cearta.ie

the Irish for rights

Stand and deliver, your money or your wife! Of Georgian highwaymen, modern sham marriages, illegal contracts, and abuse of the legal process

James Freney


James Freney (1719–1788)

an Irish contemporary of Everet and Williams; the so-called
Noblest Highwayman in Ireland

Two sole traders form a partnership, and then fall out, so that one sues the other for outstanding monies. It is a common enough story now, and was even in the early 1700s. There is normally little of general interest in such case; but, in 1725, the additional facts in Everet v Williams earned it a notoriety that persists to this day, because the plaintiff had sued the defendant for the proceeds of highway robbery, and there had been a classic falling out amongst thieves. Unsurprisingly, the Court declined to lend its aid to the claim, and dismissed the case with costs (see Everet v Williams (1725) reported (1787) 2 European Magazine 360 (pdf) and (1893) 9 Law Quarterly Review 197 (pdf); see also William David Evans (ed) Pothier on Obligations (Strahan, London, 1802, vol 2) 3 (pdf); Nathaniel Lindley A Treatise on the Law of Partnership (1st ed, Johnson & Co, London, 1860) 161 (pdf); Robert Megarry Miscellany-at-Law (Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1955) 76 (pdf); mentalfloss).

The Court’s approach in this case was replicated by Twomey J in English v O’Driscoll [2016] IEHC 584 (25 October 2016), whilst the case itself was cited by Humphreys J in the High Court in KP v The Minister for Justice and Equality [2017] IEHC 95 (20 February 2017). In this short post, I want to mention the outcome in Everet v Williams, note its subsequent judicial citation, and refer briefly to the recent judgments of Humphreys and Twomey JJ.

In Everet v Williams, the Court referred the matter to the wonderfully-titled Deputy Remembrancer of the Court of Exchequer in Equity. His report that the case was a matter of “scandal and impertinence” was confirmed by the Court; the parties solicitors were attached for contempt and fined £50 each for reflecting so disreputably “upon the honour and dignity” of the Court; and the lawyer who drafted the plaintiff’s proceedings was ordered to bear the costs of the action for causing such “indignity to the Court”. But the parties did not learn their lesson; and they continued – separately – to ply their trade, until their luck eventually ran out: John Everet, the plaintiff, was executed at Tyburn in 1730; and Joseph Williams, the defendant, was executed at Maidstone in 1727 – by not hanging together, they were hanged separately, proving Benjamin Franklin’s aphorism half a century before he uttered it!

Moreover, in 1735, the almost equally colourful William Wreathock, the plaintiff’s solicitor, was convicted of conspiracy and robbery, and sentenced to be hanged. However, his sentence was commuted to transportation, though he eventually obtained a Royal Pardon, returned to England, and resumed his practice; nevertheless, he was struck off the roll of attorneys in 1758 (see Malcolm McKenzie Park “William Wreathcock – Imperfect Attorney” (1993) 87 Victorian Bar News 73 (SSRN)).

The case has had a strong pull on the legal imagination down the ages (see, eg, Ashhurst v Mason (1875) LR 20 Eq 225, 230 (Bacon VC); Sykes v Beadon (1879) 11 Ch D 170, 195-196 (Sir George Jessel MR); Burrows v Rhodes [1899] 1 QB 816, 826 (Kennedy J); Foster v Driscoll [1929] 1 KB 470, 511 (Lawrence LJ); Columbia Picture Industries Inc v Robinson [1987] Ch 38 (Scott J); Pitts v Hunt [1991] 1 QB 24, [1990] EWCA Civ 17 (04 April 1990) (Beldam LJ); Soleimany v Soleimany [1999] QB 785 (Waller LJ); Marlwood Commercial Inc v Kozeny [2006] EWHC 872 (Comm) (28 April 2006) [154], [179] (HHJ Jonathan Hirst QC); St Paul Travelers Insurance Co v Okporuah [2006] EWHC 2107 (Ch) (10 August 2006) [1] (HHJ Hodge QC); Lilly Icos Llc v 8pm Chemists Ltd [2009] EWHC 1905 (Ch) (31 July 2009) [286] (Arnold J); Les Laboratoires Servier v Apotex [2011] EWHC 730 (Pat) (29 March 2011) [65] (Arnold J) (and see the Supreme Court in this case, below); RTA (Business Consultants) Ltd v Bracewell [2015] EWHC 630 (QB) (12 March 2015) [43] (HHJ Richard Seymour QC)).

