UCL Health of the Public


Spotlight on Prof Jeff King

Jeff is the Co-Principal Investigator on the 'Lex-Atlas: Covid-19: A Comparative Study of National Legal Responses to COVID-19' AHRC-funded project.

Prof Jeff King

Professor of Law

Faculty of Laws

Jeff King
What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Co-Principal Investigator on the Lex-Atlas:Covid-19 AHRC-funded project, and General Editor of the forthcoming Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19. I am also a Legal Adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, which is conducting an inquiry on Covid-19.

How are you responding to the pandemic through your research?

We have formed a world-wide network of jurists who are providing detailed national portraits for what will be about 60 countries from around the world (the Lex-Atlas: Covid-19 project). Each portrait responds to a detailed set of questions about the constitutional and legal framework, use of emergency and executive powers, about the public health interventions and their general context, and also about the social, labour, and human rights legislation that has been adopted or used (as well as litigation on all the above). Authored by teams of in-country experts, the reports will be updated three times over the next year and have a companion LAC19 website hosting a webpage and blog for each individual country. Our hope is that this will be a resource for drawing conclusions about best and worst practices for future pandemic planning, and the most detailed and carefully curated historical archive of primary law on the current pandemic. We will also offer comparative data as datasets on particular themes, covering legislation, caselaw, emergency (and public health emergency) declarations, etc. It will all be open-access, indefinitely.

What’s next on the research horizon for you?

I will co-lead on the production of a large and in-depth final report on the Lex-Atlas: Covid-19 project. There is a large Editorial Committee that edits each national report. Each member has distinct topical expertise, and will have surveyed fully 60 countries in sustained conversation with country author-teams. The Editorial team will feed their views on the comparative experience into Covid-Law Insights on particular subjects, which we will start circulating in March 2021. By late this year, they will have prepared draft final reports on the best and worst legal and related policy practices in the realm of constitutional affairs, as well as health, social, labour and human rights areas. It will also be published open-access with Oxford University Press, after being workshopped twice in London.

What have you learned from lockdown?

The weight of childrearing, the miracle of online collaborative working, and the scent of the post-war 'we're all in this together' mentality. I've looked more neighbours in the eye than ever before.

How will COVID19 change the world?

With luck, it will teach how we can put aside market logic and embrace our humanity in recognising how political action can achieve what was only recently seen as impossible. With predictability, on the other hand, the economic fallout will impose profound demands for austerity and will only deepen enormous pre-existing social cleavages. I fear that further austerity will amplify the profound losses already felt by the most vulnerable, and consequently by their children.