Tag Archives: human rights

New Special Issue of Communications Law: Information control in an ominous global environment

Communications Law JournalThe Information Law and Policy Centre is pleased to announce the publication of a special issue of the Communications Law journal based on papers submitted for our annual workshop last November. The journal articles are available via direct subscription, through the Lexis Library (IALS member link) and (coming soon) Westlaw.

In the following editorial for the special issue, Dr Judith Townend, Lecturer in Media and Information Law, University of Sussex, (the outgoing Director of the ILPC, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies) and Dr Paul Wragg, Associate Professor of Law, University of Leeds discuss the challenges of information control in an ominous global environment.

This special issue of Communications Law celebrates the first anniversary of the Information Law and Policy Centre (ILPC) at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. It features three contributions from leading commentators who participated in the ILPC’s annual conference ‘Restricted and redacted: where now for human rights and digital information control?‘, which was held on 9 November 2016 and sponsored by Bloomsbury Professional.

The workshop considered the myriad ways in which data protection laws touch upon fundamental rights, from internet intermediary liability, investigatory and surveillance powers, media regulation, whistle-blower protection, to ‘anti-extremism’ policy. We were delighted with the response to our call for papers. The conference benefited from a number of provocative and insightful papers, from academics including Professor Gavin Phillipson, Professor Ellen P Goodman, Professor Perry Keller and Professor David Rolph as well as Rosemary Jay, Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Federica Giovanella and Allison Holmes, whose papers are published in this edition.

The date of the conference, by happenstance, gave extra piquancy to the significance of our theme. News of Donald J Trump’s election triumph spoke to (and continues to speak to) an ominous and radically changed global environment in which fundamental rights protection takes centre stage. But as Trump’s presidency already shows, those rights have become impoverished in the rush to promote nationalism in all its ugly forms.

In the UK, the popularism that threatens to rise above all other domestic values marks a similar threat, in which executive decision-making is not only championed but also provokes popular dissent when threatened by judicial oversight. The Daily Mail’s claim that High Court justices were ‘enemies of the people’ when they sought to restrict the exercise of unvarnished executive power reminds us that fundamental rights are seriously undervalued.

Perhaps we should not be surprised at these events and their potential impact on communication law. In February 2015, at the ILPC’s inaugural conference Dr Daithí Mac Síthigh delivered a powerful paper in which he noted the rise of this phenomena in the government’s thinking on information law and policy under the Coalition Government 2010-15. In his view, following an ‘initial urgency’ of libertarianism, the mood changed to one of internet regulation or re-regulation. Such a response to perceived disorder, though not unusual, was ‘remarkable’ given how the measures in this field adopted during these final stages of the last government had been ‘characterised by the extension of State power in a whole range of areas.’ We should also note the demise of liberalism in popular thought. That much criticised notion which underpins all fundamental rights seems universally disclaimed as something weak and sinister. All of this speaks to a worrisome future in which the fate of the Human Rights Act remains undecided.

Concerns like these animate the papers in this special issue. The contribution from leading data protection practitioner Rosemary Jay, Senior Consultant Attorney at Hunton & Williams and author of Sweet & Maxwell’s Data Protection Law & Practice, is entitled ‘Heads and shoulders, knees and toes (and eyes and ears and mouth and nose…)’. Her paper discusses the rise of biometric data and restrictions on its use generated by the General Data Protection Regulation. As she notes, sensitive personal data arising from biometric data might be more easily shared, leading to loss of individual autonomy. It is not hard to imagine the impact unrestricted data access would have – the prospective employer who offers the job to someone else because of concerns about an applicant’s cholesterol levels; the partner who leaves after discovering a family history of mental ill heath; the bank that refuses a mortgage because of drinking habits. As Jay concludes, consent will play a major role in regulating this area.

