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Agent need not be a fiduciary for the civil law of bribery to apply, says Court of Appeal

In the November 2021 issue of the Cambridge Law Journal, junior barrister at leading chambers Fountain Court, and Associate Lecturer in our department, Aaron Taylor, has published a case note on ‘Civil Claims for Secret Commissions’, on Wood v Commercial First Business Limited; Business Mortgage Finance 4 PLC v Pengelly [2021] EWCA Civ 471

The civil law’s concern with bribery and undisclosed commissions is usually explained as a concern about an agent’s abuse of position for his or her personal advantage, typically to the disadvantage of his or her principal. In these circumstances, the agent is generally described as a fiduciary, and the receipt of a bribe of secret commission as a breach of fiduciary duty. But the requirement that the bribed agent be a fiduciary has often required the court to expand the definition of a fiduciary relationship, giving practical justice at the expense of principle. As the Court of Appeal noted in Wood v Commercial First Business Limited; Business Mortgage Finance 4 PLC v Pengelly [2021] EWCA Civ 471, at [46], it required the term ‘fiduciary duty’ to “be applied so widely as virtually to deprive it of content”. In these conjoined appeals, the court was asked to determine the whether the fiduciary requirement is good law. It held that it is not.

Aaron’s case note explains and welcomes the Court of Appeal’s decision. Here argues that dispensing with the fiduciary requirement reflects the reality that there is a broad spectrum of relationships in which the judgement of one person with influence over another may be swayed by a bribe or commission, and that reality is not best served by the straightjacket of the ‘fiduciary’ label. He goes on to consider to what extent the bribed person must have influence over the principal’s decision-making process. Aaron argues that something more than a minimal “role in the decision-making process” (the phrase used in Novoship v Mikhaylyuk[2012] EWHC 3586 (Comm), at [108] and quoted in Wood; Pengelly) must be required before a person can be held liable for having offered self-interested advice.

Goldsmiths Law students engaging sixth form students in human rights debate

On December 10, international human rights day, three students from the Human Rights Law & Clinic module, Cynthia, Bilaal and Jenna, joined our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, in a visit to Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC), one of the biggest sixth forms in the country, and took part in the delivery of a human rights workshop to students in the human rights law class there.

The workshop brought to the attention of the sixth form students the government’s recent proposals for the reform of the Human Rights Act. Jenna, Cynthia and Bilaal each presented on the impact of the Human Rights Act, taking the right to a fair trial as an illustration; they had worked on their presentation with their human rights law lecturer Dr Fatima Ahdash. They also facilitated group work and debate during the workshop, and answered student questions about preparing for A levels and life at University.

From left to right, Cynthia, Bilaal and Jenna teaching the sixth form students

It was an empowering experience for our students to apply their learning, in a crucial area of Law and Politics, speaking to a young audience, hoping to inspire them, demonstrate to them that the transition from sixth form to University will give them excellent opportunities to be active learners, applying knowledge and skillsets they will have already begun to develop in their sixth form courses.

We were most grateful to BHASVIC for their wonderful hospitality, and for their most generous feedback — the workshop “fitted exactly with where we are in the course and was enormously relevant in the current climate”, commented Adam Robinson, BHASVIC’s A level lead in the course, before adding: “The students very much appreciated it as did I”.

For our Goldsmiths students, it was a unique pleasure and opportunity to visit the College and connect with the sixth form students, Prof Giannoulopoulos wrote back to BHASVIC.

This was our second visit to BHASVIC and we’re already looking forward to visiting wonderful Brighton again.



AI Law class visit 180 The Strand in London

As part of our AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law elective module, our students recently had the chance to visit the LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art exhibition at 180 The Strand in Temple, London.

180 Studios is a key part of London’s creative community, a network of production and exhibition spaces that supports emerging talent and provides a platform for creative growth.

Its LUX Collection brings together 12 of the world’s most celebrated artists (including Es Devlin, Hito Steyerl, Carsten Nicolai and Cao Yuxi) to expand the boundaries of immersive art and blur the lines between the physical and virtual worlds.

The audiovisual exhibition featured AI-generated art, neural networks and other forms of art and cutting-edge technology, all of which are particularly relevant to the innovative LLB curriculum at Goldsmiths Law and its focus on law and technology, art and intellectual property.

The thirteen experiential installations comprising LUX explored the connections between the arts and sciences, the physical and the digital and between humanity and technology — and made our students and academics think of the role that Law can (should?) play in facilitating connections (or safeguarding the boundaries between our humanity and advancements of modern technologies).

The exhibition visit, organised by Dr Plamen Dinev (module leader) and supported by Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos (Head of Department), was followed by coffee and cake at 180 Studios’ café where students had the chance to discuss the event and catch up with each other ahead of a well-deserved Christmas break.

