Primary page content

Connecting theory and practice in critical human rights studies (spotlight on Dr Lena Holzer)

We are delighted to announce that Dr Lena Holzer has joined Goldsmiths as a Lecturer in Law.

Lena will be convening the Public Law and the Human Rights Act module (in Year 1 of the LLB), contributing to the Human Rights Law and Clinic module (in Year 3) and injecting specialist human rights law expertise into our programme, particularly through our LLM in International Human Rights (launching in September 2023!).

Lena is bringing to Goldsmiths excellent research capacity in the field of international law, gender justice and sports law.

The Q & A below offers is a first glimpse of Lena’s research, approach to teaching and contributions she is aiming to make to our programme.

Where did you work/study before joining Goldsmiths?

I received my PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. My doctoral studies also included spending one year at King’s College London, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic I passed most of this time remotely. Before arriving at Goldsmiths, I taught in different university programmes in Geneva, Utrecht and Krems and worked for various human rights institutions, such as in Switzerland, Austria and Belgium.

What are your specialist areas in Law?

I focus in my research broadly on international human rights law and specifically on how international law impacts gender relations in society. My PhD thesis examined how international law shapes the existence of the gender binary in law. Another area of my research is sports law and its influences on different structures of inequality, such as sexism, racism and transphobia.

What is your role in Goldsmiths’ Law programme?

I will convene the Public Law and the Human Rights Act module and further contribute to the Human Rights Law and Clinic module. I will also be involved in coordinating the final year dissertation and develop my own research projects, focusing particularly on sports, human rights and gender equality.

What is your approach to teaching? What are your plans for the Public Law and the Human Rights Act module for the next academic year?

I enjoy teaching in an interactive manner that requires students to apply theoretical knowledge to real world issues. Since law often reflects past and current power relations, I usually encourage my students to question why certain laws exist, what they do in practice and how they could be changed to foster equality. Hence, I believe that an important task of a law lecturer is to provide students with the tools to critically assess law, and to show how they can use this knowledge in their future professions or current jobs.

Yet, a critical engagement with laws always entails knowing the technicalities and doctrines of laws and legal systems. This is why I will aim in my course on Public Law and the Human Rights Act to teach students the legalistic aspects of UK public law and human rights system, whilst enhancing their sensibilities to critically interrogate the sources of law discussed. In line with the general approach of Goldsmiths’ Law Department, I will analyse public law in its current socio-political context by examining the impact of recent legal developments, such as Brexit. At times, I will also draw the comparison to foreign legal systems to show the specificities of and controversies around the UK public law and human rights system.

You have experience in teaching in interdisciplinary programmes. How will you draw on this experience for your work at Goldsmiths Law?

I will certainly draw on my experience of studying and teaching in interdisciplinary programmes in my work at Goldsmiths since I believe that this can help to prepare the students for their careers as lawyers. I think that my interdisciplinary academic profile has allowed me to develop the capacity to teach law to a broad audience with different interests and background knowledges. This is crucial for a law programme that aims at making legal education accessible and practice-oriented. I am further convinced that lawyers can more effectively regulate an issue if they understand the subject matter from different angles, which is why I will encourage my students to read broadly and also familiarise themselves with literature from other disciplines. Moreover, as lawyers end up working in all types of professions these days, it becomes even more important to have transversal skills and a grasp of interdisciplinary debates.

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

I am excited to join a department that strives towards teaching a new generation of lawyers the legal tools for promoting equality, justice and a sustainable future. The educational approach of Goldsmiths will allow me to connect my passion for theoretical engagements with laws with a practice-oriented approach that can help to generate critical human rights lawyers. I am specifically looking forward to working in an environment that fosters creative and critical thinking and to being surrounded by highly motivated colleagues. Not only will I be able to draw inspiration from my colleagues’ teaching methods and research, but I will also learn from my students who will push me to question my own approaches and perspectives.

Our students write: The urgent need to regulate Drone Strikes

In this piece, second year law student Samuel Cardwell draws on the knowledge he gained from participating in Goldsmiths Law’s Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Law and Policy Clinic to examine the human rights implications of using drone strikes as part of the War on Terror.

Surveying a wide array of sources, Cardwell uses hard-facts and legal analysis to highlight the damage that drone strikes have on not just the victims but the perpetrators too.