In their paper, Federica Giovanella and Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay discuss community networks, a grassroots alternative to commercial internet service providers. They discuss the liability issues arising from open wireless local access networks after the landmark Court of Justice of the EU decision in McFadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH. As they conclude, the decision could prompt greater regulation of, and political involvement in, the distribution of materials through these networks which may well represent another threat to fundamental rights.

Finally, Allison M Holmes reflects on the impact of fundamental rights caused by the status imposed on communication service providers. As Holmes argues, privacy and other human rights are threatened because CSPs are not treated as public actors when retaining communications data. As she says, this status ought to change and she argues convincingly on how that may be achieved.

Media Freedom: ‘Without action the Commonwealth’s fine words will fail to impress.’

ICommonwealth flagn this guest post, journalist and Africa analyst Martin Plaut, calls on the Commonwealth to take a more robust view on new threats to journalistic independence. Do they challenge democracy and human rights as much as freedom of speech?

The Commonwealth has a problem: it has little credibility on the question of media freedom. Its members adopted a Human Rights Charter in March 2013 which stated plainly that: ‘We are committed to peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and responsible media, and to enhancing democratic traditions and strengthening democratic processes.’ Yet many of them have a less than savoury record in this area.

Out of 180 states assessed by Reporters Without Borders, Brunei is 155th, Singapore 154th and Swaziland 153rd. This is the summary of Brunei’s media offered by the BBC: ‘Brunei’s media are neither diverse nor free. The private press is either owned or controlled by the royal family, or exercises self-censorship on political and religious matters.’ Much the same could be said of Swaziland, while in Singapore the media is largely state-owned and journalists are restricted by rigorous defamation and contempt laws (The Guardian).

Where there has been dissent and opposition they have been suppressed. Consider the case of the Gambia, which left the Commonwealth in 2013. The newly installed President, Adama Barrow, has announced that it will return. In the upheaval and tension surrounding his election and the refusal of his processor, Yahya Jammeh, to accept the result, social media were disrupted. Twitter and WhatsApp, which had been used to organise resistance to President Jammeh’s rule, were unavailable, as the internet was cut. The return of social media was hailed as an indication that his 22 year rule was finally over.

Commonwealth journalists have now begun agitating for the organisation to take a more robust view. A Centre for Freedom of the Media has been established, led by William Horsley (another former BBC journalist). He welcomed the call by the new Commonwealth secretary-general, Patricia Scotland, for a ‘vibrant and responsible media’ and her claim that this is ‘vital to advancing our Commonwealth goals of democracy, development, rule of law and respect for diversity.’

But, as William Horsley points out, warm words are not enough. He called for action to support the declarations: ‘Journalists in the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), together with the Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust and some experienced lawyers and members of other professional groups associated with the Commonwealth, argue that it is high time for that to change. We are putting forward draft proposals for a Commonwealth Charter on the media and good governance, to be accompanied by effective mechanisms for assessing and helping to deliver remedies for serious and persistent violations.’

The media is a vital watchdog across the developing world. In many countries it is among the last effective forms of resistance to corruption and misrule. One only has to think of the role of the independent media in curbing the abuses of the Zuma government to see that this is the case. Yet they pay a high price for this work.

As William Horsley rightly observes: ‘The reality is that many journalists or bloggers have been attacked or even killed for their work in recent years in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Uganda, all Commonwealth states,’ (Time for a new Commonwealth initiative on media freedom).

It is time that these abuses end and that the perpetrators of these attacks are tried for their crimes. Without action the Commonwealth’s fine words will fail to impress.

This post first appeared on the School of Advanced Studies, Talking Humanities blog

Martin Plaut is a journalist and senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. 

He will be speaking at The Commonwealth and Challenges to Media Freedom conference (4–5 April at Senate House), organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

It’s the inaugural event of the School’s Centre of Commonwealth and Media Freedom, and will bring together leading Commonwealth journalists, academics, lawyers, magistrates, judges, policymakers and human rights practitioners. Advance registration is required. Tickets: standard (£40), concessions (£15).

