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Goldsmiths Law students go on formidable social welfare placements

Goldsmiths Law students, from Year 1 and 2 of the LLB programme, have been offered some exceptional opportunities to partake in social justice placements across London this academic year, as part of our ongoing collaboration with the Pro Bono Community organisation. Pro Bono Community are seeking to improve access to justice by providing specialist training in legal advice and social welfare law to lawyers, trainees and students and then placing them as volunteers at Law Centres and advice agencies.

Naomi (a Year 1 student) is volunteering at University House Legal Advice Centre. She is volunteering with their employment team and is assisting with their Virtual Lawyer project, helping to reach people who need employment advice via an app.

Dominica (Year 2) is volunteering with the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, (IWGB) assisting their Cleaners and Facilities Branch. Dominica’s fluency in Spanish has been a great advantage to her when providing support with employment law issues.

Meylssa (Year 2) is volunteering with Age UK Lambeth, working with a specific neighbourhood team to support their residents.

Rianna (Year 1) is working with Justice for Tenants, supporting those living in rented accommodation in London whose homes are under threat. Volunteering is invaluable to organisations active in this area, given the increasing challenges that those renting accommodation face in the capital.

Finally, Martyna (Year 1) and Mohammed Junaid (Year 2) are volunteering with Sufra, supporting their Advice Triage and Signposting Services. This is what Martyna had to say on her experience there:

“Sufra NW London Foodbank provides a range of services to their guests. I am a signposting volunteer, volunteering every Wednesday from 10-2 pm.

The role consists of managing cases of the food bank’s guests, checking in and signposting guests to other organisations which can aid them with hardships such as debt or homelessness – the work is mainly done via telephone, and occasionally by email.

A normal volunteering day consists of contacting a few guests. Before the initial calls, the volunteers have to cross-reference various managing systems such as the internal management hub, spreadsheets, and the database where the cases are input and stored by the volunteers and Sufra.

The interaction with the guests in this placement is highly rewarding; a few weeks ago, I was able to help a man who had recently been allocated to a flat after being homeless, by facilitating access to food and employment.

In addition to taking part in Pro Bono Community placements, Goldsmiths students are  also partaking, in the current academic year, in the inaugural cohort of the Refugee Law Clinic at the University of London (along with students from the LSE, King’s, UCL, Queen Mary and other University of London Law Schools) while also supporting the Exclusion Advocacy Clinic, coordinated by Southwark’s Community Harm and Exploitation Hub, where they are given the unique opportunity to offer confidential representation at the point of school/college exclusion.

Goldsmiths students learning criminal law from leading CPS experts

David Malone, Deputy Head of the Specialist Fraud Division at the CPS, with Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, in the criminal practice lecture on “criminal trials”.

David Malone, Deputy Head of the Specialist Fraud Division at the Crown Prosecution Service (and leading barrister at Red Lion Chambers), introduced Goldsmiths students to guiding principles on Prosecuting in criminal trials, as part of criminal practice lectures that run parallel to lectures on the theory of criminal law in Year 1 of the LLB.

David touched upon what verdicts mean for victims, and how important it is for them to have their “day in court”; the  central role of the Full Code Test for prosecutions; rules of evidence in criminal trials; the importance of creating a rapport with the jury in the environment of the criminal trial; and the challenges in prosecuting (or defending) historic sexual offences, among other topics that he discussed.

David also spoke with great enthusiasm about the CPS as an employer, particularly its strong desire for diversity and inclusion, stressing the unique career opportunities available there, strongly encouraging our students to consider a future at the CPS.

Earlier on in the term, Mr Curt Wise, Senior Specialist Prosecutor at the CPS (Specialist Fraud Division), spoke to students in detail about initiating criminal prosecutions, providing analysis of the various factors that prosecutors must take into account, and drawing, on the (virtual) whiteboard, the various steps in the thought process that prosecutors must undertake before making up their mind about whether to proceed with a prosecution.

Our law programme is delighted to inject views from the CPS, and draw on their experience, when teaching criminal law theory and practice to students at the LLB Law and LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights programmes.

We are very thankful to the CPS for their interest in our programme and are greatly looking forward to seeing this collaboration progress further.

