TRIBUTES have been paid to South African-born Lord Joel Joffe who has passed away at his home in Liddington at the age of 85.

The highly regarded Lord Joffe has been described as “a true friend to Swindon” and many have been touched by the sad news of his passing.

Councillor David Renard, leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “Lord Joffe was an extraordinary man who had an incredible zest for life. He was passionate about Swindon and did an enormous amount of good work for local causes, while also being a real champion for the town.

“I would like to extend my sympathies and those of my colleagues at the council to his widow Vanetta and all his family at this sad time.”

As a young lawyer, Lord Joffe defended Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia Trial in the 1960s.

He founded the insurance company Allied Dunbar after Abbey Life was taken over, and headquartered the business in Swindon under the name Hambro Life Assurance.

He was the chair of Oxfam and was an avid campaigner for terminally ill people to have the right to end their lives.

A devout believer in justice and a man of supreme integrity, he was later to become the patron of many charities in Swindon and Wiltshire.

And earlier this year Oxford Brookes University decided to name their newly-opened Swindon Campus after him.

Shirley Ludford, station manager of Swindon 105.5 community radio, paid a heartfelt tribute to the man who was a patron of the charity.

She said: “He was a lovely man and someone I am proud to call a true gentleman. He was passionate about communities and businesses working together and he was very supportive of the work we do at the station.

“He will be very sadly missed by everyone here at Swindon 105.5 and we thank him for his support.”

Lord Joffe, who was born in Johannesburg in 1932, was awarded the CBE in 1999 and a year later he became a crossbench peer as Baron Joffe of Liddington.

Labour councillor Jim Robbins (Mannington and Western) said: “I am really sad to hear that Lord Joel Joffe has died. He was a truly remarkable man who had achieved an almost impossible amount in his life and is someone that I was very proud to call a friend.

“I worked with him on a few projects in Swindon and was always spellbound by his ability to listen to a group of people arguing and then just effortlessly sum up all the consensus in the room.

“He’ll clearly be best remembered for his work on the Rivonia Trial supporting Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and I’d suggest to anyone that they read his book on the trial.”

Lord Joffe was also a trustee of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

Robert Hiscox, chair of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust, said: “The trustees of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust learned of Joel’s death with great sadness.

“The wisdom and enthusiasm he brought to the Trust has been invaluable, and he will be sorely missed by us all.

“We will all remember him for his unique combination of razor sharp intellect and boundless generosity of spirit, as we know will the many other organisations and individuals whose lives were all the richer for knowing him.

“He was a true friend to Swindon. Our thoughts are with Vanetta and the family.”

He passed away at his Liddington home surrounded by his family after a short illness.

A member of Lord Joffe’s family said: “We are mourning a beloved husband and father.”