The trial of Sir Nick Clegg, held in the Council Chamber on March 18th, at the historic Deptford Town Hall “courtroom”, before a jury comprising of Year 12 students, drawn from five Lewisham secondary schools, was a great success.
Clegg was accused of two “moral” crimes, as judged by the “Young Generation”, who “must live with the mistakes made by their elders”, as highlighted by our Visiting Professor Clive Stafford Smith. Clive leads on, and has brought to Goldsmiths Law, his Generation on Trial project; Nigel Farage was found guilty for his role in bringing Brexit to the UK, in the most recent trial in the project, before the Nick Clegg trial at Goldsmiths.
In our Clegg trial, Count 1 focused on the deputy PM’s vote for the three-fold rise in student fees after his 2010 election pledge to oppose any such move; Count 2 on whether going into Coalition with the Conservatives betrayed those who voted LibDem.
The trial was intended to challenge and educate young people on the effect that the Coalition government’s choices on student financing has on them (and Universities’ financing). Clive played the role of the judge; under his watchful eye, four Goldsmiths Law students prosecuted Clegg, and four defended him (students were in their majority in Year 1 of the LLB programme!).
Nothing less than life-changing synergies, that’s what we have the power to trigger here (that is indeed what we are determined to achieve) – Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, Head of the Department of Law
Actors from the Goldsmiths TaP (Theatre & Performance) Department played the roles of witnesses, while long-term LibDem Sir Philip Colfox testified as himself. Goldsmiths film students ran the four cameras that captured the entire day, which ran from 9am to 5pm.
Our Goldsmiths Law students picked the jury, delivered opening statements, presented and examined the witnesses and vigorously argued their respective side in closing. The jury of 12 – with 5 alternates – then deliberated for over an hour, respectfully debating the issues back and forth. In the event, while leaning heavily towards conviction, the jurors respected the views of the minority and agreed that they could not agree. Clegg was therefore not convicted on either count.
Professor Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, Head of the Department of Law, said: “At Goldsmiths Law, we are advancing with great passion immersive legal education as the pinnacle of our 21st century LLB law programme. This was immersive (socio) legal education – underpinned by emotional connectedness, based on cross-disciplinary synergies and engagement with high-achieving aspirational young people in our local community – at its very best.”
Dimitrios added: “I know how hard our Law students worked with Clive (and how enthusiastically Clive worked with them) to prepare for this trial, in the midst of a very busy period of lectures, assessments and other Law programme activities. I admire our students’ work ethic and watched them, with great pride, throughout the day, perform at a very high level, with real commitment, and a sense of being part of something meaningful and important (very much enjoying every moment too, in the company of their friends, the students from other departments, the local Lewisham school students, their lecturers, the public).”
“We are hugely grateful to Clive for his leadership, for immersing our students in human rights law, and rules of evidence and criminal procedure. Our students are very privileged to be learning from one of the leading lawyers of our times, one of the leading trial strategists too, as exemplified in the hundreds of death penalty cases he has done, and won, in the US”.
The Department of Law is equally grateful to Sid Hughes, from Lewisham Council, who created these unique connections for us, with the following schools, whose students are participating in our Lewisham Law Challenge programme, and who enriched our trial with their participation, as an active jury, alert to the socio-political issues that were the focus of the ‘charges’ against Nick Clegg:
Christ the King Sixth Form College (Lewisham
Haberdashers’ Hatcham Sixth Form (Lewisham)
SFH6 ( Sydenham School and Forest Hill Sixth Forms) (Lewisham)
Prendergast School Sixth Form (Lewisham)
Thomas Tallis School Sixth Form (Greenwich)
Prof Giannoulopoulos concluded:
“This wonderful opportunity offers a first glimpse of what transformational impact we can achieve if we simply create the conditions for young people to work together: students from Law, Film and Theatre, joined by 16-18 year old students studying for a range of subjects, aspiring to go to University. Nothing less than life-changing synergies, that’s what we have the power to trigger here (that is indeed what we are determined to achieve).”