Public Engagement

News and Events

June 2012

LARCS Presentation and Internship Eveninglarcs students

UCL LLM students on the LARCS (Legal Action and Research for Communities and Sustainability) course have showcased the advice work they undertook this academic year for a range of NGOs and community groups. Subjects researched by the students included the transfer of land assets from local authorities to communities, the compliance of planning law in Scotland with the Aarhus Convention, the right to food and the ability of local groups to sell food grown on allotments, and the environmental health and safety rights of workers.

The course, run in partnership with Maria Adebowale (Director, Capacity Global) gives students the opportunity to learn about legal advice work in the NGO sector and produce work with a practical application. This year the students' advice work will form the basis of a series of guides for community groups which will be published (and available online). This work also contributes to the students' LLM degrees.

The presentation evening also gave UCL students the opportunity to meet representatives from NGOs working on environmental and social issues and to discuss internship opportunities. Representatives from ClientEarth, Just Space, Building Partnerships for Development and Sanitation, Extreme Citizen Science and Communities Matter participated in the presentation evening.

For more information:
Legal Action and Research for Communities Scheme
UCL Centre for Law and the Environment

Jan 2012

The Triumph of Human Rights: Dream or Nightmare? colm ocinneide

A growing backlash can now be detected against the apparently ever-expanding scope of human rights guarantees. Politicians attack courts for stretching the meaning of rights too far, while political philosophers regularly express concerns about the ‘inflation’ of the concept of rights. Underlying this discussion is the existence of two divergent accounts of rights. The ‘minimalist’ account sees human rights as focused on protecting what Isaiah Berlin described as ‘negative liberty’, and is sceptical of attempts to stretch rights to encompass socio-economic claims and other ‘positive’ entitlements. The ‘maximalist’ account embraces the ever-expanding scope of rights discourse and is confident of the capacity of human rights law and practice to protect vital human interests.

In a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture delivered on 26 January, Colm O'Cinneide of UCL Laws provided an insightful account of these timely issues. He stated that there are reasons to tread cautiously when it comes to expanding the scope of human rights claims: however, the minimalist account ultimately cannot give a coherent justification of the limits it wants to maintain.

For more information:
UCL Lunch Hour Lectures
Colm O'Cinneide

Dec 2011

UCL Bite-Sized Lecture: 'Little Dorrit or the Artful Dodger? Telling Tales while writing Bankruptcy Law'

joseph spoonerOn 16 December 2011, Joseph Spooner (PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow, Faculty of Laws) delivered a presentation entitled 'Little Dorrit or the Artful Dodger? Telling Tales while writing Bankruptcy Laws' as part of the UCL Bite-Sized Lunchtime Lectures series. Joseph’s research involves comparative analysis of national personal bankruptcy laws within the European Union, and his talk explored differences in national laws by identifying the contrasting dominant constructions of the character of “the debtor” that underpin bankruptcy legislation in a selection of European countries.

Fore more information:
Joseph Spooner

Nov 2011

UCL Lunch Hour Lecture: 'London, the divorce capital of the world'Alison Diduck

The law gives the courts very broad discretion to determine ‘fair’ property and financial awards when couples divorce. While that discretion is exercised in all cases, it has been shaped by principles developed in the so-called ‘big money’ cases decided in the Appeal Courts since 2000, which have led to increased awards to homemaker wives. Many are unhappy with this turn of events and have said that London has now become the 'divorce capital of the world'.

In a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture given to a public audience on 1 November, Professor Alison Diduck discussed these ‘big money' divorce cases and the payouts involved, speaking to matters of fairness, gender and judicial discretion. She argued that if London’s status as 'divorce capital' was about implementing an ideal of fairness and gender equality in divorce settlement, then that is no bad thing.

For more information:
Lunch Hour Lecture on YouTube
UCL Events blog by Ben Davies

Alison Diduck

Oct 2011

Professor Philip Schofield gives Conway Memorial Lecture 2011Philip Schofield

In this year’s Conway Memorial Lecture held on 27 October, Philip Schofield, Director of the Bentham Project at UCL discussed the recently uncovered, almost prophetic writings of philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) concerning the teachings of St Paul and the nature of sexuality and morality. 

The prestigious annual Conway Memorial Lecture is given in honour of Moncure Conway, the American abolitionist and biographer of Thomas Paine, who also gives his name to Conway Hall in London. The lectures have been given every year since 1910. Past speakers include luminaries of the humanist movement and some of the most distinguished philosophers, scientists and cultural commentators of the last century, including Bertrand Russell, Leonard and Julian Huxley, David Starkey, A.C Grayling and Steve Jones.

