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 firstname.lastname@example.org). With:
Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch: Technology, human rights and the criminal justice system
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Goldsmiths LLB Law students and academics at the UK Supreme Court (November 2019)
Goldsmiths students doing Public Law and the Human Rights Act in Year 1 of the LLB Law programme witnessed law being made at the highest level (and having potentially pervasive effect) during their recent visit to the UK Supreme Court.
In a busy day for the supreme jurisdiction in the country, the court first found that five asylum seekers that were detained pending their removal from the UK had been detained unlawfully and were therefore entitled to compensation under domestic law for any loss that the wrongful detention had caused them. ‘Thousands of asylum seekers could bring claims for millions of pounds of compensation’ after the Supreme Court judgment, wrote The Times (the Brief) the following day.
In a second judgment, the Court pronounced that a Royal Mail whistleblower had been unfairly dismissed, for raising concerns over alleged regulatory breaches.
Lord Kitchin, Lord Wilson and Lady Hale (President) delivered the judgments in these two cases.
Were the appellants right to refuse to fulfil Mr Lee’s order? How would you have applied the law if you were on the bench for this case?
The students then took part in an interactive workshop delivered by a member of staff at the Supreme Court, introducing them to key public law and human rights cases, asking them how they would have voted on them. R v Gnango, the leading authority on joint enterprise and transferred malice, and Lee v Ashers Baking company (the ‘gay cake’ case) were a focal point of discussion.
The group then moved to Courtroom 3, to observe Privy Council proceedings, in a case that was on appeal from the Court of Appeal (Bahamas). The appellant had been convicted of rape and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment in 1996, and his appeal raised the issue of whether the criminal proceedings had been vitiated by a procedural error at the committal stage and whether the defendant had been defined a fair trial because DNA samples had not been provided to the defence. Lord Carnwath, Lord Hodge, Lady Black, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lady Arden were in the judicial bench.
Learning about the Privy Council’s role as the court of final appeal for UK overseas territories, Crown dependencies and (some) Commonwealth countries.
The wonderful visit ended with the students spending some time at the permanent exhibition on the lower ground floor of the building and enjoying some cake, coffee and tea, at the Court’s café, in a well lit atrium that marries modern architectural elements with the neo-gothic building of the Court which started life as the Middlesex Guildhall in 1913.
The visit was part of the Public Law and the Human Rights Act curriculum, and is typical of the innovative approach taken at Goldsmiths to incorporate experiential learning activities and study visits as part of contact time in all modules in the LLB degree.
We are delighted to announce that, in line with the Law School’s commitment to innovate and create a distinctive offer on human rights and social justice, we are acting as the inaugural institutional sponsor for the Better Human Podcast, produced by our Visiting Professor in Law, Adam Wagner, a leading barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, and the founder and Chair of the pioneering and multi-award-winning RightsInfo charity.
The Better Human Podcast will explore the most important human rights issues of the day – Brexit, facial recognition, racism in sport, assisted dying, artificial intelligence – through engaging and accessible interviews with high-profile guests and plain English guides to key concepts and historical events. The tone of the podcast will be open and unpretentious, with all technical terms and concepts explained.
The podcast is inspired by the idea that in today’s polarised and dangerous political times, human rights – and the liberal values they arise from – can give us the lens we need to understand what’s happening and make our societies better.
The first episode explores free speech, and you can listen to it here.
In this episode, Adam Wagner speaks to Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship about the human right to freedom of speech. He asks: sometimes described as the life blood of democracy, why is this important right so controversial? Do we have a right to offend, or not to be offended? Is Julian Assange a journalist? What about Tommy Robinson? Where is the dividing line between racial hatred and protected opinions? And much more…
Goldsmiths Law students will have various opportunities to interact with the podcast, including participate in a live recording at Goldsmiths and, in due course, potentially, contribute library research that will feed into specific episodes.
The LLB Law programme at Goldsmiths gives students unique opportunities to engage with leading legal professionals and partake in challenging current debates, developing indispensable professional skills in the process.
A new book by Goldsmiths’ Head of Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, explores the perennial controversy over the use of improperly obtained evidence in criminal trials. This is the first book to do so from a cross-cultural – comparative and international human rights – perspective.