Dr Fatima Ahdash’s work on the “familialization of terrorism” cited by UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights

Our Lecturer in Law, Dr Fatima Ahdash, was recently cited in the Annual Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights, presented to the UN Human Rights Council’s forty-sixth session.

The report, which addresses the impact of counter-terrorism laws and policies on the rights of women, girls and the family, mentions Ahdash’s ground-breaking analysis of family law’s recent interaction with counter-terrorism in the UK, including a term that she has developed: the familialization of terrorism.

Forthcoming lectures open to students/staff across the College and wider audiences

With a strong interdisciplinary ethos and appetite for engaging with challenging socio-legal issues, we strive to make our lectures and professional activities accessible across the College and to wider audiences when possible.

Please see below about opportunities to attend forthcoming lectures and public debates:

An examination of the criminal trial, February 8th, 13:00-15:00 (open to all Goldsmiths students and staff – RSVP by emailing d.giannoulopoulos@gold.ac.uk). With:

Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch: Technology, human rights and the criminal justice system

Fallon Alexis, junior barrister, QEB Hollis Whiteman: Defending in criminal trials 

Prof Fiona Gabbert, Prof of Applied Psychology, Goldsmiths: How to ensure reliable information/evidence informs decision making in criminal trials

Dr Caoimhe McAnena, Clinical Lecturer in Psychology, Goldsmiths: The role of the expert witness in criminal trials 

Dr Emma Davies, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Goldsmiths:  Children in criminal trials (and the criminal justice system)

David Malone, Deputy Head of the Specialist Fraud Division, CPS; barrister, Red Lion Chambers: Prosecuting in criminal trials

Adam Wagner, The impact of Covid-19 on human rights, February 9th, 13:00-15:00 (open to all Goldsmiths students and staff – RSVP by emailing v.barral@gold.ac.uk).

Adam is a Visiting Professor in our department, and barrister at Doughty Street Chambers.

You may read Adam’s recent analysis on Covid-19 and human rights in the New StatesmanProspect and engage with discussion on this twitter thread.

Street Art and Copyright Law – February 11th, 10:00 – 11:30 (open to all students/staff at Goldsmiths the wider pubic – click here to register your interest and for more information).

Prof Leslie Thomas QC,  From the Mangrove to Brixton, from Lawrence to Lammy. The policing of Black People in 40 years. Do Black Lives really matter in the eyes of the policing establishment?16 February 2021, 18:00 – 19:30 (open to all students/staff at Goldsmiths and the wider pubic. Click here to register your interest and for more information).

Prof Leslie Thomas QC is a Visiting Professor in our department, the Gresham Professor of Law and a barrister (and former joint head) at Garden Court Chambers.

 

Dr Abenaa Owusu-Bempah in our 2019 annual criminal justice symposium at the British Academy

Dr Abenaa Owusu-Bempah (LSE), Part of art or part of life? Rap lyrics in criminal trials – 18 February 2021, 14:00 – 15:00 (open to all students/staff at Goldsmiths and the wider pubic. Click here to register your interest and for more information).

Harvard Law at Goldsmiths

As reported by The Lex 100 and University Business, our Department of Law has become the first Law department in the UK to offer a pioneering online course by Harvard Law School. Harvard’s ‘Zero-L’ course has been offered to our undergraduates at no cost, and is taught by 18 leading Harvard Law faculty members.

Zero-L is comprised of approximately a dozen hours of video lectures, vocabulary, and periodic comprehension checks that students can take at their own pace. Course modules cover a range of topics, including: an introduction to law and the legal profession; the history of the American Constitution; separation of powers and federalism; the stages of litigation; citizenship rights (civics) and much more. It also provides students with instruction and practise in basic skills, including how to read a case.

Materials developed by Goldsmiths Law academics to support the delivery of Zero-L direct our students to key areas of interest in the programme and give them to understand how Zero-L strengthens their understanding of English law and helps develop legal skills.

To find out more information, read here.

The adoption of Zero-L by Goldsmiths Law as reported in Lex-100

New video: Law and Politics in the US after Trump (lessons for the UK and the EU)

You can now watch the video of our rapid response-seminar (January 21st), analysing what the storming of Capitol means for US democracy, and the lessons we can learn in Europe.

This online event brought together very eminent experts from the US and UK, including academics from Stanford Law and Princeton as well as our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos and Visiting Professor Leslie Thomas QC.