Goldsmiths Law lecturer shortlisted for 2021 Financial Times Bracken Bower Prize

We’re delighted to learn that Aaron Taylor, Associate Lecturer in Law in our Department, has been shortlisted for the 2021 Financial Times Bracken Bower Prize. The prize is awarded for the best business book proposal by an author under 35.

This is extremely well-deserved recognition of the originality and pertinence of Aaron’s work, in both legal practice and academia. Aaron’s work has been a great fit for our LLB Law programme, with his dynamic expertise in areas such as commercial law, art law and financial wrongdoing perfectly complementing innovative elements of our LLB Law programme including our emphasis on clinical legal education.

Aaron’s proposed book is called Washed: Dirty Money and the Art Market. It will explore the abuse of the art market for money laundering, fraud, and financial crime.

Aaron’s book will discuss three key issues:

–  The first is the role of secrecy – in particular the use of offshore structures such as freeports, and the role of confidentiality provisions in private art sales – in the facilitation of money laundering and tax evasion.

– The second is the use of art, and especially looted antiquities, in the evasions of sanctions and the financing of terrorism.

– The third is the future of dirty money in the age of non-fungible tokens and cryptocurrencies.

It will then consider the regulation of the art market in the UK, US and EU, and alternative approaches that might be adopted to deal with the challenges of the digital future.

The book will draw on Aaron’s experience as a practising commercial barrister at Fountain Court Chambers and his academic work at Goldsmiths. Aaron has acted as counsel in notable art law disputes and in high-value fraud and corruption claims. He is on the Serious Fraud Office’s panel of junior counsel for cross-border proceeds of crime cases.

In our Department, Aaron lectures on a variety of topics relating to financial wrongdoing, across the civil and criminal law, and runs a branch of the Department’s Law and Policy Clinic on the law relating to fraud and corruption. He is the founding editor of Financial Wrongs, a blog and online resource on the law relating to financial crime.

Immigration Law class visit Kingsley Napley in the City

As part of their commercial awareness and career development study trips embedded within the Immigration Law module, our LLB students recently got a chance to visit Kingsley Napley LLP, a leading law firm based in central London. Founded in 1937, this dynamic firm of more than 400 attorneys provides legal advice nationally and internationally and works with a wide range of clients in a number of specialist fields, including commercial, employment, real estate, criminal litigation, family, regulatory, dispute resolution, immigration, and public law.

Our students became acquainted with the specialist Immigration team, which has been advising businesses and individuals on all aspects of UK immigration and nationality law for over 20 years, and which is top-ranked in both Chambers and Legal-500 rankings. We were hosted by Ms Marcia Longdon, a Partner in the Immigration team. With experience spanning over 20 years in the industry, Ms Longdon has been listed in Who’s Who Legal as a Thought Leader in Corporate Immigration and was chosen as one of the first Legal Services Are Great champions. She shared with us reflections on her personal career path, offered poignant examples of her work and her day-to-day practice, and kindly provided career-development tips. We also met with Ms Ilda de Sousaanother Partner in Immigration. Both brought immigration practice to life and impressed upon the students the significance and breath of immigration law, while explaining in detail some of the newer elements of this rapidly-changing area of law (including the rights of EU nationals since Brexit, and employer-sponsorship rules for skilled workers).

Kingsley Napley partners, Ilda de Sousa and Marcia Longdon, speaking to our students about their practice in Immigration Law, and advising them on how best to prepare for applying and interviewing at law firms.

Next, Mr Stephen Parkinson, Kingsley Napley’s Senior Partner and former Deputy Head of the Attorney General’s Office, discussed other practice areas and the firm’s overall culture, shedding further light on what professional and personal qualities make a good lawyer. Our students were provided with tips on how best to prepare themselves for applying and interviewing at law firms generally, and about how to translate their work and university experiences into skills that law firms look for in potential trainees. As a member of the Diversity & Inclusion group, Mr Parkinson also emphasised the firm’s diversity and equality policies and how its various inclusion networks help to ensure that all employees have a full opportunity to maximise their potential.

After these formal presentations, the students had a chance to mingle and chat one-on-one with our hosts, learning more about the rewards of legal practice at such a progressive firm, and about ways of gaining legal experience.

Learning about Kingsley Napley’s work on cutting-edge legal issues and with clients who often appear in the news provided our students an exciting perspective and a nice complement to what they have been learning in the classroom. We are very grateful to Kingsley Naples for being able to offer our students this engaging opportunity, especially amidst Covid-19 related restrictions.

AI and Criminal Justice Workshop with Fair Trials’ Griff Ferris

Griff Ferris, a leading AI and criminal justice expert at Fair Trails, delivered an exciting interactive workshop as part of our AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law Year 3 module.

