Ian Macdonald was a key figure in the trial of the Mangrove Nine as seen in Small Axe but just what happened to the barrister after the events of Mangrove?
With racism and police brutality brought to the centre of attention in 2020, Small Axe and its first episode, Mangrove, are particularly poignant and couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
In Mangrove, we follow the story of the Mangrove Nine, a group of activists who were charged with inciting riots during a protest in 1970.
After a 55-day trial, the nine defendants were either acquitted or given suspended sentences for minor offences.
The favourable court outcome was in-part the work of Ian Macdonald, the barrister representing several members of the Mangrove Nine.
But just who was Ian Macdonald and what happened to him after the events of Small Axe’s Mangrove?
Small Axe: Mangrove on BBC One
Small Axe began on BBC One and iPlayer on November 15th with the two-hour film, Mangrove.
The five-episode anthology series tells a completely new story in each episode and in Small Axe’s first instalment, we learn about the Mangrove Nine, a group of Black activists who were arrested and charged with inciting riots at a protest in 1970.
The nine defendants were on trial for 55 days and were eventually acquitted after it became clear that the motivations and actions of some of the officers in the Metropolitan Police were less than justified.
Ian Macdonald in Mangrove
Ian Macdonald, played in Small Axe by Jack Lowden, is one of the key figures during the court case involving the Mangrove Nine.
In Mangrove, he is shown to be representing Barbara Beese during the case as well as offering advice to Darcus Howe and Altheia Jones-LeCointe who elected to represent themselves.
At the start of proceedings, Ian Macdonald is a strong proponent for appointing an all-Black jury to bear witness to the case.
However, while this application was rejected, two of the 12 jury members were Black.
Eventually, after the 55-day case and eight hours of jury deliberation, the Mangrove Nine were acquitted of the charges or given suspended sentences for minor offences.
What happened to Ian Macdonald?
At the time of the Mangrove Nine case, Glasgow-born barrister, Ian Macdonald, was 31 and had a long career to follow.
Macdonald spent a large proportion of his career fighting racial injustice and unfair immigration laws and featured in other prominent cases such as the Angry Brigade and the Balcombe Street siege.
In 1988, Ian Macdonald became a QC (Queen’s Counsel), one of the highest-ranking lawyers in the country and was a leading figure in immigration law.
On November 12th, 2019, Ian Macdonald QC passed away at the age of 80 after suffering a heart attack while on holiday in Australia and according to The Guardian, he was still working on immigration and extradition cases at the time of his death.
Small Axe continues on Sundays on BBC One and iPlayer here in the UK with the five-episode series expected to continue until December 13th.