‘Drone strikes lower the threshold for violent action and trivialise killing’, writes Cardwell. ‘The operator is distanced from the scene of the violence and only views it through pixels on a screen’, which ‘distance the emotion from them’. ‘International law must apply to drone strikes to prevent global misuse of this technology’, he concludes.

Read the blog here: The urgent need to regulate Drone Strikes.

 

Climate justice, BLM, human rights: Goldsmiths Law workshops in schools continue apace

Our Department of Law is passionate about connecting with young students in schools across London and the UK, and across a range of educational settings, with a view to engaging them with, and giving them a platform to participate in, contemporary debates through a socio-legal lens.

Our Knowing Our Rights project, which seeks to raise awareness about the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK, through the Human Rights Act, has provided a great platform for this work, enabling us to connect with approximately 3,000 students, both in person and virtually, since launching the project.

At the end of March, we were delighted to virtually visit St Margaret’s School, an independent co-ed school in Bushey. Our Dr Fatima Ahdash delivered an exciting and highly relevant workshop on human rights, social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The workshop was a great hit: dynamic and highly interactive from the start. St Margaret’s impressively brilliant students were highly engaged. They actively participated in a debate on whether the Human Rights Act 1998 should be repealed and replaced with a British Bill of Rights — a highly controversial political project — and they offered some truly insightful reflections on how, and the extent to which, human rights law can tackle institutional racism in the UK.

Earlier this academic year, on December 10, international human rights day, three students from the Human Rights Law & Clinic module joined our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, in an in-person visit to Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC), one of the biggest sixth forms in the country, where they delivered the Knowing Our Rights workshop to students in the human rights law A level class there.

Our Knowing Our Rights workshops continue throughout May and June with planned visits to a number of secondary schools, where we will be delivering two different workshops, on climate justice and human rights, and on BLM and human rights.

We are thrilled that there has been such a positive response to this initiative, and are always looking forward to extending the reach of our work to all schools who would be interested in injecting human rights law elements into their curriculum in this way (please email us at Law@gold.ac.uk if you would like your school to take part in this programme).

Why studying Law at Goldsmiths is unique

Studying Law at Goldsmiths is a distinctive learning experience. It equips you with unique career skills. Just check out our students’ itinerary from the last two weeks and see for yourselves why.

Monday 7 March

10 a.m.: French academic Jérémy Bourgais, from the University of Poitiers, visits the ‘English Legal System in a Global Context’ class to speak about criminal trials in France and Europe. Students are asked to imagine where they would sit, and what roles they would play, in a French courtroom, and identify differences with English courts. Our programme has a strong international focus!

Head of Mishcon Academy, Patrick Connolly, speaking about training contracts to Goldsmiths Law students

4.30 p.m.: Leading law firm Mishcon de Reya visit us on campus. Students are given guidance about when and how to apply for a training contract. In your applications, show how “you are unique” is the key message; talk about all the work you have done in your programme to show how you stand out from other candidates.

 

Tuesday 8 March, 10 a.m.

Year 1 students visit the highest court in the land, the UK Supreme Court (as part of their Public Law lectures). They take part in a workshop about the history and role of the court, attend a live hearing, visit the Court’s exhibition and discuss their experience over coffee and cake with their lecturers at the end.

Friday March 11, 9 a.m.

It’s Year 1 students again. This time they’re taking part in a Crown Court mock trial, in the Council Chamber at the Deptford Town Hall, in front of barrister, and actor, Ms Shereener Browne, who plays the role of a witness.

Monday March 14, 5 p.m.

Students participate in our Law careers fair, with speakers from leading firms like Macfarlanes and Kingsley Napley to NGOs and charities such as Justice and Lawyers Against Poverty. Students meet senior prosecutors and experts from the Crown Prosecution Service too, and begin to think about careers there; the CPS is the biggest legal employer in the UK.

Wednesday March 16, 10 a.m.

We’re in the heart of legal London, visiting ‘Magic Circle’ law firm Linklaters. Our students meet Competition Law experts and learn about the competitive process of applying there. The term ‘Magic Circle’ describes the five most prestigious, London-headquartered, law firms, which offer lucrative careers to those aspiring to work in areas such as corporate law, commercial law or banking law and intellectual property.