Fair Trials is an international NGO that campaigns for fair and equal criminal justice systems. Their work involves research, campaigning for law reform, supporting strategic litigation and building partnerships with lawyers, activists, academics and other NGOs. Griff leads on Fair Trials’ work on the use of AI in criminal justice. Previously, he was a legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch, where he investigated and challenged infringements of human rights as well as oppressive and discriminatory use of technology and data by the state, police and private companies.

In this guest workshop, Griff talked about recent developments in the field, focusing on the growing use of automated decision-making and facial recognition by law enforcement and other agencies. This included crucial issues such as discrimination, transparency, the right to privacy, presumption of innocence, and freedom of expression. Students engaged with two recent reports by Big Brother Watch (Facial Recognition Surveillance) & Fair Trials (Automating Injustice: The use of AI & ADM Systems in Criminal Justice in Europe), and participated in an interactive ‘campaigning exercise’ where they had to provide practical solutions and address the pressing criminal justice challenges raised by AI.

Working with Lewisham Borough, engaging local students with the study of Law

Over 30 sixth form and college students from Lewisham attended the launch event of the Lewisham Challenge Law programme on Wednesday 17 November 2021.

In collaboration with Lewisham Borough and the Widening Participation team at Goldsmiths, the Department of Law is delighted to support this year long programme that sees students take part in a range of activities, including guest lectures, student panels and trips to law focused venues as well as our campus. The programme helps to inspire the next generation of lawyers, critical thinkers and social justice advocates.

“This programme is an opportunity for Lewisham students to network with law professionals, academics and current degree students. They will be able to really explore future study and career options and their experience will have a positive impact upon their current studies by widening their knowledge and developing their critical skills” – Sid Hughes, Lewisham Challenge, LBN

Students at the launch event had the opportunity to participate in a range of activities including Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos (Head of Goldsmiths Law Department) in conversation with Shereener Browne, of Garden Court Chambers which helped raise awareness of pathways, career opportunities and provide an understanding of what it is like to study Law at Goldsmiths.

“There could not be a more urgent time to work with students in our local community, to create academic aspiration for them and enrich their confidence, experience and understanding of future career pathways, in Law and related subjects. Despite the invaluable efforts of teachers and schools, the pandemic will have substantially disrupted these students’ experience over the last 18 months; we have a civic responsibility to support the local synergies that will empower these students and catapult them into successful academic destinations. 

As a Department of Law that was built on the foundation of the pursuit of equality and social justice, we are thrilled to join forces with the London Borough of Lewisham and our Widening Participation team, and grateful for the warm reception we’ve had from the students who have joined us for this launch. Judging from the energy in the room and participation tonight, this will be a most impactful programme and we can’t wait for the next opportunity to immerse students into Law as substantive knowledge and self-sustained system, with its own cultural norms, institutional attitudes and idiosyncratic methods.” – Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, Head of Goldsmiths Law Department.

Attendees also had an opportunity to hear from current Goldsmiths law students Tasnim and Oliver, who shared their own educational journeys and decisions with the current sixth formers. It was clear from the Q&A session that followed, just how much the audience valued the advice being given by all of the speakers.

“I’m really pleased that we are able to support such an engaging programme of events over the course of the year, strengthening our ties with local schools & colleges, the Borough of Lewisham and supporting our Civic responsibilities. We are really keen to help inspire students in Lewisham and it is evident that the speakers at the event did just that.” – Faye Yasmin. Widening Participation Manager.

Attending Year 12 pupils from schools and colleges across Lewisham included Sydenham, Forest Hill, Haberdashers Hatcham, Prendergast, Sedgehill and Knights Academy Sixths alongside students from Christ the King Colleges.

Decolonial theory, AI and beating algorithmic oppression

DeepMind experts visit our AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law Year 3 class.

Last week, we welcomed Iason Gabriel and William Isaac from DeepMind’s AI Ethics and Society Team at Goldsmiths (virtually). William and Iason joined our ‘AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law’ Year 3 class—to talk about their cutting-edge research on AI ethics, fairness and governance, and to answer our students’ questions.

DeepMind is one of the world’s leading AI companies, responsible for various innovative products such as AlphaGo (which beat former Go champion Lee Se-dol 4-1) and AlphaFold (AI designed to solve protein folding, one of the grandest challenges in science). DeepMind’s Ethics Team in particular, where William and Iason are senior research scientists, deals with the key ethical challenges raised by AI—its goal is to build safe, accountable and socially beneficial AI that works for all. William is an expert in the areas of fairness and governance of AI, and his work has been featured in leading publications including Science and the New York Times. Iason is a political theorist and philosopher, with expertise in AI ethics and distributive justice, whose work has been featured in Nature and recent European Parliament reports on AI.