Books, music and film for the festive season

The academic team and Visiting Professors in our department are sending all our students their warmest wishes for a restful and enjoyable festive season and a New Year full of health and happiness, along with their suggestions for readings, films and even music which will help them take their mind off core Law learning activities when recharging their batteries. There is still a lot of Law in this Christmas reading list of course, but it’s the kind of Law that intersects with history, society, and culture. There is so much more than Law too. Do engage with these readings and other activities, and let us know what you think of them too (at @GoldsmithsLaw #GoldLawReads).
Dr Fatima Ahdash recommends Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola. This is a very exciting modern retelling of mythical love stories from around the world. Fatima also recommends Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. This Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie | Waterstonesfascinating novel is a modern retelling of the Greek tragedy ‘Antigone’ and recounts the story of the children of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee in London and their struggles with the security state, faith, identity and the ‘War on Terror.’
For those interested in History, the Holocaust, and international criminal law, Dr Virginie Barral recommends East West Street by Philippe Sands. This is “not a legal book, yet highly interesting for lawyers, weaving Philippe Sands’ family personal history, as well as those of great lawyers Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, and how they respectively ‘invented’ the notions of Crimes against humanity and Genocide in the run up to the Nuremberg Trials”.

During the break Virginie will be looking forward to reading The Ratline (the sequel to East West Street), which “follows the fate of the Nazi Governor responsible for Sands’, Lauterpacht’s and Lemkin’s families deaths, Otto Wachter, in the years after WWII”.

Judge Donald Cryan

Our Visiting Professor Judge Donald Cryan suggests the quintessential American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, for its drama, professional ethics, integrity, courage, the anti-racist action and much more. Judge Cryan’s second recommendation is The Lion and the Throne by C. Drinker Bowen, explaining that “it is the biography of Sir Edward Coke who was active around 1600 and was one of the great champions of early parliamentary democracy”.

Rex v Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson | WaterstonesDr Alex Dymock enjoyed the following this year: Rachel Kushner – The Mars Room (a beautifully written and meticulously researched novel about life in a women’s prison in California); Laura Thompson – Rex v Edith Thompson (creative non-fiction account of the trial of Edith Thompson, one of the last women in England & Wales to face the death penalty); Virginie Despentes – King Kong Theory (a manifesto for a new kind of punk feminism). Over the break, Alex is looking forward to reading Katherine Angel’s new book, Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again: Women and Desire in the Age of Consent (out with Verso in 2021) and dipping into Lucas Richert’s Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture.

On films and TV, Alex recommends: I Love You, Now Die – HBO docuseries on the prosecution of a teenager in the US which asks the question: when should a party be held criminally liable for another’s suicide?; The Sopranos – which she’s just started watching for the first time and “it’s every bit as brilliant as everyone says”; Little Fires Everywhere – “a drama about gender, race and motherhood with superb performances from Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. A rare example of a screen adaptation far better than the novel!”. She’ll “likely spend much of the break watching more Sopranos!”, she adds.

