‘None of us can really believe he's gone’: Civil servants pay tribute after death of Sir Paul Jenkins

Written by Tamsin Rutter on 27 February 2018 in News

Hundreds mourn the former Treasury solicitor described as “screamingly funny”, a pioneer and an inspirational leader

Credit: Photoshot

Sir Paul Jenkins, Treasury solicitor and head of the Government Legal Department between 2006 and 2014, died on Monday morning, aged 63.

The announcement, made by Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court where Jenkins became master treasurer this year, prompted an outpouring of tributes on Twitter.

Described as “wickedly funny”, “a proud public servant” and an “inspirational leader”, Jenkins is mourned by hundreds across the civil service and legal profession.


He joined the civil service in 1979 and rose to become the UK’s chief legal official, and head of the Government Legal Service. He was head of profession for 2,000 lawyers across government, civil service diversity champion and permanent secretary to three attorneys general.

After leaving the civil service he joined Matrix Chambers, where he specialised in investigations and inquiries.

Guy R Perricone, under treasurer at Middle Temple, a professional association for barristers, said in a statement: “It is with much regret that I report the death of Master Treasurer, Sir Paul Jenkins KCB QC, who passed away on the morning of Monday 26 February 2018, aged 63.”

His successor in Whitehall, Jonathan Jones, said he was reeling from the news, and tweeted that Jenkins was a “wise lawyer, proud public servant, loyal friend, incorrigible gossip, frank & funny tweeter, great human being. RIP.”



Jones added that Jenkins was “brilliant company”, that he could be “screamingly funny”, and was a “reformer and a pioneer” in the civil service and the legal service, and a champion for diversity in all its forms.

“He was very prominent in the wider legal profession and particularly proud of his role at Middle Temple, where he had just taken over as Treasurer and where he was again proving to be a challenging and reforming force. It is so sad that he was unable to see through his term there,” he told Civil Service World.

“None of us can really believe he's gone,” he added.

Sir Jeremy Heywood, civil service head, also tweeted about the “shattering news”. He said Jenkins was “one of the finest public servants of his generation and the warmest, most vivacious of colleagues”.




Dave Penman, general secretary of FDA, the trade union for civil servants, described the former Treasury solicitor as “charismatic and wickedly funny” and “an inspirational leader” for those in both the public and legal sectors.



Jason Housden, interim chief executive at Matrix Chambers, said: “Our immediate thoughts are with his partner René at this sad time. Admired by all whose life he touched, his death is a huge loss for his family, Matrix and the wider legal community.

“He was a committed and pioneering lawyer, a great colleague and a simply wonderful friend. He will be missed beyond words.”

In an interview last year Jenkins told CSW that he was a proud bureaucrat and had brought something of his civil service past to his new role at Middle Temple. He said: “One of the more bizarre things about becoming treasurer of Middle Temple is that I have to have a coat of arms, which has a motto at the bottom. I didn’t want any Latin because that’s not what state school boys have, so I’m having: ‘Speak truth unto power’.”

He often made his views on politicians and government policy known on Twitter, and one of Jenkins’ final tweets, from 21 February, has now received more than 1,500 likes and been retweeted over 340 times. He wrote: “I’m advised against Tweeting whilst slurping morphine but, as you may already realise, I think TM is useless, ditto Corbyn and Brexit stinks.”




About the author

Tamsin Rutter is senior reporter for Civil Service World and tweets as @TamsinRutter

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Jacqui Gavin (not verified)

Submitted on 27 February, 2018 - 13:09
I am still in utter shock that the truly inspirational Sir Paul has gone. A gentleman and a scholar who brought meaning to what it meant to be a Civil Servant. I will miss his wit and humour but most of all I will miss his honesty and integrity when working in the diversity and inclusion space. A man that I admired and that I took my lead from. Thank you Sir Paul for everything! #RIP

Joseph Amaeze (not verified)

Submitted on 1 March, 2018 - 09:11
I first met Sir Paul Jenkins in 2004 whilst working as a prosecutor in DWP's London North Prosecution Team at Stanmore. Having at the time just taken over as the Solicitor to DWP, he was touring all offices within his remit. I found him very personable and very interested in discussing my career and personal development, which as a BAME lawyer I found very encouraging. When in 2005, the office eventually closed and I moved to a Central London office location, Sir Paul facilitated my move from the prosecution team to the commercial law division something I remain grateful to him for. In subsequent years, whenever I bumped into him on the way to work, he would always stop for a chat even when he obviously had an appointment. Sir Paul believed in building inclusive teams and stamping out discrimination in all its guises and his legacy lives on in GLD's "call-it-out" campaign. He will be greatly missed.

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