In this session, Iason and William talked about their fascinating work in the area and discussed two of their recent papers with our students: ‘Decolonial AI: Decolonial Theory as Sociotechnical Foresight in Artificial Intelligence’; and ‘Artificial Intelligence, Values, and Alignment’. These articles aim to address a range of complex socio-economic challenges posed by AI—we reflected on decolonial theory in the context of AI and the key question of addressing algorithmic oppression, exploitation and dispossession through responsible and fair AI governance. We discussed the challenge of building ethically-aligned AI systems and the normative framework necessary to achieve this, emphasizing the importance of establishing a fair, robust and genuinely inclusive process for identifying such principles.

The session thus exposed our Law students to world-leading research on AI ethics and governance and allowed them to reflect on the future of artificial intelligence more generally.

Goldsmiths Law’s Dr Plamen Dinev, a leading expert on the relationship between the Law (particularly Intellectual Property law) and technology is teaching and coordinating the AI, Disruptive Technologies and the Law module, which embeds a number of thought-provoking encounters with industry experts and academics.

Internationally leading QCs appointed as Visiting Professors at Goldsmiths Law

We are thrilled to welcome Jessica Simor QC and Schona Jolly QC as VisitingProfessors in the Department.

Jessica Simor QC is a founding member of Matrix Chambers. In 2016, she was a UK nominee for Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, and is recognised as one of the country’s leading specialists in public law, EU law and human rights law. From 1993-1997, she worked in the Environment Directorate of the European Commission in Brussels, the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg and then as legal adviser to the Human Rights Ombudsman in Bosnia.

Jessica was counsel in numerous landmark cases, including Smith and Grady v UK (ending the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces), R (Wright) v Home Secretary (the first case in which the Home Secretary was ordered to initiate a public inquiry into a death in custody) as well as the historic R (Miller) v Prime Minister caseshe represented the second claimant there, Dos Santos.

Jessica’s work on Brexit continues to attract significant engagement from legal and policy experts in the area. She is also currently acting in the judicial review challenge to the decision of UK Export Finance Department and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide UK financing of $1.15bn in respect of Total’s liquid natural gas development in Cap Delgado in Mozambique, and is leading a project to advocate for EU legislation with extra-territorial effects to ensure a living wage for workers in the garment sector.

Schona Jolly QC is the Chair of the Bar Human Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) (which means Goldsmiths Law now has as Visiting Professors the current and former Chairwomen of BHRC; Kirsty Brimelow QC was the first Chairwoman of the BHRC) and Head of Human Rights Practice Group at Cloisters Chambers.

Schona is bringing to Goldsmiths her unique insight and leading expertise in international human rights law and the rule of law internationally.

Over the last decade, Schona has been at the forefront of international human rights and rule of law work in countries around the world, including Central Asia, Egypt, Hong Kong, Turkey and across South Asia. Her dynamic and practical contributions to the field engage law and policy.

She has deep expertise in equality and discrimination law, with an international focus on minority rights.

Students and academics at Goldsmiths work closely with our eminent Visiting Professors, who teach our students, support our research and join forces with our academic team in much needed public and community engagement.

Law and Climate Justice: film screening and Q & A at global law firm Simmons and Simmons

The learning never stops in our programme, and we continuously link our students with relevant events in central London (in addition to embedding field trips to legal institutions, law courts and law firms in London as part of curricular activity). We invited our students to attend a film screening, Q & A and launch of a Legal Empowerment project at global law firm Simmons and Simmons, on October 25. We were delighted to hear that a few of them managed to attend in person, while others watched the livestream.

The event was put together by Lawyers Against Poverty (LAP), Simmons & Simmons, The Alliance for Lawyers at Risk, Action4Justice and Peace Brigades International UK. The wider project aims to bridge the gap between the climate justice and human rights movements and the international legal community, and asks the question of whether tackling climate change can be seen as a human rights issue (we asked the same question in our annual human rights lecture 2021, with the UK Judge at the European Court of Human Rights, Tim Eicke QC).

Year 3 student, Olivia Burns, who attended the event from the offices of Simmons and Simmons, explained that the event “drew a parallel between human rights and climate justice” that would be “useful to reference in work [she] will be submitting in the Human Rights Law & Clinic module this year”. Olivia added that the event “raised some interesting discussions about the realities/difficulties of enforcing human rights rulings in isolated and exploited communities – particularly when your fight is against states and powerful corporations”, and that it also “looked at our spiritual connection with land and how that may impact how ownership is viewed by indigenous communities versus the corporations trying to use the land”.