Lunch Hour Lectures are an opportunity for members of the public to sample exceptional research taking place at UCL. Speakers are drawn from across the university, and lectures frequently showcase new research and recent academic publications. Faculty members in Laws regularly participate in this lecture series to discuss contemporary legal issues.
Admission to Lunch Hour Lectures is free and open to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis. Lectures are also streamed live online or can be downloaded after the event.
Patents Stop People Doing Things. So Why are They a Good Thing?
The public debate about patents is old and never stops. Here is what Jeremy Bentham said: “So long as men are governed by unexamined prejudices and led away by sounds, it is natural for them to regard Patents as unfavourable to the encrease of wealth. So soon as they obtain clear ideas to annex to these sounds, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than recognize them to be favourable to that encrease: and that in so essential a degree, that the security given to property can not be said to be compleat without it”
This Lunch Hour Lecture on 6 March by The Rt. Hon. Professor Sir Robin Jacob of UCL Laws will put the debate in a modern context and show why Bentham was right.
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.
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.
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 Lunch Hour Lecture by UCL Laws Professor Cheryl Thomas on 10 March 2011 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.
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 explained these and other issues at a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture on 2 Nov 2010.
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.
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.
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.
What have the lawyers ever done for us? Law, culture and international agricultural trade
This UCL Lunch Hour Lecture by Dr Fiona Smith on 19 March 2009 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.
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.
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.