Full Programme: Annual Workshop and Evening Lecture

Restricted and Redacted: Where now for human rights and digital information control?

The full programme for the Information Law and Policy Centre’s annual workshop and lecture on Wednesday 9th November 2016 is now available (see below).

For both events, attendance will be free of charge thanks to the support of the IALS and our sponsor, Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal.

To register for the afternoon workshop please visit this Eventbrite page.
To register for the evening lecture please visit this Eventbrite Page.

Please note that for administrative purposes you will need to book separate tickets for the afternoon and evening events if you would like to come to both events.

PROGRAMME

10.45am: REGISTRATION AND COFFEE 

11.15am: Welcome

  • Judith Townend, University of Sussex
  • Paul Wragg, University of Leeds
  • Julian Harris, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London

11.30am-1pm: PANEL 1 – choice between A and B

Panel A: Social media, online privacy and shaming

Chair: Asma Vranaki, Queen Mary University of London

  1. David Mangan, City, University of London, Dissecting Social Media: Audience and Authorship
  2. Marion Oswald, Helen James, Emma Nottingham, University of Winchester, The not-so-secret life of five year olds: Legal and ethical issues relating to disclosure of information and the depiction of children on broadcast and social media
  3. Maria Run Bjarnadottir, Ministry of the Interior in Iceland, University of Sussex, Does the internet limit human rights protection? The case of revenge porn
  4. Tara Beattie, University of Durham, Censoring online sexuality – A non-heteronormative, feminist perspective

Panel B: Access to Information and protecting the public interest

Chair: Judith Townend, University of Sussex

  1. Ellen P. Goodman, Rutgers University, Obstacles to Using Freedom of Information Laws to Unpack Public/Private Deployments of Algorithmic Reasoning in the Public Sphere
  2. Felipe Romero-Moreno, University of Hertfordshire, ‘Notice and staydown’, the use of content identification and filtering technology posing a fundamental threat to human rights
  3. Vigjilenca Abazi, Maastricht University, Mapping Whistleblowing Protection in Europe: Information Flows in the Public Interest

1-2pm: LUNCH 

2-3.30pm: PANEL 2 – choice between A and B

Panel A: Data protection and surveillance

Chair: Nora Ni Loideain, University of Cambridge

  1. Jiahong Chen, University of Edinburgh, How the Best Laid Plans Go Awry: The (Unsolved) Issues of Applicable Law in the General Data Protection Regulation
  2. Jessica Cruzatti-Flavius, University of Massachusetts, The Human Hard Drive: Name Erasure and the Rebranding of Human Beings
  3. Wenlong Li, University of Edinburgh, Right to Data Portability (RDP)
  4. Ewan Sutherland, Wits University, Wire-tapping in the regulatory state – changing times, changing mores

Panel B: Technology, power and governance

Chair: Chris Marsden, University of Sussex

  1. Monica Horten, London School of Economics, How Internet structures create closure for freedom of expression – an exploration of human rights online in the context of structural power theory
  2. Perry Keller, King’s College, London, Bringing algorithmic governance to the smart city
  3. Marion Oswald, University of Winchester and Jamie Grace, Sheffield Hallam University, Intelligence, policing and the use of algorithmic analysis – initial conclusions from a survey of UK police forces using freedom of information requests as a research methodology
  4. Allison Holmes, Kent University, Private Actor or Public Authority? How the Status of Communications Service Providers affects Human Rights

3.30-5pm: PANEL 3 – choice between A and B

Panel A: Intermediary Liability

Chair: Christina Angelopoulos, University of Cambridge

  1. Judit Bayer, Miskolc University, Freedom and Diversity on the Internet: Liability of Intermediaries for Third Party Content
  2. Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Félix Tréguer, CNRS-Sorbonne Institute for Communication Sciences and Federica Giovanella, University of Trento, Intermediary Liability and Community Wireless Networks Design Shaping
  3. David Rolph, University of Sydney, Liability of Search Engines for Publication of Defamatory Matter: An Australian Perspective

