The Battle for the Law
The Battle for the Law is organised in association with the Institute of Ideas Postgraduate Forum
An eye for an eye: what is punishment for?
Produced by Dolan Cummings and Daniel Lloyd
Seminar Space, 10.30 - 12.00 on Saturday 28 October 2006
In modern, secular societies, criminal sanctions are commonly discussed in terms of deterrence, containment or rehabilitation, rather than making people suffer. But the idea that criminals need to be punished has never gone away. Is this a mere throwback to less civilised times, or is it an intrinsic part of criminal justice, which we ought to acknowledge? Does the move towards ‘victim-centred justice’, with victims’ families having a say in punishment, mean a more explicit focus on personal vengeance, and if so can this be reconciled with impartial judgement? Or is the idea of criminal justice as an objective procedure carried out by a neutral state too cold and unfeeling? Some of the ‘antisocial behaviour’ that causes most distress is not covered by criminal law at all. Should the law acknowledge this by punishing people for general bad behaviour rather than specific crimes? Some argue that drug users and child abusers will go on offending unless given constant support and supervision, so the traditional approach of a finite period of punishment followed by a clean slate is inappropriate. What does the discussion tell us about how we view individual responsibility, and the possibility of redemption?
Marcel Berlins, journalist, broadcaster; lecturer specialising in legal topics and human rights
Frances Fyfield, criminal lawyer and novelist; author, The Art of Drowning (2006)
Minette Marrin, columnist, The Sunday Times; freelance journalist; broadcaster and fiction writer
DrMarcus Roberts, head of policy and parliamentary unit, Mind
Chair: Dolan Cummings, research and editorial director, Institute of Ideas; co-convenor, Battle of Ideas
Litigation and litigation avoidance – tying ourselves in knots?
Produced by Dolan Cummings and Daniel Lloyd
Seminar Space, 13.30 - 15.00 on Saturday 28 October 2006
Civil law is increasingly concerned not merely with especially important or complicated transactions such as marriage or major business deals, but with everyday life, regulating everything from school trips to adverts on TV. Relationships once considered beyond the purview of law are now scrutinised by armies of lawyers, often at the request of the parties involved. This has led to complaints about a litigious society in which people are too afraid of being sued to do anything that might result in a summons to court. Is litigation a necessary corrective to the perils of the free market? Is it a problem of ambulance-chasing lawyers and a litigation industry, or does our litigious culture point to a deeper problem of distrust and mutual suspicion between the public and our institutions?
Sir Bernard Crick, emeritus professor of politics, Birkbeck College London; author, In Defence of Politics (2005)
Jon Holbrook, barrister, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square
Philip K Howard, vice-chairman, Covington and Burling; chair, Common Good; author, The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America (1995)
John Peysner, professor of law, Lincoln Law School; editor, Civil Litigation Handbook
Chair: Claire Fox, director, Institute of Ideas; co-convenor, Battle of Ideas
More speakers to be confirmed
- Compensation Act 2006 Department for Constitutional Affairs
- Philip K Howard Making civil justice sane City Journal Spring 2006
- Clampdown on no-win, no-fee 'cowboys' The Guardian 8 June 2006
The rise and rise of human rights – an unalloyed good?
Produced by Dolan Cummings and John Fitzpatrick
Seminar Space, 15.30 - 17.00 on Saturday 28 October 2006
‘Human rights’ are the ultimate point of reference in many political debates today: action is demanded to ensure the human rights of women in the Islamic world, for example, or new employment practices are opposed on the grounds that they violate the human rights of workers. Ever since the Human Rights Act 1998, the British government has been committed to respecting human rights as codified in the European Convention on Human Rights. This has been widely welcomed, but is there a downside? Recently, criticism has emerged in relation to the ‘unintended consequences’ of human rights legislation. But even as an ideal, can human rights be genuinely universal, or do they always reflect the concerns of particular groups in society? Are our rights properly secured by abstract international charters, as opposed to concrete political movements with roots in society? Does the rhetoric of human rights give too much power to judges and unaccountable institutions? And what becomes of civil liberties when the burden of safeguarding rights is shifted from civil society to the state, from politics to the law?
John Fitzpatrick, senior lecturer in law and director of the Kent Law Clinic, University of Kent
Professor Conor Gearty, Rausing Director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights, London School of Economics; author, Can Human Rights Survive? (2006) and Civil Liberties (2007)
AC Grayling, professor of philosophy, Birkbeck College, University of London; writer and commentator
Elizabeth Woodcraft, barrister, Tooks Chambers; crime novelist
Chair: James Panton, tutor in politics, St John's College, University of Oxford; co-convenor, Battle of Ideas
Slavoj Zizek Human rights and its Discontents November 1999
- Martin Kettle The dialogue of the deaf is corroding our human rights Guardian 10 June 2006
- Amy Rogers Where do you draw the line Times 21 March 2006