‘His decency and integrity shone through in everything he did’: Government Legal Department's Stephen Amos remembered by Sir Jonathan Jones

GLD perm sec pays tribute to "a brilliant lawyer and the most diligent of public servants"
Stephen Amos

By Jonathan Jones

03 Jul 2020

The Government Legal Department has been devastated by the sudden death of our director of litigation, Stephen Amos.  He was taken ill unexpectedly from non-Covid causes and died peacefully in hospital on 29 June. He leaves a wife (also a senior GLD lawyer) and three children. Stephen was an exceptionally well-respected and loved colleague and a friend to many, as is shown by the outpouring of tributes since his death – from ministers, serving and former civil servants, and of course friends from throughout his life.

Stephen had been a government lawyer since 1999 and held a number of key posts including director at DCMS Legal, Cabinet Office Legal, and latterly head of GLD’s litigation group.  He had previously been a deputy legal director in the Health and Safety Executive and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (as it then was).  In the course of his career he dealt with some of the knottiest issues in government over some extremely turbulent times, including the events leading up to the Leveson Report on press practices, high profile media mergers, the EU referendum and many of the constitutional aspects of Brexit, numerous highly sensitive investigations and inquiries, and most recently leading GLD’s litigation group through the new challenges of Covid-19. 

Stephen was a brilliant lawyer – agile, thoughtful, constructive, pragmatic. He was the most diligent of public servants, committed to the highest standards.  His decency and integrity shone through in everything he did. He thought deeply about things, including leadership, diversity and fairness.  In recent weeks he had been communicating with his typical eloquence, authenticity and humility about issues of race and equality. 

"Stephen was a brilliant lawyer – agile, thoughtful, constructive, pragmatic. He was also kind, humane, and a supremely sensitive manager"

He was also kind, humane, and a supremely sensitive manager.  Many colleagues have said how Stephen was the first person to reach out to them when they joined GLD or started a new role - with support, advice or just a kind word.  He exemplified all that is best about GLD’s supportive culture, which has been show too in colleagues’ reaction to his death.

And he had a quietly wicked sense of humour. I treasure memories of discussing with him and Sue Gray (then director general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office) the handling of the latest crisis, leak or ministerial misdemeanour, Stephen always quick to see the funny side [note: I’m afraid to say there is always a funny side].

He kept a sense of proportion. He loved his work, GLD, his teams and his colleagues, and did some of the most important legal jobs in government.  But he had a rich life too – his family of course, many friends as I have said, travel, cycling, walking – he recently recommended to me a book on old country walks as a “lockdown treat”.
But above all Stephen, was just a great person to have around, as friend, manager, colleague and hugely valued member of GLD’s leadership team.  He is very much missed.

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