Dr Plamen Dinev would like to make a single recommendation, namely: ‘A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects’, edited by Claudy Op den Kamp & Dan Hunter. It includes contributions by some of the leading IP scholars, yet it is presented in an engaging and accessible way that should be of interest to students of all levels – and regardless of whether they have any prior interest in IP.
Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos recommends a first quick stop at Timothy Garton Ash’s long read, The future of liberalism, recently published in Prospect. Garton Ash suggests a “new liberalism” where the “fear of the human barbarism that can always return will be intertwined with hope for a human civilisation that we partly have”; it’s a useful reminder of what is at stake.
For those interested to learn more about the government’s agenda for constitutional reform (and risks this generates for some of our key democratic institutions and legal processes), Dimitrios points us to Prospect again, their recent report on the rule of law, notably David Lammy’s analysis on Save judicial review, Judge Neuberger’s explanation of how judges change their minds, Harriet Harman’s piece on what she calls the Overseas impunity bill, Alex Dean’s interview with former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, on how our judges are not activist, or the article by the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, who speaks of our “thriving legal services build on a foundation 800 years in the making” (but fails to acknowledge, in Dimitrios’ view, how the government’s constitutional reform agenda risks to undermine these foundations).
In undertaking research for an article that appeared in the August issue of the European Human Rights Law Review, Dimitrios read Dominic Raab’s The Assault on Liberty, which was published in 2009. The book is “mischievously presented as a defence of individual rights, when, in reality, it is the protection of individual rights — under the HRA and the ECHR — that the book is absolutely intent on assaulting”, wrote Dimitrios in the EHRLR article; it’s “an illuminating read for everyone keen to understand the threats European human rights are currently facing in the UK”, he observes. Raab’s book can be read with – and contrasted to – the brilliant On Fantasy Island, by Prof Conor Gearty.
During the festive period, Dimitrios is looking forward to reading Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (he got his copy from our brilliant independent bookstore at Goldsmiths, The Word, which currently operates an order-and-collect service). Dimitrios points to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in the New York Times, that with this book ‘Obama has already illuminated a pivotal moment in American history, and how America changed while also remaining unchanged’. But “above all, this book needs to be read with the last four years of Trump in mind”, he adds; “failures in Obama’s presidency will surely appear insignificant compared to the destruction that Trump’s populist machine has attempted to bring upon the United States’ key democratic institutions”.
Other books in his reading list include Lauren Lavrysen’s and Natasa Mavronicola’s Coercive Human Rights and Jan Wouter’s and Felipe Gomez Isa’s The Faces of Human Rights. On fiction, he has started to read Diane Cook’s, The New Wilderness; “it’s a new kind of dystopia that the book chillingly describes, a time in the near future when the final human project of environmental destruction is complete”, Dimitrios says.
On film, he strongly recommends The Small Axe series, which Goldsmiths alumnus Steve McQueen directed. Dimitrios has so far watched Mangrove, Lovers’ Rock and Red, White and Blue; “all beautifully shot, with Mangrove and Red, White and Blue depicting, with powerful accuracy, well-known episodes, and less well-known personal moments, of victimhood, but also of brave resistance, individual and cultural, to racist behaviour infecting our criminal justice system”.

For a TV series “guaranteed to send shivers down the spine”, Dimitrios recommends the Chernobyl, which he has recently watched. “I was a kid growing up in Greece when we learnt the devastating news of the nuclear disaster in Ukraine; the series eerily transports you back to that time, and place, and gives you unprecedented access to a culture of secrecy, rigid political hierarchies and unbending Party diktat, unmoved even in the face of unspeakable human tragedy”.
Finally, on music, Dimitrios says: “there cannot be Christmas without the Nutcracker, and though national operas around the world are closed due to the pandemic right now, there are some striking performances on YouTube; these from Staatskapelle Dresden  and the Russian State Ballet and Opera House are notable. Our Royal Opera House was planning a live stream this Christmas, but due to London’s move to Tier 4 status, they had to cancel  and are now inviting audiences, as an alternative, to purchase, for a very small fee, streaming access to a recording of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
He also suggests checking out NPR’s “aesthetically beautiful and deeply intimate” Tiny Desk performances as well as Goldsmiths Music featuring work by current and former students from the Department of Music in the College.

Our Visiting Professor, Dominic Grieve QC, is recommending the following “riveting, and topical at present, reads”: Enemies of the People by Joshua Rozenberg; The Invention of Tradition.  Essays edited by Eric Hobsbawm; The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas; The Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum; A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
On films: The Leopard by Visconti based on the book by Lampedusa, and A passage to India by David Lean based on the novel by EM Forster.
For our Visiting Professor, Alison Levitt QC, It’s a Wonderful Life is “the best ever Christmas film and a reminder to us all about what matters”.
Our Visiting Professor, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, warns that his suggestions “are bound to be gloomy”, in view of the “the appalling [socio-political] circumstances in which we find ourselves”. His first recommendation is the film Billy Budd, starring Terrence Stamp and Peter Ustinov.  “The film needs to be watched slowly, questioning what may be the sub texts”, Sir Geoffrey advises. “The trial scene at the end – and no point in skipping in order to get there – asks absolutely fundamental questions that lawyers and law makers must consider”. Watch Sir Geoffrey’s second suggestion – the Lives of others – and “ask at the end what was its core subject”. Sir Geoffrey also suggests “Never look away”. It is “long and slow and worth every minute”.

