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Addressing contemporary social challenges, joining forces with leading institutions

The Law department is passionate about engaging our students with the major socio-political, cultural and economic questions that we face in the world today, joining forces with leading academic institutions and legal practice.

The murder of George Floyd in the US is a key moment for the pursuit of social justice, equality and the respect of human rights – cardinal values that serve as a foundation for our programme.

On June 25, we hosted a virtual roundtable discussion (via Zoom) on Race and Policing in the US and the UK, with eminent experts, including Leslie Thomas QC, who is currently representing 23 clients – survivors, bereaved family members and loved ones – in the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

The event was organised in collaboration with Garden Court Chambers and Loyola Law School (Los Angeles).

 

Our academics have similarly tackled, head on, legal issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our annual criminal justice symposium, which we had the privilege to co-host with Berkeley Law earlier this month, allowed us to examine the effect of Covid-19 in prisons, police stations and criminal courts in the US, and to draw comparisons with our legal system in the UK.

Similarly, our Head of Department entered in conversation with some of our distinguished Visiting  Professors and other Goldsmiths partners, on Covid-19, criminal law and human rights. They put forward the right to human dignity, asking difficult questions about why the UK government was so delayed in deciding to implement the lockdown; were utilitarian interests foremost in their mind?

They predicted there will be litigation in the future, and an independent inquiry, as a response to how the UK government has failed to provide frontline workers with the right PPE.

At Goldsmiths Law, we continuously expose our students to inspirational academics, legal professionals and human rights experts that bring to life contemporary socio-legal issues. We continuously push them to come up with theory-driven answers and practical solutions.

In recent months, our students heard the director of Liberty speak to them about how we need to keep the Human Rights Act intact. They met one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers and politicians, Helena Kennedy QC, who powerfully exposed the discrimination women experience in the British ‘justice’ system. They were introduced to the Equality Act, by one of the leading experts in the field in the UK. They engaged with climate justice from the viewpoint of resisting colonial oppression. They went on a journey, from the Nuremberg trials to the creation of the International Criminal Court, with one of our Visiting Professors, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who led on one of the most historic international criminal justice trials of modern times. They also explored the UK Supreme Court’s judgment on Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament, with the lawyers who had helped make reality this judgment!

 

 

Join us for a debate on “Race and Policing in the US and the UK”

We are delighted to announce a virtual roundtable discussion (via Zoom) on Race and Policing in the US and the UK (June 25, 18:00-19:45 BST; 10:00-11:45 Pacific Time) in collaboration with Garden court Chambers, recognised as one of the leading civil liberties and human rights barristers’ chambers in the UK, and Loyola Law School (Los Angeles), home to world-renowned faculty, with a distinctive pro bono graduation requirement and a strong commitment to ethics, public interest and diversity. You can register with the event here.

The roundtable will offer reflection on how the tragic death of George Floyd has brought to the fore, with unparalleled force, the troubled relationship between race and policing in the US, and how it requires us to continue to ask serious questions, and take urgent action, about racialised police violence in the UK.

Prof Eric Miller (Loyola Law School)

This will be a unique opportunity to hear from leaders in the field: Eric Miller, Professor of Law and Leo J. O’Brien Fellow at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, former Charles Hamilton Houston Fellow at Harvard, and former joint fellow at the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Civil Rights Project, whose work pays particular attention to the study of policing, race and problem-solving courts. 

Leslie Thomas QC (Garden Court Chambers)

Leslie Thomas QC (Garden Court Chambers), one of the leading authorities in the UK, in claims against the police and other public authorities, and claims against corporate bodies. Leslie is one of the top rated silks in the UK, and an expert in all aspects of inquests and public inquiries, having represented many bereaved families, in particular where there has been abuse of state or corporate power; he is currently representing 23 clients including survivors, bereaved family members and loved ones in the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

Maya Sikand (Garden Court Chambers)

Maya Sikand, the head of Garden Court Chambers’ Civil Liberties and Human Rights Team, who has an almost exclusively public law/civil liberties practice, primarily holding public authorities to account. Maya was shortlisted for Civil Liberties and Human Rights Junior of the Year by Legal 500 UK Awards 2020, and Public Law Junior of the Year by Legal 500 UK Awards 2018.