For more information:
Conway Memorial Lecture 2011 podcast
Bentham Project 
Philip Schofield


Dean of UCL Laws, Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Performs at Bright Clubhazel audience

Dean Professor Dame Hazel Genn surpised herself and no-one else with a rousing stand-up comedy routine as part of a Bright Club Humanities evening at the Wilmington Arms, Clerkenwell on 18 October.

Bright Club, the thinking person's variety night, is a public engagement initiative which takes an innovative approach to presenting academic work and life experiences. It is also a collaboration between comedy promoters One Green Firework, music promoters Duel in the Deep and UCL, London’s Global University. In her talk, Dean Genn spoke about the funny and surreal aspects of life as the Dean of UCL's Faculty of Laws. Her performance was enjoyed by a full house, including Faculty colleagues and family.

For more information:
Dame Hazel Genn DBE QC
Bright Club

July 2011

Laws Professor Jane Holder Takes the Stage at Bright Club jane holder

UCL Laws Professor and Public Engagement Beacon Mentor, Jane Holder, contributed a 'set' on 'Climate Change and Population' to a Bright Club evening on the theme of Population in July 2011. Jane's talk was on how lawyers address climate change - from a feminist perspective. Other performances were delivered by academics working on Russian history, sexually transmitted diseases, wealth, and Finnish film.

For more information:
Jane Holder

May 2011

Major award for innovative Transcribe Bentham crowdsourcing initiativebentham manuscript

UCL's Transcribe Bentham project has been honoured with an Award of Distinction in the Digital Communities category of the highly prestigious Prix Ars Electronica 2011. The Prix is the world's foremost digital arts competition and has recognised many superb projects since it began in 1987. Former winners include Peter Gabriel, Tim Berners-Lee, Wikipedia and the animation team responsible for the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park.

Transcribe Bentham is a major crowdsourcing project designed to transcribe the hand-written manuscripts of legal philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) from the archives of University College London. Over 1000 volunteers have worked on UCL's significant Bentham collection since its online Transcription Desk was launched in 2010. In many cases, transcribers are the first to have read Bentham's papers since he wrote them. Through their efforts over 1,300 Bentham manuscripts have been transcribed and are now available to scholars and the wider public. The prize will be awarded in September.

For more information:
Transcribe Bentham blog
UCL Press release


Bentham on the Streets of Londontelders team

On 12 May, UCL's Bentham Project hosted the first of three events in May 2011 forming part of Bentham in the Community: an exciting new initiative bringing together academic and amateur historians to raise awareness of the life and work of Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832).

The evening featured Professor Philip Schofield, Director of the Bentham Project, Lucy Inglis, author of the Georgian London blog and Mike Paterson, Director of the London Historian's group to discuss Bentham, the great utilitarian philosopher and reformer, his life in the city, and his role in the foundation of the University of London (later UCL) in 1826. The group also discussed UCL's Transcribe Bentham initiative, a participatory project aimed at engaging the public in the online transcription of original manuscript papers written by Bentham. After the talk, audience members visited Bentham's Auto-Icon and the Jeremy Bentham pub.

All Bentham in the Community events have been funded by a UCL Beacon Bursary for public engagement.

To find out more:
Bentham in the Community Events
Discovering Jeremy Bentham event blog 
London Historians' event blog


UCL Judicial Institute films interview with Lord Saville for US Television

lord savilleUCL's Judicial Institute has recorded a rare interview with Lord Saville for American television about the operation of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. In the interview Lord Saville, Chairman of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, explains how digital technology played a crucial role in the conduct of this landmark judicial inquiry.  The interview was broadcast on the US television series "Digital Age". The programme is called "Can a Public Inquiry Work Without Digital Technology?" and can be viewed on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJL9L8rs3Rc

Lord Saville was interviewed by Richard Susskind, President of the Society for Computers and Law, member of the Judicial Institute's Advisory Board and IT Advisor to the Lord Chief Justice. The interview was recorded at the UCL Laws Faculty and was produced and directed by Professor Cheryl Thomas, Co-Director of the Judicial Institute. The interview was made possible through the generous support of the UCL Faculty of Laws Public Engagement and Impact Fund.