The book compares and contrasts various procedural mechanisms, within Anglo-American and continental legal systems (with a focus on the United States, Greece, France and England and Wales), that may stop the jury, or the judge as a fact-finder, from accessing or using unlawfully obtained evidence – sometimes crucial, reliable evidence – when reaching a verdict or making a finding of guilt.
Analysis focuses on confessional evidence and evidence obtained by search and seizure, telephone interceptions and other means of electronic surveillance.
The book attempts to reinvigorate the idea of excluding evidence to protect constitutional or human rights (the rights thesis), arguing that there is significant scope for Anglo-American and Continental legal systems to place a renewed emphasis on it, particularly in relation to confessional evidence obtained in violation of custodial interrogation rights. This is because we can locate an emerging rapprochement, and unique potential for European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence to build consensus, in this respect.
In marked contrast, remaining divergence with regard to evidence obtained by privacy violations means there is little momentum to adopt a reinvigorated rights thesis more widely.
English law, in particular, offers a key illustration of discordance between privacy violations and violations of custodial interrogation rights. The discretionary powers that courts possess in relation to the latter often lead to exclusion. In contrast, the exclusion of evidence obtained in violation of the right to privacy is a rare occurrence in the related jurisprudence.
Book presentation at Berkeley Law School (10 April 2019), hosted by Prof Charles Weisselberg (first from left) and Prof Jonathan Simon (second from right)
Since publication of the book, Prof Giannoulopoulos has presented his research in this area to academic audiences in England (most recently at the Law School at the University of Exeter), Greece (at a major symposium of the Hellenic Criminal Bar Association) and in the United States, where the ‘exclusionary rule’ has been the source of one of the most enduring and controversial debates in American constitutional criminal procedure.
“Policing Los Angeles Forum” presentation, Loyola Law School (8 April 2019). From left to right: Prof Eric Miller, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, Prof Christopher Hawthorne
“The UK Supreme Court is entirely accustomed to analysing human rights (protected by the European Convention on Human Rights), but if you ask those daily tackling crime, the answer is they’re rarely necessary in the average criminal trial”, noted Lord Hughes of Ombersley, former Justice at the UK Supreme Court, opening up his keynote address in Goldsmiths Law’s annual criminal justice symposium at the British Academy (on 27 March 2019).
The reason is that these rights are “implicit in English criminal procedure”; “we had arrived at these rights long before the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights” (ECHR), he explained, taking the examples of ‘habeas corpus’, which had been guaranteed for the best part of three centuries before finding its way into Article 5 of the ECHR, the ‘burden of proof’, which was in place hundreds of years before being incorporated into Article 6, or the prohibition of torture, which was inherent in the common law since the 17thcentury.
What is interesting is the discussion about the extent and scope of rights since their incorporation into the ECHR via the mechanics of “fairly energetic judicial glossing in Strasbourg”, Lord Hughes pointed out.
He invited English criminal lawyers, and the many scholars attending the symposium, to look at two features of this process of judicial creativity.
The first, most obvious, feature was the extent of it. “These fundamental rights have been expanded enormously”, noted Lord Hughes.
The second feature is the very interesting interaction between the common law and European civil law traditions, which does not have the starting point as the common law when it comes to interpreting the Convention.
We need to “remember that whilst the common law may be very longstanding, and we’re rightly proud of it, and it may be very widespread across the world, and we’re rightly proud of that as well, it is by no means a universal system”, said Lord Hughes.
In highlighting the idiosyncratic character of the European Court of Human Rights, the former Supreme Court Justice, whose illustrious career included the Vice-Presidency of the Criminal Division at the Court of Appeal, added:
“It also behoves us to remember the difference between running a very long-established legal system such as ours in which an enormous amount can be taken as read, and, on the other hand, running a transnational court such as the Strasbourg Court where the judges come from an enormous variety of cultures, from a huge range of personal career experience, where there is no single common language, where the range of systems under consideration is enormous”.
