Richard was born on 25th October 1945 in Beckenham, Kent, the third of four children, in a family that carries the name of the Norman baron who arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066. However, war has never been his ambition and his arrival one month after the end of WWII shows a shrewd sense of timing. Like all Baby-boomers, his early life, in the pre-TV era was spent in the innocent pastimes of reading, handicraft of various sorts and the skills of the great outdoors, such as fishing, climbing trees and camping in the rain.
After prep school at Reigate, where he remembers the passing of King George, and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth as radio events, serious education began at junior school in Wolverhampton where intensive teaching for the 11-plus led him to the Wolverhampton grammar school, before relocating to Norwich where six years and A-levels followed.
After reading the law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge where he was also President of the Cambridge University French Society, Richard Gifford was articled to Theodore Goddard & Co where his interest in overseas and international law developed. The first case that came his way was the divorce of a well-known hereditary peeress and mother to a princess which was facilitated by the passing of the 1969 Divorce reform Act. Becoming a partner in Sheridans in 1975, Richard developed areas of the law in a wide spectrum of cases. These have included the first case to reach the House of Lords concerning division of family assets on divorce, a series of cases on the status of Commonwealth citizens seeking UK nationality, and the well-known case of the Chagos islanders.
It was on a visit to Mauritius as Chairman of the Anglo-Mauritian Association that Richard had the idea of investigating the little known exile of the Chagos Islanders from their homeland, a process only made possible by his researches in the Public Record Office where hitherto secret Foreign Office papers now revealed the way in which these removals took place, and the presentation of this strategy to the outside world. As the lawyer representing the Chagos community both in Mauritius and Seychelles, Richard featured in the award winning documentary by John Pilger “Stealing a Nation.” He has lost count of the professional time spent in helping academics and journalists in their enquiries into this unusual episode of English Colonial History.
In May 2007, Richard secured the Islanders a monumental victory in the Court of Appeal, which found the British government guilty of an "abuse of power" for attempting to prevent the Chagossians from reclaiming their
homeland. As he pilots the Islanders’ through the courts, and campaigns in the wider body politic (where son Mark has been influential as a young lawyer), he is now asked to speak at meetings of an increasingly wide audience concerned with the violations of international human rights.