And this attraction has been felt even at the highest levels, such as the Supreme Court of Canada (Consumers Cordage Co v Connolly (1901) 31 SCR 244, 302 (Girouard J)), the UK House of Lords and Supreme Court (Stone & Rolls Ltd v Moore Stephens [2009] 1 AC 1391, [2009] UKHL 39 (30 July 2009) [187]-[188] (Lord Walker); “Ex Turpi Causa – When Latin Avoids Liability” (2014) 18(2) Edinburgh Law Review 175, 177 (Lord Mance); R v Ahmad [2015] 1 AC 299, [2014] UKSC 36 (18 June 2014) [67] (Lords Neugerger, Hughes and Toulson, in a joint judgment); Les Laboratoires Servier v Apotex [2015] 1 AC 430, [2014] UKSC 55 (29 October 2014) [24] (Lord Sumption); Jetivia SA v Bilta (UK) Ltd [2016] AC 1, [2015] UKSC 23 (22 April 2015) [59] (Lord Sumption)), and the Irish Supreme Court (Iarnród Éireann v Ireland [1996] 3 IR 321, 374, [1996] 2 ILRM 500, 507 (O’Flaherty J; Hamilton CJ, Blayney, Denham and Barrington JJ concurring)).

Indeed, it has been referred to on a number of occasions by Posner J in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (see, eg, SEC v Lyttle 538 F3d 601 (7th Cir, 2008) (pdf); Schlueter v Latek 683 F3d 350 (7th Cir, 2012) (pdf); Thomas v UBS AG 706 F3d 846 (7th Cir, 2013) (pdf)) as well as by Higginbotham J in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in one of the many cases relating to Allen Standford‘s massive Ponzi scheme (see Janvey v Rincon (5th Cir, 31 January 2017)).

On the question of the enforceability of an illegal contract, which was at the heart of Everet v Williams, the leading Irish case is now Quinn v Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Ltd [2015] IESC 29 (27 March 2015). Clarke J’s general approach to illegality in that case would not change the outcome in Everet v Williams; although, in Quinn, Clarke J held that various loans were enforceable, notwithstanding that they may have been made in breach of company law. If the loans had been illegal and unenforceable, it is not clear whether they would have been recoverable. On the one hand, in Equuscorp Pty Ltd v Haxton (2012) 246 CLR 498, [2012] HCA 7 (8 March 2012), on facts similar to Quinn, the High Court of Australia held that restitution of loans advanced in contravention of the Companies Code would stultify the policy of that Code ([45] (French CJ, Crennan and Kiefel JJ) [99]; Gummow and Bell JJ). On the other hand, in Patel v Mirza [2016] 3 WLR 399, [2016] UKSC 42 (20 July 2016) the UK Supreme Court (without reference to Equuscorp) held that payments advanced for insider trading could be recovered. As Lord Toulson put it in that case ([99], [120]):

… there are two broad discernible policy reasons for the common law doctrine of illegality as a defence to a civil claim. One is that a person should not be allowed to profit from his own wrongdoing. The other, linked, consideration is that the law should be coherent and not self-defeating, condoning illegality by giving with the left hand what it takes with the right hand. … The essential rationale of the illegality doctrine is that it would be contrary to the public interest to enforce a claim if to do so would be harmful to the integrity of the legal system …

It would have been harmful to the integrity of the legal system to enforce the claims in Everet v Williams. Indeed, the kind of collusive action concerning an illegal contract that was at issue in that case recurred in English v O’Driscoll [2016] IEHC 584 (25 October 2016). Twomey J held that he was obliged to consider the issue of illegality, even though (as in Everet v Williams) none of the parties had pleaded it; he found that the parties were knowing participants in an unlawful arrangement to obtain capital allowances; and held that (at [34]):

… in cases where there is a possibility of the Revenue being defrauded and where there is nobody in Court representing the taxpayer, as will often be the case, it is this Court’s view that it is the duty of the Court to be alive to illegal transactions, since the parties themselves are unlikely to call evidence which might damage their case and may even seek to conceal their true intentions. If the Court does not look out for the interests of the taxpayer, by being alive to transactions which are designed to defraud the Revenue, the parties themselves are unlikely to do so.