“The Strasbourg Court is having to cope with all the systems of former Eastern Europe as well as former Code Napoleon central Europe as well as the common law, and when we run into occasional elements of frustration, we ought to remember just how difficult it is to administer a transnational court of that kind”.
In discussing examples of “direct importation into the UK systems of fundamental rights as interpreted in Strasbourg”, Lord Hughes started with the “very well-known example of Cadder” (which led to the incorporation of the right to speak to a lawyer from the beginning of police interrogation in Scotland).
The reform was in reality “judicial legislation in Strasbourg based on the kind of review of national practice all around the Council of Europe which they’re in the habit of conducting; it’s one of the things they do extremely well, to produce a synthesis of practice around the member-states”.
One other way in which rights had been expanded was by attaching to an Article of the Convention an ancillary or secondary duty to investigate things that might involve a breach, said Lord Hughes.
The classic example was “Article 2 inquiries into deaths in state custody or state hands”. “Article 2 does not say anything at all about investigation, but it’s a perfectly rational extension on the basis that the primary right won’t be effective unless you also have a secondary right to investigation. But it is pure judicial legislation of the kind which – if it happened in relation to an English statute by an English court – would attract, rightly, some would say, a great deal of criticism”.
A similar duty to inquiry had been expanded to Article 3 of the Convention, as illustrated in the case of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD (the John Worboys case). “The effect of the expansion of Article 3 is that a victim of crime now has – as a result of DSD – a right of action against the police for breach of the secondary duty to investigate serious violence, and they will succeed if the police fall below reasonable standards”.
“It sounds perfectly straightforward, but entirely contrary to English tort law as it had stood until DSD; though police had public duties, they did not owe a duty of care to individual victims”, observed Lord Hughes.
He then asked:
“Does it matter that rights which are, as drafted, so expansively interpreted by judges – not by Parliaments, but by unelected judges, without any reference back to the States which originally agreed them?”
“Or maybe this is what states have voluntarily signed up to in accepting the Convention.”
In other words, Lord Hughes noted, these fundamental rights and their interpretation are a potent example of what is really a perennial problem faced by all legal systems, which is “how far should or can judges be creative in their interpretation of the Law or how far are they – like everybody else – bound by what it actually says; it’s a perpetual problem particularly faced by courts of final appeal but also, to some extent, by courts lower down”.
We could ask the same question by reference to other rights, for example Article 6 para 2 of the Convention, on the presumption of innocence or hearsay and the right to confrontation under Article 6.
It was equally important to observe, noted Lord Hughes, that although “a good deal of criminal procedure and evidence may fall to be reasoned according to fundamental rights, a larger part of English criminal procedure is entirely independent of fundamental rights”. Human rights are not “the prime source of our rules of fairness in the English criminal justice system; it’s actually the other way round … most of English criminal procedure was in place before these rights were derived from it very largely”.
“In fact, when the Convention was drafted, very largely by English lawyers, only some of the common law principles went into it. Others were deliberately left out, for example jury trial, the discretion not to prosecute (which would be quite incompatible with the Continental culture, where in many cases it is mandatory to prosecute), the cab-rank rule (the obligation of a barrister to accept any work in a field in which they practice, either acting for the defence or the prosecution), which wouldn’t work in Europe where you have division between public prosecutors and others, or the mandatory recording of police interviews.”
This line of thinking led Lord Hughes to a final conclusion:
While “these fundamental rights [ECHR rights] are very important – they’re often debated, they’re sometimes inspirational, they throw up the most fascinating meeting points of the common law and different legal cultures – they’re a long way from being the prime source of English criminal law and procedure.”
“They’re fundamental to us, in the sense that their ideas are embedded in our system, absolutes they’re not and we need to be careful about claiming that they’re absolutes.”
“The reality is that there is a huge scope for debate about their content and that debate has to be resolved by judges by exactly the same tensions that you meet domestically between the legitimate bounds of judicial creativity and the rule that judges – like anybody else – are bound by the law.”
“That’s a tension which has to be resolved here as it does everywhere else. They’re fundamental rights, they’re not absolute rights.”
LSE’s Prof Nicola Lacey chaired the keynote address.
