This collaborative Seminar is organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, the Information Law and Policy Centre of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and the Human Rights Consortium of the School of Advanced Study. It forms part of a Seminar Series on ‘Surveillance and Human Rights’.

This lecture series highlights common themes facing Commonwealth governments: how to balance civil liberties with the proper scope of government surveillance. With the issue of surveillance and government accountability constantly in the news, the series will look at the interaction of the state’s responsibility for security, with the role of independent actors in a modern democracy. Where are the boundaries between ‘social responsibility’ and unwarranted self –censorship? What are the rights and responsibilities of the pillars of British democracy, and the importance of freedom of speech embedded in the press, or university debate? What are the legitimate activities of governments faced with the challenge of the explosion of social media and the internet as alternative means of information and communication, and the defence of democracy in a digital age? Who should remain exempt from surveillance? Is transparency both feasible and desirable? Is secrecy essential in the State’s requirement to protect the public from terrorist attack?  Or is surveillance and the accompanying raft of legislation and intrusion undermining individual human rights and values, to the point of oppression?


Kirsty Brimelow QC specialises in international human rights, criminal law, public international, constitutional and international criminal law. She is instructed in the most serious, complex and prominent cases nationally and internationally. Kirsty is an experienced trial barrister. She has defended defendants and acted for Claimants as a junior and then as Queen’s Counsel before the Criminal and Civil courts respectively, in England and Wales, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, Courts Marital and Courts of Appeal in the Caribbean, the Court of Appeal in the British Virgin Islands, the European Court of Human Rights and the High Court in Gibraltar. Kirsty frequently advises before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the ECOWAS court in Abuja Nigeria, the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, the Superior Tribunal of Santander Colombia, the Supreme Court and Constitutional Courts of Colombia and the UN judicial processes and International Criminal Court.

Silkie Carlo is a Policy Officer in Technology and Surveillance at Liberty. Since joining in November 2015, she has been focused on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, contributing to Liberty’s expert legal, policy and technical analysis, and promoting surveillance powers that are human rights compliant. Before joining Liberty, Silkie provided technical training to journalists and lawyers at risk and worked for Edward Snowden’s official defence fund.


Dr Judith Townend is lecturer and director, Information Law and Policy Centre, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. In autumn 2015 the Information Law and Policy Centre hosted an ad hoc group of academics and practitioners that produced a working review of the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, looking at the legislative provenance of each clause. Judith has a particular interest in the transparency and accountability of surveillance powers and their effect on journalism and public communication.