in making the law and legal scholarship more accessible to the wider public.

He often acted as the legal consultant for television documentaries and drama series. He wrote popular introductory texts such as How the Law Works (second edition, 2011), as well as a series of books exploring Weird Cases: Comic and Bizarre Cases from Courtrooms around the World (2009). He was a prolific newspaper columnist and very active on Twitter, where he gladly shared student exam tips alongside comic examples of the law in action.

One tells of the time when counsel asked a witness whether somebody had been “caught in flagrante delicto”. 

“No, in Wigan,” came the reply.

Professor Slapper died after an unexpected illness on 4 December and is survived by his wife Suzanne and three daughters.

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