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University of Bristol Law Conference welcomes record number of speakers

Law Conference committee and speakers

Lord Jonathan Evans, former Director of MI5

Panel debate

Press release issued: 7 March 2018

Under the profound and striking title of ‘The Age of Terror’, the sixth annual Bristol Law Conference demonstrated the sheer excellence of academic and professional legal discourse, consolidating the University of Bristol Law School as an exemplary advocate of constructive debate on diverse and polarising legal issues.

Written by Nima Pourdad.

The 2018 Bristol Student Law Conference welcomed a record number of distinguished speakers, carefully selected from distinct areas within the legal profession and academia, to deliberate on the multi-faceted issue of contemporary terrorism to an audience which included over eight-hundred students from over fifteen different universities.

After the success of the 2017 Bristol Student Law Conference, which welcomed Gina Miller amongst others to discuss the ‘untangling of Britain from the European Union’, the 2018 annual Conference specifically addressed the nature and future of terror prevention, from a legal dimension. It was in the setting of the Great Hall within the Wills Memorial Building, enveloped with a sense of admiration for the history of the surrounding architecture and artwork, that the legal response to contemporary terrorism was postulated.

Speakers of different persuasions attended in the attempt to ensure the debate encompassed the multitude of views on the presented issues. University of Bristol lecturer Dr Cian Murphy began proceedings with an account of a response to terrorism, positing questions for the audience to consider on the issue of the lawfulness of such a response, and the utility of anti-terror legislation in the first instance. Dr Katy Sian, University of York sociology lecturer, then spoke on her conceptualised critique to the Prevent anti-terror strategy, utilising the teachings of criminologist Cesare Lombroso, and the argued continuity of racist thought that she believed inherent in the anti-terror policy. Professor David Feldman QC, University of Cambridge and ex-Bristol professor, finished the morning session, with a presentation on squaring the response to terror within the confines of the constitution.

The afternoon session began with a workshop with public and human rights barrister, and Bristol alumni, David Gottlieb, whom discussed the series of distinguished cases in which he advocated; this included successfully defending the wife of the terrorist who murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby, near his barracks in Woolwich, London. This was followed by Lord Jonathan Evans, former MI5 director and Bristol alumni, whom gave a detailed lecture on the view of a practitioner to counter-terrorism strategy and the law, describing the practicalities of, and rationale behind pre-trial detentions, surveillance powers, secret trials, and control orders.

Nazir Afzal OBE, former Chief Crown Prosecutor, then gave an account of his experience working within the Crown Prosecution Service as a lawyer, prosecuting those under terror charges, and the practical framework in which anti-terror strategy is placed in prosecution and investigation. Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, honorary law professor at Bristol and shadow Attorney General for England and Wales, then finished the lectures from our distinguished guests by providing an in-depth understanding of the legalities of anti-terror legislation, in response to the ‘Age of Terror’. The day ended with a panel event chaired by University of Bristol lecturer Dr Katie Bales, whom invited our speakers, in addition to University of Bristol Professor Steven Greer, to take questions from the audience.

Though terror can be a somewhat divisive and poignant topic, the integrity of academic discussion, through the articulation of their individual and varying views on the panel, was upheld in its totality. It is thus proper to leave this article with a quote from Professor David Feldman QC whilst on the panel, commenting on the suggested growing intolerance within society; “we need to live in a society where people are free to hold strong views but won’t refuse to play their part when things don’t go their way”.

Further information

The Bristol Law Conference 2018 was kindly sponsored by the following:

The University of Bristol Law School: is a centre for an intellectually demanding, research-informed legal education. We aim to produce accomplished, well-rounded, enquiring graduates with a rich, ethically grounded appreciation of law in business and society. A top 10 UK Law School, we offer students the leading edge in their careers.

Norton Rose Fulbright: boasts 56 offices around the world, each committed to delivering the most innovative legal services to some of the world's leading corporations in several key industry sectors. Their prestigious international outlook provides for some of the most comprehensive, client-facing training and career development in the City; facilitated by their top-tier large banking, corporate and disputes teams.

Osborne Clarke: is an award-winning multinational firm with 19 global offices in 25 different locations around the world, including one here in Bristol! Their Commercial team brings in some of the world's biggest technology/digital clients, advising them on cutting-edge issues to keep pushing the technology industry into new territory!

LexisNexis: provides the most comprehensive legal-research database in the industry, providing its expertise for over 200 years to leading City law firms and organisations. On top of its legal research capabilities, it also conducts industry-leading research into exciting areas such as Artificial Intelligence – thus continuing to further the rule of law for millions of people every day.

University of Law: trusted by 90 out of the top 100 UK law firms, the University of Law offers a range of academic courses for Undergraduate and Postgraduate studies. From the Legal Practitioners Course to online courses in the Graduate Diploma in Law; the opportunities available for students are truly exceptional!

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