For further details see:
UCL Judicial Institute
The Bloody Sunday Inquiry website

Mar 2011

Sex, Drugs, the Internet and Juries

Is it true that juries rarely convict defendants in rape cases and are more likely to convict ethnic minority defendants than White defendants? And why can’t jurors resist going home at night and googling the defendant or tweeting about the case – against the express instructions of the judge. This UCl Lunch Hour Lecture by UCL Laws Professor Cheryl Thomas reveals the truth behind a number of widely held beliefs about juries in this country and examines why the internet may now be the biggest threat to our jury system.

To view the lecture
Cheryl Thomas

Nov 2010

UCL Lunch Hour Lecture: Piracy, The Law of the High Seas

Somali pirates have taken to hijacking and ransoming commercial shipping while dozens of warships patrol the Gulf of Aden to repress their activities. Why do navies not just blow piracy suspects out of the water? Why are suspect pirates sometimes released? Who can put pirates on trial and why are European States transferring pirates to Kenya or the Seychelles for prosecution? UCL’s Professor Keith Michel explains these and other issues.  

To view the lecture:
Keith Michel video

Feb 2010

Jeremy Bentham and UCL: Corpse and corpus

What is Jeremy Bentham’s corpse doing in the South Cloisters? Did he provide the financial backing for the foundation of UCL? Was he a professor in the Department of Laws? Does his ghost trundle around the College at night? Does he attend Council meetings, and is he recorded in the minutes as ‘present, but not voting’? Professor Philip Schofield (UCL Bentham Project) set the record straight in a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture given on 11 Feb 2010.

As for the corpus, this consists of 60,000 folios of manuscripts deposited in the UCL Library. For fifty years the Bentham Committee has been overseeing the editing and publication of a new edition of Bentham’s works. Is this extraordinarily large collection of material, much of it in barely decipherable handwriting, as dead as the philosopher himself? Or is it still relevant today? This lecture marked the anniversary of UCL’s foundation on 11 Feb 1826.

To view the lecture
Philip Schofield

Dec 2009

The Right to Obscene Thoughts

This UCL Lunch Hour Lecture by Professor Stephen Guest of UCL Laws discussed how genuine freedom must include all manner of thought, including the irrational, the bad, and the obscene, and how the recent new offence of possessing extreme pornography has breached this principle. The event took place on 9 December 2009.

To view the lecture
Stephen Guest

Nov 2009

UCL Lunch Hour Lecture: Why the courts are as important as hospitals to the nation’s health

On 3 November, Dean Professor Dame Hazel Genn gave a vital Lunch Hour Lecture for the public focused on the critical ways in which courts support society and the economy and how they have directly improved standards of medicine practice and health care. She will discussed new evidence about the link between access to justice and health and consider whether much of what turns up in doctors’ surgeries (including requests for anti-depressants) are in fact the results of an inability to access the courts. The event was supported by UCL Grand Challenges.

To view the lecture
Dame Professor Hazel Genn

Mar 2009

What have the lawyers ever done for us? Law, culture and international agricultural trade

This UCL Lunch Hour Lecture by Dr Fiona Smith explores the relationship between culture, language and law. Lawyers have a tendency to believe that words have fixed meanings, but in fact each person’s cultural heritage affects how they interpret language. Consequently, each person might understand the words slightly differently, so words in fact have multiple meanings, rather than a single, homogenous one. This insight is very important in the context of international trade agreements where many government representatives from different cultural backgrounds attempt to draft one set of rules which will ultimately govern both developing and developed nations. Understanding the breadth of meaning can only be beneficial to developing nations in their struggle against exploitation in the international trade negotiations. 

To view the lecture:
Fiona Smith video

Jan 2009

President Obama and America in the World: from inauguration to action

The challenges and opportunities facing the 44th President of the United States, in foreign affairs and beyond. This UCL Lunch Hour lecture by Laws Professor Philippe Sands was held on 27 January 2009.

To view the lecture
Philippe Sands

Feb 2008

The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreement: Law, Science and Globalising Markets

The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreement is one of the most innovative and controversial aspects of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This agreement uses science as a benchmark for assessing the legality of Member State regulation and has, in high-profile cases such as EC Hormones and EC Biotech, been used to condemn regulatory measures as unlawful. The agreement, and the institutions which develop and apply it, walk a precarious line between trade, public health and environmental protection. This lecture by Professor Joanne Scott of UCL Laws examines the operation of this agreement, both before the WTO ‘courts’ and in the more cooperative setting of the SPS Committee.

To view the lecture
Joanne Scott