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).
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.
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 fascinating 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”.
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”.
Dr 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.
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”.
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: TheLeopard 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”.
We were delighted to meet all our prospective students who joined us for our virtual open day last week (10 July 2020). You can watch highlights from the open day here, with contributions from our academics Dr Virginie Barral and Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, and our students Alex Choi and Melyssa Cruse.
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.
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.
LLB Law cohort at the Royal Courts of Justice (January 2020)
29 January 2020
Goldsmiths Law students in Year 1 of the LLB Law programme took part in a mock murder trial at the Royal Courts of Justice today, during the second RCJ visit of the LLB Law cohort this year.
The mock trial concerned a joint enterprise murder case. Students undertook the roles of judge, barristers, witnesses, clerk and jury, and were provided with background to the case and scripts to work from.
With a little prompting from the National Justice Museum facilitator, mock barristers questioned and cross-examined eight witnesses to establish the chain of events that led to the killing, the relationship between co-defendants and victim, and the specifics of the crime scene.
Jurors were provided with evidence of CCTV footage of the co-defendants fleeing the scene, and were asked to assess witness testimony on the basis of whether it helped establish whether the offence of murder had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The defendant was found guilty by the jury and was duly sentenced to life imprisonment.
The study visit and mock trial were part of the ‘English Legal System in a Global Context’ Year 1 module which introduces students to key legal institutions and concepts, and to relevant institutional parties and practice. Goldsmiths Law’s Dr Alex Dymock offered guidance to the students during the trial.
We are thankful to the National Justice Museum, for coordinating the mock trial and study visit, and our continued collaboration.
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 thrilled to announce a number of outstanding opportunities for our LLB Law students to go on commercial awareness visits, including to a premier global law firm, Magic Circle firms, Facebook and the American boutique law firm famous for its involvement in high-profile cases such as United States v Microsoft, Perry v Brown and Bush v Gore.
These exciting activities are delivered in the context of the Year 1 ‘Contract Law’ module, led by Dr Dagmar Myslinska, and mirror our innovative teaching approach that embeds experiential learning and career development activities into contact time in all our modules.
29 November – guest lecture by Dr Simon Witney from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Dr Witney is a Solicitor and a Special Counsel in the Private Equity, Funds/Investment Management and Business Integrity Groups at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. A prominent member of the UK and European private equity communities, he is a regular speaker and commentator on company law, corporate governance and regulatory matters. He has advised private equity clients as well as the UK Government on a wide range of fund and transactional matters, is a member of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, and a past Chair of Invest Europe’s Tax, Legal and Regulatory Committee. Dr Witney is also a Visiting Professor in Practice in the Law Department at the LSE.
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier global law firm, with approximately 700 lawyers working in nine offices across three continents, including more than 120 in London. It is best known for private equity, mergers and acquisitions, financial services-related matters, white collar and regulatory defence, and top-level litigation matters (the former UK attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, works in the London office). The firm’s core clients tend to come from banking, health care, insurance, private equity and technology, and media and telecommunications industries.
7 February – study trip for a guest lecture by Jantira Raftery at Facebook’s London office in Fitzrovia.
Ms Raftery is Competition Counsel on the in-house legal team at Facebook, covering competition and antitrust matters across Europe.
Prior to joining Facebook, Ms Raftery was a senior associate in the competition group at Slaughter and May (part of the five London ‘Magic Circle’ firms). During her time at Slaughter and May, she advised companies on allegations of anti-competitive behaviour and breaches of consumer protection law, as well as on obtaining antitrust approval for major acquisitions. She previously worked in Brussels and New York at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton (one of the most prestigious multinational law firms). Ms Raftery is a qualified Solicitor (England & Wales) and an Attorney (New York).
The visit will also include a tour of the legal department and of other public areas of the office.
6 March – commercial awareness visit to Linklaters LLP office in the City, for a guest lecture by Sima Ostrovsky. Ms Ostrovsky is a Managing Associate, who focuses on all aspects of competition law including merger control, cartels and advisory work in the areas of dominance, vertical and horizontal conduct. Ms Ostrovsky works with a number of high-profile clients in various industries and has been on secondment to firms in the consumer goods and payment systems sectors. She has previously worked for top law firms in South Africa and New York and is admitted to practice in both these jurisdictions. Ms Ostrovsky has also been a research clerk for the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
Founded in London in 1838, Linklaters is a member of the ‘Magic Circle’ of elite London law firms, and employs 2,310 lawyers across 30 offices in 20 countries. It has 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.
The Linklaters recruitment team has also offered to do a session on the Linklaters application process and the opportunities that they have for LLB students. You can also find out more information on their career opportunities here.
