Obituary: Professor Gary Slapper

We regret to inform our OULS members that Professor Gary Slapper sadly passed away on the 4th December 2016.  Gary Slapper’s role at the Open University’s law school cannot be overstated. As founder of the Open University Law School, author of the essential textbook The English Legal System, and the first Professor of Law at the Open University, Gary Slapper has had a profound impact on OU students.

An Extraordinary Life Remembered

Gary Jay Slapper was born on September 1958 in Wembley, North London. He studied law at University College, London at both undergraduate and Masters degree levels, as well as undertaking teacher training at the University of Manchester and attaining a PhD at the London School of Economics.

Gary has also been a writer for many years, with his first book, Blood in the Bank, being described by Noam Chomsky as “pathbreaking”.  He would go on to write further legal works such as Corporate Crime co-written with Steve Tombs, and every OULS student’s favourite The English Legal System with David Kelly, along with many other works.  He also regularly wrote legal articles for The Times (with over 400 published articles), wrote the weekly legal column Weird Cases, and many other articles for OU students through OpenLearn.

He founded the law school at the Open University and led a joint venture with the College of Law to create a part-time LLB course – the very course so many of us are on today. He would remain the Head of the Law School at The Open University until 2011, where he would then go on to be director of New York University’s London campus as well as being NYU’s global law professor.

A Champion For Law Students

The life of Gary Slapper has had a huge impact on law students. In addition to penning many instrumental legal text books, and creating an open access law degree with no prior qualifications such as A levels required, he always strived to teach and aid law students throughout their academic journey.

He continued to publish guidance for law students globally in his articles. Many students also tell us of his wisdom and generosity. Gary had been known to send students entire packages of his books to help them get off to a good start. In addition he was warm, passionate, funny and always with his finger on the pulse of popular culture.

Gary’s twitter is an abundant source of legal humour and insight.

A Tribute to Gary

I am sure all OULS members will join those of us on the Committee in remembering Gary and the many things he has done for us.  I personally owe Gary so much for his advice and guidance on law exams, his work in The English Legal System, and his humour which has kept me working through many a long TMA.

He will be greatly, greatly missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Suzanne and daughters Hannah, Emily and Charlotte.


For more about the life of Gary, his time at the Open university, and for links to his articles for OpenLearn please visit

For his work as a columnist for the Times, and their tribute to him, please visit

Written by:

Joe Beet – OULS News Reporter

Joe Beet


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