He therefore concluded (at [118]):

As a matter of public policy, this Court must therefore refuse to offer assistance to either party in relation to these proceedings, since to do so, would be to implicitly approve of the unlawful scheme in which the parties were engaged.

If it would have been, in Lord Toulson’s words, harmful to the integrity of the legal system to enforce the claims in Everet v Williams and English v O’Driscoll, it would have been just as harmful to enforce the claim in KP v The Minister for Justice and Equality [2017] IEHC 95 (20 February 2017). Here, Humphreys J cited Everet v Williams and explained its application in terms similar to Lord Toulson’s in Patel v Mirza. On foot of marriages to EU nationals, the applicants were awarded permission to remain in the State. However, the Minister decided that these marriages were a sham; she revoked their permission to remain; and made orders to deport them. In this application for judicial review, Humphreys J held that the orders were validly made. Moreover, echoing his comments in the earlier ABM v Minister for Justice and Equality [2016] IEHC 449 (29 July 2016) and SA v Minister for Justice and Equality [2016] IEHC 462 (29 July 2016), he excoriated the applicants’ sham marriages and their attempt to derive legal rights therefrom (at [18]-[20]):

The applications arise out of a gross abuse of immigration law and of the rights of third parties … The Minister has made unchallenged determinations that the applicants entered into marriages of convenience. … Those findings are unchallenged and, as with any unchallenged decision, the applicants have to live with such a conclusion for the purposes of these proceedings.

The present applications are therefore an attempt to enforce, under colour of law, “rights” purportedly acquired by reason of such sham marriages. … marriages of convenience are not simply a gross breach of duties under immigration laws and of unenumerated duties under the Constitution. They are also a fundamental violation of the rights of third parties (including the other party to the marriage), because it is highly unlikely that consent to such an arrangement could be regarded as fully informed, given the level of downstream legal complication likely to be unleashed on the other party … as well as the effects upon innocent persons with whom such parties subsequently have family relationships. …

Legal action designed to enforce “rights” deriving from a marriage of convenience is an affront to the court and makes a mockery of the constitutional commitments to legality, human rights, and to marriage and the family. The court is an institution of State and, while obviously not in any way to be identified with the interests of the government of the day, is certainly to be identified with values fundamental to the Constitution, the State and to an ordered society.

Moreover, Humphreys J likened the applicant’s attempts to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court in aid of his sham marriage to the highwaymen’s attempt in Everet v Wiliams to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court in aid of their illegal agreement (at [22]):

A suit to enforce “rights” obtained by fraud upon the system is an example of the type of proceedings considered in Everet v Williams (1725) 2 Pothier on Obligations 3, which was an attempt to bring proceedings to enforce an agreement between highwaymen for the division of spoils. The discovery of the fact that the proceedings were founded on an unlawful act resulted, predictably, in their dismissal. That was however only step one in the response of the law to such an affront to its processes. The plaintiff was hanged at Tyburn and the defendant at Maidstone. The arrest of both solicitors for contempt was ordered and both were fined. Counsel was ordered to pay the costs personally. One of the solicitors was also convicted of robbery and sentenced to death, although notable leniency was shown in that that sentence was commuted to transportation. While prevailing views as to appropriate punishments may have evolved since 1725, the fundamental principle has not; namely that the court will not entertain an action founded on a wrongful act. These judicial review leave applications, as an attempt to use the process of the court to enforce “rights” obtained by fraud, fall into that category.