Prof Nicola Lacey: Lord Hughes’ keynote raises some fascinating comparative and socio-legal questions about the impact of different legal cultures and different institutional structures in how courts work and how communication between systems works.
The symposium was coordinated by Goldsmiths’ Head of Law Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, and it was attended by major experts in criminal justice and human rights, from the UK and abroad.
from left to right: Prof Paul Roberts (Nottingham), Hannah Quirk (King’s), Richard Glover (Wolverhampton) and Prof Andrew Choo (City)
from left to right: Prof David Sklansky (Stanford), Yvonne Daly (DCU), Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos (Goldsmiths), Prof Sarah Summers (Zurich), Prof Theodore Konstantinides (Essex) and HH Judge Donald Cryan (Visiting Prof, Goldsmiths)
Abenaa Owusu-Bempah (LSE) with Prof Sarah Summers (Zurich)
The symposium followed up on Goldsmiths Law’s criminal justice lecture, which took place the day before and was delivered by Stanford Law School academic Prof David Sklanksy.
Goldsmiths’ Prof Giannoulopoulos with Lord Hughes. The Inner Temple’s academic fellowship scheme has brought Goldsmiths Law closer to the profession, including eminent representatives of the UK judiciary and Justices at the Supreme Court
The Department of Law at Goldsmiths places strong emphasis on the study of criminal justice and human rights. Students taking the LLB Law at Goldsmiths can choose to specialise in these subjects, by taking the synonymous pathway degree (LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights).
For information on the annual criminal justice symposium or the LLB Law and LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights degrees contact the Law department at Law@gold.ac.uk
The LLB Law at Goldsmiths is innovative and cutting edge, preparing lawyers for a flexible 21stcentury workplace. As such, the programme places a strong emphasis on inter-disciplinary legal analysis and equipping students with skills that are applicable to the legal profession as traditionally conceived (see, for example, our recent announcement about integrating workshops and advice on the barrister profession by the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple) but also honing skills that will be central to future legal careers.
The latest illustration of this modern approach to legal studies is an emerging collaboration with Forensic Architecture, the pioneering research agency that undertakes advanced architectural and media research on behalf of international prosecutors, human rights organisations and environmental justice groups.
On 25 March 2019, Head of Goldsmiths Law, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, visited the award winning agency, where MA students in Research Architecture were presenting their ongoing forensic investigations, under the supervision of Dr Lorenzo Pezzani (who leads the MA Studio in Forensic Architecture) and in the presence of the director of the agency, Eyal Weizman.
The MA in Forensic Architecture examines how architecture can engage with questions of contemporary culture, politics, media, ecology and justice. Goldsmiths Law is very keen to collaborate with the MA in relation to research and teaching at the intersection of architecture and justice.
One of the students who presented their work at the workshop, Dimitra Andritsou, examines the politics of fire at play at Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, one of the frontier ‘chokepoints’ of the European border regime.
Slide from Dimitra Andritsou’s research presentation on fires at the Moria refugee camp as a manifestation of abandonment from the part of the state (credit: Dimitra Andritsou)
‘From blazes of indignation to flaring humanitarian infrastructure, fire on the island emerges as a lurking, ubiquitous presence’, her research project argues.
Dimitra’s work interrogates fire’s ‘manifestation as an ambiguous force that highlights the precarious, differentiated regime of abandonment and care, and thus signals institutional failure at diverse, inter-scalar registers’.
The Moria refugee camp (copyright: Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters)
Entering in conversation with Prof Giannoulopoulos about varied levels of accountability, and opportunities for intervention, from the local to the national and then to the transnational, including from relevant EU institutions, Dimitra replied that there was ‘an urgent need to problematize and rethink how accountability may be addressed at diverse levels in such a conflictual field’.
Earlier on this academic year, Forensic Architecture’s deputy director, Christina Varvia, spoke at Goldsmiths Law’s symposium on Technology and Human Rights (November 2018).
Forensic Architecture’s deputy director, Christina Varvia, speaking at Goldsmiths Law’s symposium on technology and human rights
Forensic Architecture have won several awards for their bold and innovative work, and were nominated for the 2018 Turner Prize.
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.