Goldsmiths’ Inaugural Chair in Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, chairing the event.

 

Goldsmiths Law partners up with new Refugee Law Clinic at the University of London

We are very excited to announce our participation in a new University of London Refugee Law Clinic, which will provide pro bono legal advice for refugee clients.

Delivered in partnership with two law firms, the main legal focus will be on preparing and litigating fresh claims for asylum, an area identified as underserviced in the current legal landscape. A successful fresh claim can lead to a grant of refugee status or humanitarian protection.

The clinic is located in the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies building in Russell Square, London. It is expected that students will work in the clinic for around a half day per week for a period of one year (but also virtually, for as long as required in response to Covid-19).  

Students will work on live cases in small groups, alongside volunteer lawyers from commercial law firms, and under the direct supervision of the supervising lawyer.

Each year, students from Goldsmiths Law will be selected to work for the clinic alongside students from other Law Schools within the University of London. The Clinic is structured as a direct legal service provider and is regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). All work will be supported by a coordinator and advice will be issued on the clinic’s letterhead and under the clinic’s supervising lawyer’s name.

Students will be trained in the relevant law and policy, as well as a range of other areas such as practical skills, ethics and professional responsibilities. They will be involved in working on the various aspects of preparing a fresh claim submission for asylum seekers that will have exhausted their appeal rights.

The students’ work will likely include research, gathering evidence and drafting submissions, as well as interviewing and taking witness statements and reviewing past decision making.

Goldsmiths Law students also have the opportunity to study Immigration Law and participate in the Immigration Law Clinic during their LLB studies, which run in parallel with activities at the Refugee Law Clinic, and will support students preparing to join the latter.

You can read more about the exciting Refugee Law Clinic opportunity here.

Making a murderer

from left to right: Jerry Buting, Kirsty Brimelow QC and Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos

Defense attorney Jerry Buting from cult Netflix series ‘Making a Murderer’ took part in a live Q&A event with our Head of Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, and Visiting Professor Kirsty Brimelow QC

The popular Netflix series has made a huge impact on television audiences worldwide, igniting political debate and bringing the US criminal justice system to the forefront of conversation across an enormous and varied spectrum of viewers. It has rapidly become one of the most important TV series of our time.

Jerry ButingIn what proved a very thought-provoking event, that was brought to Goldsmiths by the Student Union with the support of our department of Law, conversation focused on analysis of the Steven Avery case; the systematic failures of the American criminal justice system that it has brought to the surface; comparisons with miscarriages of justice and suspects’ rights in the UK criminal justice system.

Professor Giannoulopoulos, whose cross-cultural research centres on defendants’ rights, and whose recent monograph explored in detail judicial remedies for violations of suspects’ rights at the police station, moderated the discussion.

Spotlight on our team: Dr Alex Dymock

We are always delighted to showcase the research of our academics in this blog. This time, the spotlight is on Dr Alex Dymock’s recent work.

Alex’s work is primarily concerned with gender, sexuality and crime and her latest publication is a chapter on defending pornography in the criminal courts for the Research Handbook in Gender, Sexuality and Law. The Handbook explores current debates in the area of gender, sexuality and the law, and points the way for future socio-legal research and scholarship.

Book: Gender, sexuality and the Law

Alex has also been busy disseminating findings from her project, Pharmacosexuality: the Past, Present and Future of Sex on Drugs, at conferences as far afield as San Francisco, USA and Johannesburg in South Africa.

She has also been invited to present her work at Public Health England, and been interviewed for the second season of the Drug Science podcast, which regularly attracts a global audience of over 250,000 listeners (her episode on sex and drugs will be part of season 2, released April 2020).

She was also recently invited to attend the first national conference on chemsex and criminal justice hosted by the Metropolitan Police.

From Nuremberg to the International Criminal Court

ICTY Through Children’s Eyes – Sarajevo Kids Festival 2014
Edin, 14 years old, Sarajevo.

Our LLB Law class had the privilege of being taught by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC this week. Sir Geoffrey, who is a Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths, has led on the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where the former President of Serbia was charged with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war, including for planning, instigating, ordering or otherwise aiding the widespread killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, during and after the take-over of territories within Bosnia and Herzegovina and the killing of thousands in detention facilities there or for the forcible removal of the majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from the approximately one-third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia that he planned to become part of a new Serb-dominated state.