Long thought apocryphal, the case of Everet v Williams is enjoying something of a renaissance at present. Not only is it being cited at the highest levels throughout the Common Law world, but, in Ireland, its spirit suffused the judgment of Twomey J in English v O’Driscoll, and its letter animated that of Humphreys J in KP v Minister for Justice. The lesson is clear: do not seek to invoke the jurisdiction of the Courts to enforce illegal contracts or to uphold illegal or sham arrangements. The Courts will not now, as they did not in 1725, lend their aid to such an abuse of the legal process. The consequences might not be as stark nowadays as they were then, but they will still be severe. As Humphreys J put it in Walsh v Walsh [2017] IEHC 181 (02 February 2017) [74] the Courts will not allow those who have themselves repudiated legal obligations to invoke the law when it seems expedient for them to do so. Even highwaymen cannot eat their cake, and then still have it.

The Future of the Law of Restitution for Unjust Enrichment in Ireland

Euro notes = Irish flag (notes via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euro_banknotes)The Private Law Discussion Group in the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, is delighted to welcome Dr Niamh Connolly (University College London) next Thursday, 30 March 2017, at 2:00pm, in the Trinity Research in Social Sciences (TRiSS) Seminar Room, 6th floor, Arts Building, TCD (map), to give a paper on


The Future of Restitution in Ireland.

All are welcome, particularly those with a research interest in private law, unjust enrichment and restitution. This event is open to the public and free of charge. If you would like to attend, please register on Eventbrite.

Niamh Connolly (via UCL website)Dr Niamh Connolly (pictured right) is a lecturer at University College London, where she moved from Trinity College Dublin in 2016. Her principal research and teaching interest is in unjust enrichment law. She is interested in how Irish private law compares to that of England and Wales, and in differences in legal culture that affect the substantive law in these jurisdictions. Her paper will seek to interpret the sparse Irish case law on unjust enrichment in light of this wider question about the specificity of Irish law. In particular, Niamh will ask whether Irish legal culture is less formalist than that of England and Wales, and if so, how that affects Irish restitution law. Niamh hopes that the seminar will provide an opportunity to hear the views of other Irish jurists as to the possible distinctiveness of Irish judicial approaches in private law.

The Private Law Discussion Group is a Research Group in the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, which invites collaboration and engagement nationally and internationally on private law, including property law, tort, contract, restitution, and unjust enrichment.

The Right to be Forgotten – is it time to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony?

ISEL logo, via ISEL websiteThe Irish Society for European Law will hold an Update on Data Protection, next Thursday, 23 March 2017, at 6:30pm in the Ormond Meeting Rooms, 31-36 Ormond Quay Upper, Dublin 7.

The event will be chaired by the Hon Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan, Judge of the Court of Appeal; and the speakers will be Bruno Gencarelli (Head of the Data Flows & Protection Unit, DG Justice & Consumers, European Commission), Andreas Carney (Partner, Matheson), Emily Gibson BL (Law Library, Dublin), and me.

The event is open to all and is free of charge to ISEL members (there is a €30 charge for non-ISEL members, payable on arrival). Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Please register for the event at www.isel.ie. 1.5 CPD points are available for this event.

Harmony, via Wikipedia (detail)The title of my talk is: The Right to be Forgotten – is it time to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony? I will consider whether delinking in support of the right to be forgotten [R2bF] ought to have worldwide effect. My talk will be in three brief parts. The first part will consider CJEU R2bF caselaw and member-state developments on the question whether an R2bF delinking derived from EU law should be effective worldwide or just inside the EU. Against this backdrop, the second part of the talk will argue that the Circuit Court decision Savage v Data Protection Commissioner & Google (Circuit Court, unreported, 11 October 2016, Sheahan J; pdf via DPC) mis-applied the R2bF. Third, combining the first and second parts, the final part of the talk will consider the proceedings in Google v Equustek Solutions (hearing 5 December 2016; webcast), in which the Supreme Court of Canada was invited to uphold an injunction (2015 BCCA 265) that an R2bF delinking derived from Canadian common law and constitutional considerations should be effective worldwide.