On books, Sir Geoffrey recommends The Anarchy, by William Dalyrimple, which “provides a devastating but gripping account of the operations over a couple centuries of the East India Company”.  It says much about “colonialism, slavery, politics and can be ‘read across’ as relevant to today’s difficulties”.
Sir Geoffrey has a music recommendation too – Winterreise by Schubert – and advises that we can do what he has done recently and learn more about a famous work like this from here. You can also explore lectures by Parloff (and others) on other on music and sink into deep appreciation.
On law, Dr Mai Taha recommends the following: Brenna Bhandar, Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land and Racial Regimes of Property (Duke University Press, 2018). She is planning to read soon, Nadine El-Enany’s, Bordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire (Manchester University Press, 2020).
She also recommends the following non-academic books: Hisham Matar, A Month in Siena (Penguin, 2019); Assata Shakur, Assata: an Autobiography (Lawrence Hill Books, 1988).
For fiction books, she is suggesting Elena Ferrante’s, The Napolitan Novels, and is also planning to read her new book The Lying Life of Adults (2020); Isabella Hammad, The Parisian (2019); Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979).
Aaron Taylor has a few suggestions of excellent books (broadly) related to fraud which he’s read recently: Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, Billion Dollar Whale (The story of Jo Lho and the 1MBD fraud); Bill  Browder, Red Notice (Russian state corruption in the post-Soviet years); John Carreyrou, Bad Blood, (The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos); Sour Grapes (documentary, available on Netflix, about a fascinating huge-scale wine fraud). On his reading list in this area there are Rachel Maddow’s, Blowout (A book abut the oil and gas industry, subtitled “Corruption democracy, rogue state Russia, and the richest, most destructive industry on Earth”).
On other topics, he recommends: Georgina Adam, Dark side of the boom (About the excesses of the high-end market in contemporary art); Sarah Thornton, 7 days in the Art World (A fascinating viewpoint on all aspects of the art world, from artist’s studio to auction room); Bianca Bosker, Cork Dork (A journalist’s hilarious deep-dive into the world of wine); Philippe Sands, East-West Street (An absolute must-read: simultaneously a family history and an investigation into the origins of the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity); Dan Hicks, The Brutish Museums (Subtitled: ‘The Benin Bronzes, colonial violence, and cultural restitution’)
If you’re looking for just one book, Aaron’s suggestion is East-West Street (he agrees with Dr Barral on this), and Bad Blood is the book he found hardest to put down.
Aaron has also recently watched two excellent biopics about US Supreme Court Justices: Marshall (about Thurgood Marshall), and On the basis of sex (about Ruth Bader Ginsburg). The Aaron Sorkin film The Trial of the Chicago 7 is also superb, according to Aaron, as is Sorkin’s previous film Molly’s Game.
Our Visiting Professor, Leslie Thomas QC, recommends Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, a book which has helped him over the years; “a simple small book that helps you overcome procrastination something we can all be guilty of”.
Leslie’s second recommendation is The Clapback by Lawal; “in a year of BLM and becoming Anti-Racist this book debunks racist stereotypes about black people” and is “well worth a read”.

Q & A with our new Lecturer in Law, Dr Mai Taha

“The shameful history of empire is still haunting the present with continued racial injustice, emboldened further by the rise of right-wing movements around the world.” Dr Mai Taha, on whether we, as a society, are any closer to coning to terms with racial inequality and the impact of colonialism.

Where did you work/study before joining Goldsmiths? Are there particular elements of your experience that you’re seeking to bring to Goldsmiths?

For the past four years, I worked as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Law in the American University in Cairo(AUC). Before that, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP), Harvard Law School (2015-2016), and a Visiting Assistant Professor and Catalyst Fellow at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (2014-2015). I received my doctoral degree from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law in 2015.

I am lucky to have studied and worked in stimulating intellectual environments that were steeped into critical approaches to law. My experiences with colleagues, comrades and mentors, from Cairo to Toronto to Cambridge and back to Cairo, have helped me to think critically about the relationship between law, capital, empire and patriarchy. In Toronto, I learnt to think about the legal politics of settler colonialism in North America and how the lines of solidarity go all the way from Turtle Island to Palestine, complicating (in a good way) my writing and thinking about international law and empire. Teaching in Cairo after the region had witnessed the momentous revolutions of 2011 and as new waves of war and authoritarianism have erupted was difficult, but it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the tactics of resistance, failure, and most importantly, on the limits of law in times of revolution and change.