Thursday, March 17

11 a.m.: Year 3 students in the ‘Criminal Evidence’ module do a jury deliberations exercise (The Evidence Chamber) with a former theatre company. The jury of 12 are each given an iPad and have electronic evidence presented to them — e.g. a DNA match, and recordings from the police interrogation of the suspect — before they’re asked to consider their verdict.

6 p.m.: the department organises a night out in London, for the opening night of the Human Rights Watch London film festival, at the Barbican Centre, where we watch Silence Heard Loud and take part in the post-screening Q & A.

An exciting range of activities follow on until the end of term, from a ‘Grenfell tort claims’ exercise to a debating exercise (in International Trade Law ) and theatre trip (in Criminal Law), a mock trial at the Old Bailey (in Criminal Evidence) as well as visits to Mishcon de Reya’s offices and the Van Gogh immersive exhibition in the ‘Art Law’ module.

Studying Law at Goldsmiths is so much more than going to lectures and seminars on campus. We have a Law programme that is uniquely vibrant, professionally empowering and intellectually stimulating.

If you want to find out more about studying Law at Goldsmiths, get in touch via law@gold.ac.uk

Visiting Professor Kirsty Brimelow QC appointed a recorder

Kirsty Brimelow QC teaching at Goldsmiths

Our Visiting Professor, Kirsty Brimelow QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, and former Chairwoman of the Bar Human Rights Committee, has been appointed as a Recorder, sitting on the South Eastern Circuit. We would like to express our warmest congratulations to her.

The Queen has appointed 163 Recorders on the advice of the Lord Chancellor, The Right Honourable Dominic Raab MP, and the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, The Right Honourable The Lord Burnett of Maldon. See the full list of deployed Recorders here.

Kirsty has in depth practitioner expertise in criminal law and also in public law and international human rights law, with particular expertise in homicide, fraud, sexual offences, drugs and torture cases, child rights and vulnerable witness cases and the law of peaceful protest. Kirsty is bringing all this to Goldsmiths as well as leading expertise in legal practice, fact finding, mediation and diplomacy, case management, interviewing vulnerable witnesses, and an in depth experience in training lawyers, Judges, magistrates, the police and NGO workers.

LLB Law class visit the home of the EU in the UK

EU Law class visit to Europe House

After a stimulating two-and-a-half hours workshop, time for a group picture, with our students, staff from the EU Delegation and Lord Kirkhope

Learning Law in legal London is a fundamental aspect of the learning experience in our LLB Law programme. All our Law modules, from Criminal Law to Corporate, and Immigration Law to Contract embed a range of study trips and experiential activities, as part of ‘contact time’.

On the 15th of November, it was the EU Law class’s turn to go on a study trip in London. A very enthusiastic group of year 2 students who take the module went to Westminster to visit Europe House, where the EU delegation in the UK (formerly the EU representation in the UK) is based.

The students and their lecturers – Dr Virginie Barral, who convenes the module, and Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, our Head of Department – arrived early, giving everyone sufficient time to grab a ‘cappuccino’, ‘latte’ or soft drink from the local café; always a good starting point with our learning activities in London!

We then entered the impressive Europe House; 27 flags now there in the main meeting room – the UK flag no longer there – a quick and simple visual illustration of the impact of a highly complex process, political and legal, of withdrawing from the EU!

Students then took part in an interactive session on the EU’s history, values and decision-making processes including a quiz on quirky geographical and cultural facts about the 27 member states. Did you know that Ireland is the only country in the EU where you will find no… snakes! The staff teaching the workshop also broke down the inherently complex EU institutions into simplistic elements, that were visually represented as parts of a bike. Something we could use in our EU Law lectures in the future…

We were then joined by Lord Kirkhope, a lawyer and politician, who served as an MEP (Member of European Parliament) between 2003 and 2016. Lord Kirkhope shared with the class his vision of the future relationship between the UK and the EU as a pro European conservative politician. To round-up the visit, it was the students’ turn to pitch to Lord Kirkhope what they felt were the most urgent issues facing the EU.

We could not think of a better way to learn EU Law in action (and the ways in which it will continue to influence the UK in the future), and are very grateful to the EU Delegation for their wonderful hospitality (and would like to make this visit an annual occurrence!).