Daniel O’Connell and Free Speech: “speaking bold truths boldly and firmly”


O'Connell's home at Derrynane

A fascinating post on Daniel O’Connell and free speech was published on the excellent Irish Philosophy website last Monday, in honour of Daniel O’Connell‘s birth on 6 August 1775, near Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry; here’s an extract (emphasis added):

Given his political philosophy, it is not surprising that Daniel O’Connell was a champion of free speech. … [At] the Monster Meetings of the 1840s, … huge crowds gathered to hear O’Connell speak. … Though the meetings were orderly, the government grew worried trouble would break out. Sir Robert Peel outlawed the next Monster Meeting, planned for Clontarf on 8 October 1843. Though O’Connell called off the rally, he was still arrested and charged with conspiracy.

O’Connell spoke in his own defense, pointing out the “conspiracy” was neither secret nor criminal, arguing that calling such a movement as his a conspiracy would prevent improvement of any institutions …

Do not attempt to take away from your fellow subjects the legitimate mode of effecting useful purposes by public meetings, public canvassing — speaking bold truths boldly and firmly.

O’Connell was found guilty … The verdict was appealed to the House of Lords, reversed, and O’Connell left prison after three months, a hero in the fight for freedom of speech.

On the trial, see Report of the Irish State Trials, 1844 (Google Books).

On the appeal, see O’Connell v R (1844) 11 Cl & Fin 155, (1844) 8 ER 1061, [1844] EngR 880 (9 September 1844) (pdf); and see also the House of Lords Frees Daniel O’Connell on Myles Dungan’s blog.

On O’Connell generally, see Patrick Geoghegan King Dan: The rise of Daniel O’Connell, 1775-1829 (Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 2008 | Amazon) and Liberator: The life and death of Daniel O’Connell, 1830-1847 (Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 2010 | Amazon).

Implications of Brexit, North and South

Ire,UK,EuThe Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) seminar on the Constitutional and Human Rights Implications of BREXIT, North and South this evening at 5:00pm in the Distillery Building, Church Street, Dublin 7 (map via here). It’s something I’ve blogged about here, here, here and here. Since then, the UK Supreme Court has handed down its judgment in R (on the application of Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5 (24 January 2017). I wrote an OpEd on the case in the Irish Times the following day:

Brexit ruling brings short-term clarity but long-term uncertainty

There will be lasting consequences in London, Brussels, Belfast and Dublin

Many of the myths about the United Kingdom’s constitutional settlement were on show in Tuesday’s decision by their supreme court that the UK government needs an act of parliament to begin the process of leaving the European Union.

The first myth is that the UK does not have a constitution. True, it does not have a written constitution, but it does have a wide range of conventions, customs, usages, principles and practices which embody the UK’s constitutional settlement. Tuesday’s decision concerned the nature and extent of those principles.

The second myth is that parliament is supreme above all other sources of power or authority. True, legislation enacted by parliament cannot be struck down on foot of UK constitutional doctrines, but there are many checks upon parliament’s freedom to act. Parliament is often simply subservient to government, which frequently acts without parliamentary leave. Tuesday’s decision restated the balance between parliamentary supremacy and governmental autonomy.

The third myth is that the queen’s role is largely ceremonial. True, there are now very few substantive royal powers which are exercised by the monarch, but this is because they are exercised by the government instead. This royal prerogative is one of the core principles of the UK’s unwritten constitution, and it provides an important means by which government can act autonomously of parliament.

The conduct of international relations is a central element of the royal prerogative, and it means that the government can conclude and withdraw from treaties without the involvement of parliament. On the other hand, the rights of UK citizens and residents are matters for parliament, and they cannot be affected by the government’s exercise of the royal prerogative. In Tuesday’s decision the majority held that withdrawal from the EU was not just the conduct of international relations, it also affected the domestic rights of UK citizens and residents.

Consequently, the government cannot rely on the royal prerogative but instead needs an act of parliament to begin the process of leaving the EU.

