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Goldsmiths Law roundtable brings together academics, legal professionals and NGO experts to discuss the Human Rights Act

Goldsmiths Law and the Knowing Our Rights research project coordinated a roundtable event on the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK, on 22 January 2019, at the Royal Society of Arts. You can watch some of the highlights in this video.

The roundtable shed light on issues relating to the UK’s relationship with the ECHR, including:

– the effect of ECHR jurisprudence in the UK, such as in relation to balancing liberty with securitarian interests in the fight against terrorism, the right to vote, state surveillance, the right to private and family life of mothers in prison etc;

– how to fight against human rights sensationalism in the media;

– raising awareness about how human rights affect our lives;

– the link between Euroscepticism and the Conservative Government’s antipathy towards the Human Rights Act;

– where we are now with the Conservative Government’s plan to substitute a British Bill of Rights for the Human Rights Act, and how Brexit may have changed the dynamics.

The event provided another opportunity to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Royal Assent to the HRA, with a focus on the persons behind the HRA, those who helped bring it to life and determine its architecture (and on those who antagonise it too).

Speakers: Jonathan Cooper OBE, Doughty Street Chambers; Sanchita Hosali, Director, British Institute of Human Rights; Liora Lazarus, Associate Professor in Law, Faculty of Law, Oxford; Fellow, St Anne’s College, and Head of Research at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights; Nadia O’Mara, Policy and Campaigns Officer at Liberty; Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Visiting Professor, Law, Goldsmiths, University of London; Maya Sikand, Head of the Human Rights Team, Garden Court Chambers; Adam Wagner, Doughty Street Chambers; founder of RightsInfo and UK Human Rights Blog; Ruvi Ziegler, Associate Professor of Law, University of Reading.

Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, Head of Law at Goldsmiths and director of the Knowing Our Rights project, chaired the event.

The event was supported by the Human Rights Lawyers’ Association.

Inaugurating Goldsmiths Law’s “European encounters”: The Council of Europe and Artificial Intelligence

The Palais de l'Europe (the Council of Europe's principal building in Strasbourg).

The Palais de l’Europe (the Council of Europe’s principal building in Strasbourg).

Goldsmiths Law is delighted to launch a programme of “European encounters”, intended to bring our students, academics and the wider public in the UK in contact with European institutions, to shed light on the work they are doing in key areas of activity influencing our day-to-day lives; justice, security, the environment, commerce, financial services, the rule of law, technology, international human rights.

In this first session in the series, on Tuesday, March 5, 09.30 to 11.30, we have the pleasure of welcoming to the College the Council of Europe’s Charlotte Altenhöner-Dion, who is the Head of the Internet Governance Unit and Secretary to the Expert Committee on Human Rights Dimensions of Automated Data Processing and Different Forms of Artificial Intelligence (MSI-AUT). Book your place here.

Charlotte will bring to our attention the Council of Europe’s efforts to assess both the threats and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for human rights. The Council of Europe’s new website on AI provides a useful illustration of recent initiatives, forthcoming events, and projects planned.

The Council of Europe with its 47 member states is the continent’s leading human rights organisation and guardian of the rights of some 830 million Europeans. Technological advancement over the last decades has fundamentally transformed societies by providing new tools for communication, news consumption, education, entertainment, commercial transactions and multiple other facets of everyday activities. Operating on the detection and reinforcement of patterns in large datasets, information processing technology offers the potential to rationalise services and deliver enormous efficiency gains in task and systems performance, which may enhance human flourishing and contribute to creating optimal conditions for the exercise of human rights.

Increasing numbers of Europeans reap the benefits of AI every day as unprecedented progress is made in a wide range of fields, including industrial productivity, health care, transportation and logistics. At the same time, there is growing concern amongst the public about the broader implications of the use, and possible abuse, of automated data processing and mathematical modelling for individuals, for communities, and for societies. Can computational data analytics replace the reasoning of a trained judge when applying the law to a specific context? How does algorithmic decision-making affect the delivery of essential public services and our recruitment and employment conditions? Can individuals remain visible as independent agents in societies that are shaped by optimisation processes? What is the effect on freedom of expression and the plurality of public communication spaces when individuals are micro-targeted with messages that are based on profiling? And finally: how does the increasing reliance on mainly privately developed and run technology square with the rule of law and the fundamental principle of democratic societies that all power must be accountable before the law?