Law students attend Hamlyn lecture delivered by Lord Pannick QC

Lord Pannick QC delivering the first Hamlyn lecture

A few lucky Goldsmiths Law students were amongst a small audience attending in person the – within hours – sold out first Hamlyn lecture at Gray’s Inn Hall on October 11th.

The lecture, that is coordinated by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London, was delivered by Lord Pannick QC, one of the most distinguished barristers in the country, who has led in the Miller (1) and Miller (2) cases, where the Government suffered historic defeats, on the triggering of Article 50 and the prorogation of Parliament respectively. More recently, Lord Pannick acted for Shamima Begum at the Supreme Court.

The President of the UK Supreme Court, Lord Reed, introducing Lord Pannick.

The lecture celebrated advocacy (“The Essence of Advocacy”). Lord Pannick sought to identify the central characteristics of good and bad advocacy with the aid of examples from courtroom practice in the UK and abroad.

Lord Pannick elaborated on ten principles that all good advocates should follow such as sound knowledge of the relevant area of law (naturally), focussing on the strong(er) arguments, but being aware – and working on – weaknesses in your argument, engaging with the bench, plain speaking, avoiding “boring” the judge or taking the risk of humour, and ensuring you never lose your temper (no matter how serious the provocation).

Goldsmiths Law students with our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos

The lecture included an impressive range of references to great orators and politicians; Demosthenes, Aristotle, Seneca, Abraham Lincoln, Obama got a number of mentions, as did contemporary lawyers in the US and the UK, though not always for good reasons!

 

 

Welcome to Goldsmiths Law, Year 1 students!

We were delighted to welcome our new year 1 students to University last week. ‘Welcome week’ activities started with students spending a whole day with our academics and administrative staff, who introduced them to central elements of the learning and student experience at Goldsmiths Law.

The event started with a warm welcome from our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, who, upon congratulating the students for their success in relevant examinations, and the resilience they had shown in confronting the challenges inherent in the pandemic, spoke to them about the values that underpin the Law programme at Goldsmiths – human rights, fairness, equality, the rule of law – and attributes that the programme aspires to instil in them over the course of their degree as well as opening up to them an outstanding range of opportunities, from learning through continuous visits to legal institutions in London to engaging with experiential learning activities, clinical legal education and community-based voluntary work.

Dr Dagmar Myslinska, Dr Plamen Dinev and Mr Jean-Michel Villot spoke next, about student welfare and student support, with a focus on our dynamic personal tutoring system, examinations and progression as well as negotiating their journey into the degree through technology – what apps to download to ensure they’re up to speed with announcements and opportunities advertised by the department; how to communicate with the team; where to access their learning materials…

After a welcome lunch break where the students had a wonderful opportunity to mingle and get to know each other, the afternoon session kicked off with the Year 1 teaching team introducing their modules. Dr Alex Dymock highlighted how Criminal Law is a research led module informed by her expertise in sexual offences, offences against the person and obscenity law.

Dr Virginie Barral explained how recent political events such as the prorogation of Parliament provide exciting case studies for the study of Public Law and the Human Rights Act.

Dr Dagmar Myslinska spices up Contract Law through a Law in context approach while Dr Sheri Labenski infuses the study of the English Legal System with feminist and critical legal perspectives.

Last but not least, in 21stCentury legal skills, Dr Miranda Bevan brings her professional expertise as a barrister to ensure students learn to master legal research and writing, case analysis and advocacy in this highly practical module.

It was now time for the students to get involved, and our guest speaker, Michael Olatokun, who is a Research Leader in Citizenship and the Rule of Law, and the Head of Public and Youth Engagement, at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, gave the cohort an outstanding opportunity to discuss and reflect on what makes them passionate about studying law and a consensus quickly built on how law is such a crucial tool to drive change and bring about social justice. Michael first passionately recounted his personal story and what brought him to pursue a career as a barrister, no doubt inspiring many along the way. He then led a highly interactive session, with students involved throughout, on the importance of the right to protest as a fundamental human right.

Our new year 1 cohort can be very proud of themselves, and we certainly are! They proved highly engaged, contributing many valuable reflections on how to balance individual human rights in a proportionate way in the face of the collective needs for safety and security.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Harvard Law at Goldsmiths

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

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

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

To find out more information, read here.

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