I hope to bring in these different experiences to Goldsmiths and be in conversation with new challenges facing the UK academy as anti-capitalist and anti-racist teaching is being silenced and scrutinized.

What are you looking forward to the most being at Goldsmiths?

I am really excited about working in the Law Department at Goldsmiths and be part of imagining its futures. I look forward to working in a place where there is such a strong emphasis on progressive and interdisciplinary approaches to research and teaching. In fact, I am starting a new lecture series on critical legal scholarship at the Department. The topics will range from the relationship between capitalism, racism and international law, to immigration, movement and borders, to gender, sexuality and reproduction, as well as human rights, protest and resistance in law and society.

I am also excited to be joining Goldsmiths, a college known for its vibrant and progressive programs in the arts and culture. My research is situated between law and the humanities. Therefore, I am thrilled to be in a such an environment, and I look forward to research collaborations and conversations within the college.

What is your key area of research expertise?

I work in the areas of public international law, international human rights law and labour law. Grounded in critical theory, my research focuses on how the organization of race, class and gender is a fundamental way of forming social hierarchies through law and rights. Using a socio-legal and historical lens, I study law’s distributive outcomes that affect property relations, labour rights, gender relations and social reproduction in the Global South.

My research is interdisciplinary in substance and method. I am influenced by various intellectual currents from the critical tradition, namely, law and society approaches, feminist and anti-racist Marxism, post-colonial thought, Critical Legal Studies (CLS) and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Borrowing from history, sociology, literature and film, my research relies on a fluid hybridity between the disciplines. As such, I approach law and rights through their ‘social life’ beyond the courts and legal institutions. I am looking forward to teaching and researching in the new interdisciplinary LLB program in Criminal Justice and Human Rights, as well as teaching on the relationship between law and art in the LLB curriculum.

Currently, I am interested in the legal politics of refusal and revolt. I’m working on a series of articles that look at the early twentieth century anti-colonial revolutions in the Middle East that took place in response to new international legal arrangements around colonial governance, mandates and protectorates.

I am also working on new research that looks at the conception of international human rights in communist thought and activism in the Global South. I look at how many leftist activists have rooted their engagement with human rights in the struggles against colonialism, patriarchy and capitalism, taking a different route from that of the UN system of human rights.

What is your approach to teaching?

My teaching philosophy is informed by the ideas and the methods of my research. I emphasize the influence of critical approaches to law and rights, interdisciplinarity and historical methods. I incorporate the idea that legal doctrine is simply insufficient to understand how the law works. I also borrow from various disciplines in my teaching. My students have acted in the classroom, went to art exhibitions, spoke with theatre directors and actors, and watched films, all methods to better understand the meaning and role of law in society through interesting and innovative ways. I try to create a learning community that relies on a collective approach to pedagogy, where students are not only recipients of knowledge, but contributing actors within this learning community.

Are we any closer, as a society, to coming to terms with racial inequality and the impact of colonialism?

The short answer would be no. The shameful history of empire is still haunting the present with continued racial injustice, emboldened further by the rise of right-wing movements around the world. Coming to terms with this entails understanding racism and colonialism as also historically connected to and dependent on patriarchy and capitalism. These systems of oppression and exploitation have historically relied on and nurtured each other. Race, gender and class are co-constitutive categories, intersecting and weaving into each other. In other words, we simply cannot address racial injustice on its own. 

How do you see the BLM movement proceeding from here?

I think we take the lead from the movement itself. Our role as allies should be to listen to the movement and stand in solidarity with its people. As educators, we have a responsibility to teach anti-racist scholarship that speak to the movements of the day. We need to teach students about police brutality made visible by the BLM movement, as well as take seriously the movement’s demands to defund the police and imagine abolitionist futures.

What hobbies are you leaning into?

I read a lot of fiction, watch weird films, and do yoga. These days, I’m practicing a handstand without a wall behind me. It is not going very well.

Gresham’s first black Professor of Law, Leslie Thomas QC, appointed Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Professor Leslie Thomas QC as a Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths.

Prof Leslie Thomas QC is the pre-eminent authority in the country in claims against the police (particularly relating to deaths in custody), other public authorities and corporations. He has appeared in leading high-profile death in custody cases representing the families of the deceased (Azelle, Rodney, Mark Duggan, Christopher Alder and Sean Rigg).