Panel B: Privacy and anonymity online

Chair: Paul Wragg, University of Leeds

  1. Gavin Phillipson, University of Durham, Threesome injuncted: has the Supreme Court turned the tide against the media in online privacy cases?
  2. Fiona Brimblecombe, University of Durham, European Privacy Law
  3. James Griffin, University of Exeter and Annika Jones, University of Durham, The future of privacy in a world of 3D printing

5-6pm: TEA BREAK / STRETCH YOUR LEGS

6-8pm: EVENING LECTURE AND DRINKS

Lecture Title: Heads and shoulders, knees and toes (and eyes and ears and mouth and nose…): The impact of the General Data Protection Regulation on use of biometrics.

Biometrics are touted as one of the next big things in the connected world. Specific reference to biometrics and genetic data has been included for the first time in the General Data Protection Regulation. How does this affect existing provisions? Will the impact of the Regulation be to encourage or to restrict the development of biometric technology?

  • Speaker: Rosemary Jay, Senior Consultant Attorney at Hunton & Williams and author of Sweet & Maxwell’s Data Protection Law & Practice.
  • Chair: Professor Lorna Woods, University of Essex
  • Respondents: Professor Andrea Matwyshyn, Northeastern University and Mr James Michael, IALS

Information Law and Policy Centre Annual Lecture and Workshop

An afternoon workshop and evening lecture to be given by leading information and data protection lawyer Rosemary Jay.

Restricted and Redacted: Where now for human rights and digital information control?

The Information Law and Policy Centre is delighted to announce that bookings are now open for its annual workshop and lecture on Wednesday 9th November 2016, this year supported by Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal.

For both events, attendance will be free of charge thanks to the support of the IALS and our sponsor, although registration will be required as places are limited.

To register for the afternoon workshop please visit this Eventbrite page.

To register for the evening lecture please visit this Eventbrite Page.

Please note that for administrative purposes you will need to book separate tickets for the afternoon and evening events if you would like to come to both events.

AFTERNOON WORKSHOP/SEMINAR 
11am – 5pm (lunch and refreshments provided)

For the afternoon part of this event we have an excellent set of presentations lined up that consider information law and policy in the context of human rights. Speakers will offer an original perspective on the way in which information and data interact with legal rights and principles relating to free expression, privacy, data protection, reputation, copyright, national security, anti-discrimination and open justice.

We will be considering topics such as internet intermediary liability, investigatory and surveillance powers, media regulation, freedom of information, the EU General Data Protection Regulation, whistleblower protection, and ‘anti-extremism’ policy. The full programme will be released in October.

EVENING LECTURE BY ROSEMARY JAY, HUNTON & WILLIAMS
6pm-7.30pm (followed by reception)

The afternoon workshop will be followed by a keynote lecture to be given by Rosemary Jay, senior consultant attorney at Hunton & Williams and author of Sweet & Maxwell’s Data Protection Law & Practice. Continue reading

Whistleblowers and journalists in the digital age

Snowden

Dr Aljosha Karim Schapals, research assistant at the Information Law and Policy Centre, reports on a research workshop hosted by the University of Cardiff on Digital Citizenship and the ‘Surveillance Society’.

A workshop led by researchers at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC) on 27th June in London shared the findings of an 18 month ESRC funded research project examining the relationships between the state, the media and citizens in the wake of the Snowden revelations of 2013.

It was the concluding event of a number of conferences, seminars and workshops organised by the five principal researchers: Dr Arne Hintz (Cardiff), Dr Lina Dencik (Cardiff), Prof Karin Wahl-Jorgensen (Cardiff), Prof Ian Brown (Oxford) and Dr Michael Rogers (TU Delft).

