We are immensely grateful to the David and Elaine Potter Foundation for their generosity in allowing us to appoint a Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director. Lawrence comes to us from the School of Law at the University of Reading where he is a Reader in Law. He previously held lectureships at the University of Western Sydney and at Macquarie University, Australia.
His research interests lie primarily in the legal regulation of speech, especially as it relates to the media. He is the author of the celebrated, Reputation and Defamation (OUP 2007) which develops a theory of reputation and, in that light, analyses and proposes revisions to the common law tests for what is defamatory.
In 2009 Lawrence was awarded an ESRC/AHRC Fellowship in Ideas and Beliefs under the Research Councils UK Global Uncertainties priority. Now in its closing stages, this £300,000 award supports ' Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know', a programme of research that explores the relationships between democratic traditions of media freedom and the contemporary demands of national and international security. He has made an important contribution on that subject during the passage of the Justice and Security Bill.
Jan van Zyl Smit Appointed New Research Fellow in the Rule of Law
Jan van Zyl Smit Appointed new Research Fellow in the Rule of Law
Jan joins the Bingham Centre from Oxford Brookes University, where he is a senior lecturer teaching Public Law and International Human Rights Law. His recent research has focused on initiatives to reform the make-up of the judiciary in states undergoing constitutional transition, and on the effect of the UK Human Rights Act on the interpretation of legislation.
Jan began his legal studies at the University of Cape Town, where he completed an LLB magna cum laude and graduated first in his class. He then served as a law clerk to Deputy Chief Justice Pius Langa (later Chief Justice) at the South African Constitutional Court, before going on to graduate study as a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford, where he completed the BCL, MPhil and DPhil at Magdalen College. Jan has been involved as a researcher and advisor in the Kenyan constitutional transition. He conducted research for the Committee of Experts which drafted the 2010 Constitution and has served more recently as a legal consultant to the Kenya Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, a body tasked with determining whether members of the serving judiciary are suitable to remain in office.
Rule of Law Seminar in Burma
I recently participated in a Rule of Law Seminar in Burma, organised by the European Union and the Attorney General of Myanmar, on 9 February in the capital Nay Pyi Taw. Present throughout the day was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chair of their Parliamentary Committee for "The Rule of Law and Tranquility". The purpose of the meeting was to identify the role of the rule of law in the country's future. It was attended by about 300, including lawyers, civil servants, judges, members of parliament and NGOs.
The proceedings were opened by Myanmar's Attorney General, who invoked Lord Bingham's definition of the rule of law, and pledged that the country was committed to taking it forward. Daw Suu Kyi then identified a number of areas in which the rule of law was lacking in Burma/Myanmar, including an overloaded parliamentary drafting system, lack of facilities in courts and deficiencies in legal education. Above all, she said, ordinary people interact more with the administration than with courts, and it is that area that needs to be both more efficient and more compliant with rule of law standards.
I addressed the Seminar, and also participated in a later discussion session, and made the initial points that the rule of law was not a purely Western concept and was not vague but contained practical elements, as set out in Lord Bingham's book and in recent international instruments drawing on that book. I then made a number of suggestions about how the rule of law could be enhanced, including a more transparent law-making system and, taking up Aung San Suu Kyi's point, by setting out standards of good administration and administrative justice. These standards should be implemented through training and by providing the opportunity to challenge unlawful administrative action cheaply and effectively.
We are in discussions with the EU and others on the possible ways in which the Bingham Centre might be able to assist the promotion of the rule of law in Myanmar.
In Memoriam: Professor Ronald Dworkin
Professor Ronald Dworkin, who sadly died on 14 February, played an important part in the launch of the Bingham Centre during its first two years. He participated in its inaugural event, in March 2011, at Hogan Lovells, where he engaged in a "conversation" with US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Lord Justice Stephen Sedley, and Lord Anthony Lester. A year later he was the keynote speaker at the Bingham Centre's event, in conjunction with the Foreign Office and the Venice Commission, on "The Rule of Law in Europe" at Lancaster House. Anyone who heard him on those occasions could not fail to be struck by his brilliance, eloquence and humanity.
The Director writes:
"We were privileged to have the support and participation of Ronald Dworkin during the first years of the Bingham Centre's existence. He has rightly been described as "the modern day Mill", whose work will be read with benefit by generations to come. Some years back he gave the seminal British Academy Lecture on the subject of the rule of law, where he demonstrated that it is a concept that is not purely formal, allowing countries like China to claim adherence to its values. He uncoupled "rule by law" or "rule-book" law, from "rule of law", which he imbued with a number of important democratic principles, such as equality, respect for human dignity and access to human rights. His writings generally on legal philosophy showed that law is not a bare system of rules but is infused with moral content. Litigation in the public law sphere involves a moral claim against the state. He was the most eloquent and subtle seminar-leader, lecturer and author who, in forums such as the New York Review of Books, commented brilliantly on the practical legal issues of the day, and the respective roles of the courts and the executive. He will be deeply missed, leaving us so greatly enriched by his enduring insights."