Leslie’s high-profile work includes the inquests that followed the Birmingham Pub Bombing, the Hillsborough disaster and Mark Duggan, and he is currently representing 23 clients including survivors, bereaved families and loved ones in the Grenfell Tower inquiry. He was awarded the Legal Aid Barrister of the Year award in 2012, and again in 2016, for his work on the Hillsborough disaster. He is the former joint head of Garden Court Chambers, the second largest set of chambers in the country, “committed to fighting injustice, defending human rights and upholding the rule of law”, and a diversity champion in the profession.

Prof Leslie Thomas QC making submissions before the Grenfell Tower inquiry. “A majority of the Grenfell residents who died were people of colour,” he noted. “The statistics are glaring, a stark and continuous reminder that Grenfell is inextricably linked with race. It is the elephant in the room.”

Leslie has emerged as one of the strongest legal voices in the country on the Black Lives Matter debate, contextualising it around its racialized policing dimensions and lack of diversity in the legal profession.

With the rhetorical statement, “So, you think the UK doesn’t have a policing problem . . .”, Leslie listed on Twitter 29 young black men who have died in police custody; “There are more”, he said, in an interview with The Times, adding that “the criminal justice system remains ‘institutionally racist’ with disparity in the treatment of black men at every stage”.

In an article for Counsel magazine earlier this year, Leslie called upon colleagues in the Bar to “talk about race”. “Forget the guilt and take action”, he urged. “Bias is implicit and often unconscious. It takes great courage to change the system. It benefits us all”.

Prof Thomas wrote in the Counsel magazine in July 2020: “Racism and discriminatory behaviours pervade all levels of society and our legal system is not immune from the same. I have experienced it many times in my career.”

In 2020, Leslie became the first Black Professor of Law at Gresham College. His inaugural lecture series is taking place in the current academic year, examining Death, the State and Human Rights.

We are very honoured that his appointment as a Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths coincides with his appointment and inaugural lecture series at Gresham. In his first Gresham lecture (which you can watch here, by registering with the event), on October 1st, Leslie focussed on human rights and the wrongs of unexpected and/or sudden deaths in which the state is implicated, asking whether “the state really cares when it kills you”. The next lecture takes place on December 3rd, looking into who investigates sudden death.

The Head of the Law department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, said on the appointment: “Prof Leslie Thomas’ activist legal practice and scholarship challenge stereotypes, break new ground, and require us to think, about how we can change, what change we can bring about ourselves, how we can influence those around us, to achieve equality and justice for all. It gives me a great pleasure – I am very honoured – to welcome him at the department of Law at Goldsmiths”.

Leslie’s appointment coincides with the successful launch of a specialist LLB pathway programme at Goldsmiths (the LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights), and demonstrates our desire to actively engage with crucial equality and racial justice issues at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has taken new urgency.

Human rights experts call upon Conservative party to renew its commitment to human rights

On October 2nd, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Human Rights Act (HRA) coming into effect.  

A number of independent human rights experts, working with our Britain in Europe think tank and Knowing Our Rights research project, from across UK academia as well as legal professionals, NGO experts and politicians, have written to Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, and Conservative Peers in the House of Lords, to highlight this important milestone and request that the Conservative party reflects upon the highly positive and beneficial influence that the Act has had on the lives of UK citizens.

The signatories include  Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Justice and Women & Equalities, and Shadow Leader of the House; former Labour MEP Julie Ward; former Labour MP, Roger Casale; and Baroness Sarah Ludford, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (on Exiting the European Union).

In their letter, our experts request that the government uses the opportunity of this seminal anniversary – in tandem with the forthcoming one, of November 4th, which will mark 70 years from the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in Rome – to renew the UK’s commitment to the ECHR and HRA. 

In 2015, the Conservative party manifesto pledged to repeal the HRA; the 2017 manifesto committed to stay temporarily in the European Convention on Human Rights; and the 2019 manifesto promised to “update” the HRA.

In the most recent development in this area, the Lord Chancellor, HH Robert Buckland QC MP, has stated, in a letter to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights,  that the government plans for “an independent review” into the operation of the Human Rights Act to be launched “in due course”, and that the review will look into “the balance between the rights of individuals and effective government”, in line with the 2019 manifesto.

You can read the full letter here.