Against the backdrop of such seminal experience, that defined the development of international criminal law at the beginning of this century, Sir Geoffrey undertook a historic review of international criminal law, focussing on several milestones: from the post WWII Nuremberg trials to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the setting up of the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and, more recently, the International Criminal Court.

Sir Geoffrey’s presentation also focussed on his work as chair of the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting  from Prisoners of Conscience in China (murdering prisoners to extract hearts, livers, kidneys etc for commercial transplantation surgery).

The lecture was delivered in the context of ‘English Legal System in a Global Context’ module, which has the key aim of introducing our students to UK legal institutions, but goes further than what is normally covered in introductory modules of this nature, in comparing and contrasting UK legal institutions to foreign legal systems and in international law, with a view to enhancing the students’ knowledge of, and ability to critically analyse, how our domestic institutions operate and creating, more generally, a cosmopolitan legal spirit, that ensures we understand there is more to ‘Law’ than our domestic legal institutions and processes.

Sir Geoffrey presented his lecture in conversation with the Head of the Law programme at Goldsmiths, Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos. The lecture was delivered online, in an interactive format, as a response to the emerging Coronavirus crisis. Students had the opportunity to ask several questions and expressed their excitement for Sir Geoffrey’s invaluable contribution.

 

LLB students visit Linklaters LLP’s headquarters in the City

As part of their commercial awareness and career development study trips embedded within the Contract Law module, all our LLB students recently got a chance to visit Linklaters LLP’s headquarters in the City.

Founded in 1838, Linklaters is a member of the ‘Magic Circle’ of elite London law firms, and employs more than 2,500 lawyers across 38 offices in 20 countries. Its lawyers have expertise in a wide variety of matters, including corporate and commercial, competition, banking, business and human rights, dispute resolution, crisis management, financial regulation, projects, tax, capital markets, employment, and real estate.

Our students’ visit was hosted by Ms Sima Ostrovsky, a Managing Associate in the competition team. Ms Ostrovsky educated our students about various aspects of competition law that Linklaters lawyers deal with, explained the repercussions of violating competition regulations, and provided examples of some recent deals (such as last year’s proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda). She shared with the students how much she enjoys learning about the various industries in which her clients work, and explained how practicing competition law has enabled her to work with regulators, economics, and various service providers. As a competition lawyer at such a power-house law firm, Ms Ostrovsky not only advises clients on how to comply with competition law, but also devotes time to forward-looking practice, such as figuring out how competition law should develop to take account of new types of industries (such as Big Tech) and new political developments (such as Brexit).

Ms Ostrovsky and a trainee then provided the students with an overview of a day in the life of a Linklaters senior attorney and a trainee in the competition group, engaged in various aspects of competition practice (including mergers control, anti-competitive arrangements, and abuse of dominance). Learning about Linklaters’ work on cutting-edge legal issues and big global deals provided our students with a nice complement to what they had learned about in-house competition practice during their visit to Facebook last month.

Next, the Linklaters recruitment team was kind enough to offer our students an application workshop. The helpful HR representative explained what Linklaters vacation schemes are available to LLB students, and advised on how to do well with the application process and on assessment day. Notably, our students were provided with tips on how best to prepare themselves for applying and interviewing at big law firms generally. Students learned about how to translate their work and uni experiences into skills that law firms look for in potential trainees. They left more knowledgeable about what they can be doing from the beginning of their participation in our LLB programme to prepare for applying to law firms in the future.

Our study visit also included a tour of the client areas of the office, which occupies an entire modern high-rise building across from the Barbican Centre.

LLB students visit Facebook London’s law department

Goldsmiths LLB students learn about competition law and in-house corporate legal practice during visit to Facebook London.

Goldsmiths LLB students visited Facebook’s London law department, as part of their career development study trips in the context of the Year 1 ‘Contract Law’ module. The social media giant, based in California, also owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, and is considered one of the Big Four technology companies (along with Amazon, Apple, and Google).