Charlotte Altenhöner-Dion will attempt to provide answers to these questions, reflecting on Council of Europe work in this area, including  the adoption of the first European text defining the ethical framework for the use of AI in judicial systems; the draft ‘Declaration on the manipulative capabilities of algorithmic processes’ (which is being discussed on February 12) and the high-level conference in Helsinki on 26 and 27 February 2019 on ‘Governing the Game Changer – Impacts of AI on Human rights, Democracy and the Rule of law’.

Charlotte Altenhöner-Dion has a law degree from Hamburg University and an LL.M. in International Law from Georgetown University. She has been with the Council of Europe for the past ten years, having previously worked for the OSCE and the UN, including in Central Asia, the Balkans, and East Africa. Her current professional focus lies on the human rights impacts of digital transformation, intermediary liability, and the institutional challenges of governing fast-moving technologies in a rights-compliant manner, while adhering to the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

The ”European Encounter” series echoes the Law programme’s intention to offer its students unique opportunities to engage with UK and European policy makers, and to explore cutting edge issues such as the relationship between technology and European human rights. You can read more about areas of specialisation in the LLB Law programme here.

[Published 13 February 2019]

Goldsmiths Law/”Britain in Europe” seminar on “the state we’re in” with Brexit

On 29 January – precisely two months before the UK is due to leave the EU – legal experts from our Britain in Europe thinktank were in conversation with Will Hutton, the Principal of Hertford College, Oxford. Their discussion on the “state we’re in” with Brexit is now on YouTube. Britain in Europe is an innovative academic thinktank based at, and feeding into, Goldsmiths’ LLB Law programme.

LLB Law applicants get insight of family law practice

Judge Donald Cryan

HH Donald Cryan (Hon) LL.D., Visiting Prof in Law, Goldsmiths University of London

Students applying to Goldsmiths’ 2019-20 LLB Law programme had the unique opportunity to meet one of our newly appointed visiting professors, His Honour Donald Cryan (Hon) LL.D., during ‘applicants day’ on January 26th.

Judge Cryan gave an overview of various aspects of legal practice and the importance of the work of the Family Courts.

Judge Cryan has for many years been a senior Family Court judge and a Deputy High Court Judge in the Family Division of the High Court. He has also held the prestigious position of Head (Treasurer) of the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. Judge Cryan is adding to Goldsmiths’ LLB programme outstanding expertise in family law and arbitration in family law disputes, a longstanding commitment to access to the Bar for students from under-represented backgrounds and a unique insight of skills central to the legal profession.

In a highly engaging Q & A with the students, Judge Cryan emphasised that the legal profession was nowadays open to all comers provided they had the necessary commitment and ability. Very substantial scholarships are available through each of the Inns of Court for those wishing to come to the Bar. Speaking about becoming a barrister, the area where he could speak with most authority, he stressed that the Inns of Court had made great efforts to achieve diversity and inclusivity. He was proud of the work of the Inner Temple, which had been recognised by the Sutton Trust and others for its achievement in this area.

Judge Cryan spoke of the vital importance of Family Law and the work of the Family Courts. He stressed that the popular image of the Family Courts dealing primarily with divorce and its fallout was wrong. Whilst that important work still features significantly in the Court’s work, there are many other equally or more serious aspects of its work. He gave examples such as preventing domestic violence; international child abduction and the application of the Hague Convention;  preventing forced marriages; granting leave to remove children from the jurisdiction with the risk of that splitting families. He also spoke from his extensive experience of Public Law children’s case, known as “ Care Cases” which not infrequently result in children being permanently removed from their birth families and adopted, normally without the agreement of their parents. He explained how these decisions are possibly the gravest decisions which the Courts can still make since the absolution of the death penalty. Dealing with physical, sexual and psychological abuse involves extremely complex issues, frequently based on the conflicting evidence of  leading medical and scientific experts in the country.

All these decisions at the senior level have to be made by the judge alone and, in answering students’ queries about the level of responsibility that judges carry on their shoulders when taking such decisions, Judge Cryan spoke of their subjective impact.

He also stressed the fact that these grave decisions have to be made in the context not only of the law of England and Wales, but also of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, with particular reference to Article 6 which regulates the fairness of the hearing and Article 8 which requires the Court and the State to have respect for the family life of all those before it.

The next applicants’ day takes place on February 20th, and students can book their place here. During their visit to Goldsmiths, our LLB Law applicants will have the opportunity to meet social media expert of leading thinktank ‘Demos’, Carl Miller, who will discuss Judges and Artificial Intelligence, drawing on his latest book on The Death of the Gods: The New Global Power Grab.