Broadly speaking, the Digital Citizenship and the ‘Surveillance Society’ (DCSS) project has investigated the nature, opportunities and challenges of digital citizenship in light of US and UK governmental surveillance as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Touching on more general themes such as freedom of expression, data privacy and civic transparency, the project aligns with the research activities of the Information Law and Policy Centre, which include developing work on journalism and whistleblower protection, and discussions and analysis of the Investigatory Powers Bill. Continue reading

The Centre’s researchers ‘on tour’ this summer

Freedom of Expression conference South Korea 14-06-16 web 2

Members of the Information Law and Policy Centre will be sharing their research and expertise at several international events over the coming week.

Centre Director Dr Judith Townend visited Japan to present on social media law in the UK at the annual International Communications Association conference in Fukuoka on Saturday. She visited Seoul this week to participate in the following events:

  • Tuesday 14th June: Freedom of Expression with Regard to Terror, Right to be Forgotten & Social Media, Chung Ang Law School
  • Thursday 16th June: Media Law Forum, Korean Press Arbitration Commission

Meanwhile Dr Christina Angelopoulos was in Brussels last week at EuroDig 2016. The event, organised by the European Dialogue on Internet Governance, focused on topics around “Embracing the digital (r)evolution”.

She participated in a panel session on “The rules in the digital world – economy v human rights” and was a ‘key participant’ in a session on “Intermediaries and human rights – between co-opted law enforcement and human rights protection”.

On Thursday 16th June, Christina will be contributing to a workshop organised by Marietje Schaake MEP on: “Privatising the rule of law online? Freedom of speech, copyright and platforms in the digital single market”. She will be speaking on a panel discussing privatised law enforcement and copyright enforcement.

Do introduce yourself to Judith or Christina if you are attending the events this Thursday and you are interested in their work. You can also contact them on Twitter: @jtownend and @cjangelopoulos.

The Humanity of Barristers: Stories from the Bar

LS1385_0008In this guest post Atalanta Goulandris, former barrister and PhD researcher at City University London,  reflects on the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies’ contribution to the Being Human festival: the ‘Humanity of Lawyers’, which focused on the work of the Bar…

There is a general lack of knowledge about the Bar, with misconceived notions of what barristers do, how they work and their professional interaction with the solicitor branch and the public. The ‘humanity’ of barristers is not something people generally think or talk about. This was, however, the starting point for the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies’ (IALS) contribution to the national Being Human festival in November 2015, which is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

Whilst promoting the event – a follow up to last year’s ‘Humanity of Judging’ at the Supreme Court – it was striking how many chuckled (or guffawed) at the notion that barristers have humanity! Common portrayals of barristers, whether in the press or emanating from the Ministry of Justice, are of ‘fat cat lawyers’ or clever, slippery-tongued advocates, who are cool and detached. Aside from being simplistic and one dimensional, these characterisations ignore the complexity of barristers’ professional role, the ethics that underpin their thoughts and actions and the difficult real life situations in which they perform as professionals and as people.

Our venue was the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court in London, places most members of the public would not usually visit – and therefore appropriate to this year’s festival theme,  ‘Hidden and Revealed’.  Although much of barristers’ work takes place in public courtrooms, much also remains hidden from view, with many working in the cloistered surroundings of the Inns of Court or in chambers across the provinces.

At our event on 19th November – deliberately pitched at a wide public audience – many remarked that they had never been inside the Temple, had no idea it was there and were astonished by the beauty of the buildings, the gardens and the interior of the magnificent Parliament chamber. If nothing else, the physical surroundings in which barristers work were revealed.

parliamentchamberOur five speakers, from academia and practice, approached the topic from different perspectives.

Dr Justine Rogers, joining us via a pre-recorded video from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, talked about her three months shadowing pupil (trainee) barristers as part of her PhD research, which took an anthropological approach in considering their professional identity formation.

LS1385_0010Dividing her time between commercial/chancery, criminal and family law chambers, she was struck by the intensity and the humanity of their professional lives. Citing examples, she charted the taxing emotional challenges pupils and barristers face on a daily basis, whether it was being humiliated by a judge for getting something wrong, being shouted and spat at by an upset and unhappy client in the cells underneath a criminal court or having to deploy strategic sympathy (sometimes real!) to a distressed client in order to provide support.