Located on six floors in a world-class facility near Euston, Facebook’s office offers a modern space designed to keep both employees and visitors happy. After signing non-disclosure agreements, our students attended an informative and fun talk by Ms Jantira Raftery, Competition Counsel on Facebook’s legal team which covers competition and antitrust matters across Europe. She talked briefly about the company and all its key products, and provided an overview of competition law and what she does to help ensure that Facebook does not engage in anti-competitive market behaviour. Prior to joining Facebook, Ms Raftery had worked in the competition group at Slaughter and May (one of London’s ‘Magic Circle’ firms), and in Brussels and New York offices of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (a prestigious multinational law firm). She was thus also able to offer insights into how legal practice varies between law firms and in-house corporate departments, and shed light on international practice of law.

Afterwards, our students were led on a tour of the Facebook office by its super friendly staff. They got to write their aims and aspirations on the ‘facebook wall’, for other visitors and employees to see. They were also introduced to various art and community projects that Facebook supports, and shown examples of the value that Facebook brings to small businesses. After posing for pictures and getting to play with some ground-breaking interactive technologies, our students were treated to sweets and posters, part of Facebook’s emphasis on creativity and on keeping their office fun. The students left inspired about not only competition law, but also corporate legal careers. We are very grateful to Facebook’s legal department and Ms Raftery for offering our students this opportunity.

Law programme gains attention at international event in Istanbul

 

Our Head of Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, has spoken at an international study event at the British Consulate in Istanbul, about the exciting educational and career development opportunities that come with studying Law in the UK, highlighting Goldsmiths LLB’s modern and innovative character; the integration of career development and experiential learning activities (such as study visits, mock trials, debating exercises, guest lectures by eminent legal professionals) into contact time in all modules of the LLB Law programme, its focus on studying law in its societal context, the dynamic team of academics and world renowned legal professionals it brings together…

Prof Giannoulopoulos spoke alongside representatives from Cambridge and Oxford Universities, who presented on the Oxbridge admission processes.

Liberty’s Martha Spurrier to LLB class: “We must keep the Human Rights Act intact”

Martha Spurrier to Goldsmiths’ LLB Law students: “Rules affecting our human rights can sometimes be unfair and the law inadequate. You must be prepared to challenge unfair rules and campaign for their change”

In line with our approach of teaching Law in its socio-political context and exposing students to key players in the legal and political process, we had the great pleasure of hosting Martha Spurrier in the Year 1 ‘Public Law and the Human Rights Act’ module, coordinated by Goldsmiths’ Dr Virginie Barral.

Martha was appointed earlier this year Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths. She is the Director of the UK’s leading human rights NGO Liberty and a human rights lawyer specialising in questions of access to justice, freedom of expression, children and women’s rights, and the rights of prisoners and immigration detainees.

In her lecture, Martha discussed how the Human Rights Act had changed the way civil servants and judges make decisions on a day to day basis, noting that a remarkable undocumented impact of the Act has been on the way public servants have integrated the concepts of rights in the way they interact with people.

Confronting students with current debates about updating the Human Rights Act (in line with the Conservative government’s 2019 election manifesto), Martha brought to light the inadequacy of the common law to protect fundamental rights effectively and insisted on the importance of keeping the Human Rights Act intact.

She also pointed out that rules can sometimes be unfair and the law inadequate. She encouraged students to be prepared to challenge unfair rules and campaign for their change.

Martha also deplored the lack of attention and interest paid in the UK to economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to food, shelter, or health whilst the financial crisis and deepening socio-economic inequalities have brought these in sharp relief with more families unable to feed themselves decently. She called for more radical thinking about socio-economic rights and drew from the work of Andrew Fagan to show that poverty and destitution often mean lack of access to civil and political rights. A higher level of protection of socio-economic rights was thus necessary to ensure fuller civil and political rights protection.

Martha predicted that alongside the climate crisis, which raises obvious fundamental rights questions, the future direction of rights protection and campaigning in the UK will focus on socio-economic rights and that Liberty was certainly thinking very hard about this.

We are delighted with Martha’s appointment as a Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths, and are very excited to be working with her and Liberty, in our attempt to confront our students with major socio-political and economic challenges that we’re facing in the UK today.