Our study visit will also include a tour of the client areas of the office.
13 March– commercial awareness visit to Boies, Schiller & Flexner (UK) LLP office in the City, near Fleet Street, and guest lecture by Matthew Getz. Mr Getz is a Partner whose practice focuses on government and internal investigations, white collar defence, anti-corruption due diligence, and regulatory compliance. He has represented large multinational companies and financial institutions in some of the world’s largest anti-corruption internal investigations. He has represented both individuals and corporations under investigation by the UK Serious Fraud Office, U.S. Department of Justice and other regulators and prosecutors, and has successfully represented individuals challenging Interpol Red Notices and extradition. In December 2017, Mr Getz was selected by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission as an arbitrator for the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework. Prior to law school, he was a financial journalist writing for leading publications in South Africa and the UK. He is qualified as a Solicitor (England & Wales) and Attorney (New York).
The study visit will also include a tour of the client areas of the office.
Boies, Schiller & Flexner is a leading boutique New York law firm, specialising in complex litigation matters, and famous for its involvement in high-profile cases (having represented the US Department of Justice in the antitrust action United States v Microsoft; Vice President Al Gore in Bush v Gore; and same-sex couples in Perry v Brown).
Goldsmiths Law Year 1 students, Fabian Higgins (left) and Olivia Burns (right), playing the role of jurors in fanSHEN’s immersive ‘jury trial’ theatre (at the Council Chamber, Deptford Town Hall)
Goldsmiths Law students were given a unique opportunity to take part in an immersive jury trial theatre.
The Law department, in collaboration with the MA/MFA in Computational Arts, were delighted to bring to Goldsmiths the pioneering Justice Syndicate production.
The Justice Syndicate is a piece of playable theatre drawing on a jury format. It explores how we fill in the gaps to make decisions.
The experience is a collaboration between recovering theatre company fanSHEN, computational artist Joe McAlister and neuroscientist Dr Kris De Meyer. The Law department would like to express its thanks to fanSHEN’s Rachel Briscoe and Dan Briscoe for the outstanding collaboration.
The experience was delivered in the context of the ‘English Legal System in a Global Context’ LLB Law module.
The Justice Syndicate play was recently reviewed by the Irish Times: “As details and testimony are rationed out through iPads, and group discussions take place against a countdown, the only thing beyond reasonable doubt in UK company Fanshen’s absorbing piece of interactive theatre are the quirks of human psychology.”
A review has also appeared in the Evening Standard, which noted: “Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch showed viewers that, given enough power and detachment, they could calmly make decisions that destroy someone’s life. But what about when the situation and its consequences seem real?”
In the three separate sessions that took place at Goldsmiths on October 9th, we had the following verdicts:
In the first ‘trial’, the jury delivered a majority verdict of Not guilty (11 jurors voted Not guilty – no juror voted Guilty). In the second ‘trial’, the ‘same defendant’, tried for the ‘same offence’, in the exact ‘same circumstances’, was found Guilty (1 juror voted Not guilty – 11 voted Guilty). In the third ‘trial’, the jury failed to reach a majority verdict (2 jurors voted Not Guilty – 9 voted Guilty).
It is intriguing that groups so demographically similar reached such differing verdicts having seen the exact same evidence!
The activity became an immediate favourite for Goldsmiths Law students. Fabian Higgins said that “the dichotomy of a serious accusation in the face of evidence (or lack thereof) balanced with ideas of justice, empathy and compassion became manifest; the activity drew into question the ‘fairness’ of our justice system and the human desire to ‘do the right thing’. A really fantastic opportunity.” Larah Otoo focussed on how the setting allowed the students to immerse into the experience: “From the moment I entered the room there was a court-like atmosphere with a formal set up of a table in the centre with juror numbers displayed and notebooks which added to the immersive experience. All the evidence – character statements, knowledge from experts in the particular field of crime, information regarding whereabouts of the defendant’s phone, internet search history and online messaging conversations that the defendant had – was presented to us was via iPads.Shahaf Farooq said she was “totally immersed in the trial”. “It was an exceptionally eye-opening and amusing piece of the world of courtroom and Law that highlights the effect of taking a different approach to teaching Law.”Finally, Dominica Henriques noted she had been “impressed by the set up of the experience, how the location along with the combination of technology managed to create such an immersive environment. It felt quite real.” She added: “I’ve hugely benefited from the experience because it is unique, it is thought provoking and it is a practical way of learning.”
On January 29th, Goldsmiths Law and the MA/MFA in Computational Arts will host another three sessions of the Justice Syndicate, and our students are already looking forward to acting out again the crucial role of members of the jury.