She witnessed pupils develop the ability to detach themselves from some of these challenges in order to be able to perform their role professionally and manage their fears to appear supremely confident, when very often they were not, having just started out in their careers. Of barristers more generally, she remarked that although they were aware that they were often disliked, they felt it was more important to get things right for the client than be popular. Justine found that the barristers she observed were generous with their time, witty and good company and although they downplayed their ethical role as fearless, independent and honest advocates, these aspects of their professional life were a source of great pride.

LS1385_0011Professor Andy Boon, of City University London spoke next and mindful of the lay audience, gave a brief historical overview of lawyers and the rule of law. Explaining the role lawyers played in developing the framework of rights under the rule of law, he then cited three aspects of a lawyer’s role: neutrality, partisanship and non-accountability. Focusing on two barristers at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, he illustrated how essential it was for them to not be morally judgmental about their clients, how they had to give every client their best shot and how they could not be accountable of the moral consequences of their representation, however controversial that might be.

Thomas Erskine (1750-1823) was accused of being ‘shameful’ by the Attorney General, for defending Thomas Paine in his trial for seditious libel. His response was both courageous and very human:

‘I will forever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence and integrity of  the English bar, without which impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence. From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the  Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practice, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.’ In Rt Hon. Lord Widgery, ‘The Compleat Advocate’ (1975) 43:6 Fordham Law Review

Andy’s second example was Henry Brougham (1778-1868) who defended Queen Caroline in 1820 in a trial brought by her husband, King George IV. Even faced with the likelihood of undermining the credibility of the monarch, he felt it was his duty to defend her, however dangerous that might be for him personally.

‘(a)n advocate, in the discharge of his duty, knows but one person in all the  world, and that person is his client. To save that client by all means, and expedients, and at all hazards and costs to other persons, and among them, to himself, is his first and only duty; and in performing his duty, he must not  regard the alarm, the torments, the destruction he may bring upon others. Separating the duty of a patriot from that of an advocate, he must go on reckless of consequences, though it should be his unhappy fate to involve his country in confusion.’ In Nightingale (ed) Trial of Queen Caroline (1821)

Both examples serve to illustrate the importance of the rule of law, and the courage, integrity and humanity of the advocates that defended it in the past and continue to do so in the face of continuous challenges.

LS1385_0018The audience then heard from the first of two barristers, Robin Howard, of 1 Gray’s Inn Square chambers. ‘Are we human? I hope we are. Do we not bleed?’ he opened, before describing the context in which most barristers work, namely of representing clients in extremis. Whether it concerned their liberty, livelihood, home, family, possessions or health, more often than not by the time clients meet their barrister they are in trouble and the stakes are high. For him it is a privilege to be called upon in these circumstances to use his strength, effort and skills in acting for them.

He agreed with Justine Rogers that some form of detachment or ‘carapace’ was necessary in order for him to carry out his work professionally. He also brought up the question that all barristers, whatever their practice, get asked: how can you defend someone you know is guilty? Robin’s answer was you never know the client is guilty, unless he/she tells you and that the barrister’s opinion of innocence or guilt is irrelevant, every client having the right to a fair hearing. For him the real pressure comes when defending someone he believes to be innocent and if he has failed to secure their acquittal, it is those cases that he remembers years later and feels bad about.

LS1385_0025Mavis Maclean, University of Oxford, spoke next about her ten years of research, observing barristers, solicitors and judges in the family courts. One study involved shadowing family law barristers. Having worked for the Lord Chancellor’s Department and its successor, the Ministry of Justice, Mavis was taken aback by the negative view most of the civil servants and politicians held about lawyers generally and with regard to family lawyers how they perceived them to be profiting from tax payers money (via legal aid, when it was available for private family law cases) by stirring things up between divorcing couples.

Her research did not support this view – rather, she found that all the legal professionals did everything they could to diffuse the tense situations in family law cases, focusing more on negotiation and sorting out housing and child issues in an attempt to avoid contested court hearings. She was impressed by the delicacy, tact, respect and grace with which barristers, often quite young, handled difficult cases and distressed clients.

She observed them spending many unpaid hours after a case was over, talking with clients and helping them find the courage and self-respect to carry on, when, for example, they had lost custody of their children. Her assessment of barristers could not have been further from the unpleasant, tough image portrayed by politicians, whom she mused were perhaps more concerned with their own career advancement when proposing clever and money saving reforms at the expense of the work family lawyers did.

LS1385_0031Public law and human rights barrister Caolifhionn Gallagher was the last speaker. She agreed that the public perception of barristers was mainly negative, with ‘money grabbing’ and ‘dishonest’ images prevailing, placing lawyers on a par with estate agents, bailiffs, politicians, used car salesman and traffic wardens, amongst others, as the most hated professions. She suggested that perhaps this was because many people only come into contact with lawyers at ‘the worst time of their lives’ and resent needing them or that many don’t really understand what lawyers do or appreciate the amount of hours of work that is involved for what might seem a fairly short hearing. She felt, nonetheless, that many had had positive personal experiences with their own particular lawyer, despite the ‘pale, stale, male’ stereotype so evident in images of barristers.

LS1385_0036Caolifhionn likened barristers to professional problem solvers, who acted as a conduit in explaining a client’s situation to the court. She remarked that having a young family of her own often drove her to work even harder for those that had lost a family member, her appreciation of their loss being even greater. Much of her work was out of the public eye, but was often the most rewarding. She described calling a duty judge on the phone late at night to seek remedies when a public body had failed in its duty to, for example, find shelter for a child who was homeless or reverse the unlawful separation of a mother and child.

She did not mind being ‘humiliated’ by a judge, as Justine Rogers described, as long as she had done her job properly and highlighted that the only thing that mattered to her was the clients and acting in their best interests. Although Caolifhionn agreed that some form of emotional detachment was necessary to do her job as well as she could, she also felt that this should not prevent barristers from identifying with causes and getting involved in wider campaigning. In her case she was involved in the Act for the Act campaign to promote accurate real life stories of people who have benefited from the Human Rights Act, a meaningful and valuable antidote to the many misconceptions surrounding it.

LS1385_0037A lively Q&A discussion followed, before more conversation over LS1385_0052drinks.

Those who were unable to make this event or would like to know more about the theme might like to pass by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at 17 Russell Square where in the foyer there are two cabinet displays on our Humanity of Lawyers theme.

The display includes archival material from the Inner Temple Library, a selection of books written by practitioners and academics, with extensive captions, as well as a display of watercolours by artists Isobel Williams, who has painted court scenes from the Supreme Court and photographs, by Stephane Gripari, of the strike action in 2014, when thousands of barristers, together with other legal professionals refused to work, for the first time in their long history, because of the extensive legal aid cuts imposed on many areas of practice.

exhibitionwigThis small exhibition will be on display during the spring term.

Atalanta Goulandris chaired the Humanity of Lawyers event on 19 November 2015.

A note from organiser Judith Townend at the IALS: we owe a big thanks to numerous people for this event!

  • to the School of Advanced Study for funding this event through the Public Engagement Innovators’ fund
  • our student volunteers from the University of Sussex law school; photographer Lloyd Sturdy; Nimal Waragoda Vitharana and Muhibul Islam from the IALS for AV and library research support respectively
  • our hosts, the Inner Temple – in particular Alice Pearson, Magna Carta Project Manager, for facilitating the event, and Patrick Maddams, sub-treasurer of the Inner Temple, for welcoming us to the Temple on the evening
  • all the speakers and our chair and adviser Atalanta Goulandris, who provided us with invaluable guidance in putting together the programme and display.

Thank you all!