Political repercussions
This decision will have deep legal and political repercussions not only in London and Brussels, but also in Belfast and Dublin.In particular, it brings short-term clarity but does little to dispel long-term uncertainties.

In London, the decisive reaffirmation of the supremacy of parliament means that Brexit requires legislation, but the judgment does not prescribe any particular form or substance for it. In the short term there is a great deal of politics to be done by government in presenting the necessary bill, and by parliament in considering – and ultimately passing – it. In the long term, the judgment will be a constraint on the government’s freedom of movement independently of parliament.

In Brussels, there will be some relief that the constitutional requirements by which the UK can withdraw from the EU have been clarified. However, this decision on a matter of UK law says nothing about the EU side of the equation, which is governed by article 50 of the EU Treaty. Many aspects of that article remain unclear, and Tuesday’s decision did not seek clarity about it from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

In Belfast, the Assembly will not need to be consulted by the UK government before starting the article 50 process. Tuesday’s judgment held that relations with the EU are a matter for Westminster, and not for the devolved assemblies. In the short term this will not add a further fly to the Stormont electoral ointment. However, in the long term, a political – if not a legal – role for the devolved assemblies in the article 50 process is not precluded by the judgment and cannot be ruled out.

UK lawyers
In Dublin, Tuesday’s decision makes it much more likely that the case being brought here by UK lawyers including Jolyon Maugham seeking clarification of article 50, will get off the ground. The Government here will then have to decide not only how to conduct the Brexit negotiations in Brussels alongside the other EU states, but also how to respond to that litigation.

If, in that case, it objects to a reference to the CJEU on the question of whether the UK government can revoke the process of withdrawal, it will doubtless mollify the UK government, but likely annoy our EU partners who would probably welcome certainty on this issue. Tuesday’s decision has brought closer the dread day when the Irish Government will have to choose between standing by the UK and cleaving to the EU.

Finally, Tuesday’s judgment is a strong avowal that, in parliamentary democracies, governments cannot act independently of parliaments. It may have been couched in dry and careful legal language, but it is the stuff of which constitutional myths and political realities are made.

Oh no, not again – another heckler’s veto in Trinity

TCD Campanile, via WikipediaThe following headlines have caught my eye:

After Protest, Society for International Affairs Cancel Event with Israeli Ambassador (from the University Times)

and

Trinity College Dublin event involving Israeli ambassador cancelled (from the Irish Times)

Update (21 Feb 2017): Planned talk by Israeli Ambassador at Trinity College is cancelled after protests (from theJournal.ie)

I don’t have time to write a considered post about this right now, but I could not let it pass unremarked, so I will content myself for the time being with noting: oh no, not again.

Update (23 Feb 2017): The protest and cancellation garnered headlines in Israel (Algemeiner | Jerusalem Post | Jewish Press | Times of Israel here and here) and further afield (Yahoo! news – even Breibart, with typical hyperbolic misrepresentation)

The University Times updated their piece and headline: After Event with Israeli Ambassador Cancelled, Trinity Criticises “Unacceptable Attack on Free Speech”; the Irish Times ran a follow up: Trinity condemns ‘unacceptable attack’ on free speech; and the Hearld also ran a story: Anti-Israel protest is ‘antithesis of what Trinity stands for’. These pieces refer to a statement from the Provost:

Trinity College Dublin regrets attack on free speech

Dublin, Tuesday February 21st 2017 – Trinity College Dublin regrets that Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, HE Ze’ev Boker, was unable to take part in a question and answer session on Monday evening after protesters from inside and outside the university threatened to disrupt the event. The university regards what happened as an unacceptable attack on free speech.

Ambassador Boker had been due to address a student society on Monday but the event was cancelled before he arrived at the proposed venue amid security concerns. University officials had unsuccessfully tried to get the protesters to leave an area surrounding the door to a lecture theatre. The ambassador has been a regular and welcome visitor to Trinity since his appointment. He had dinner in the university earlier in the same evening and attended another event in Trinity last week.

Trinity’s Provost Patrick Prendergast criticised the protesters for preventing a guest from expressing his opinions. “This was most unfortunate and represents the antithesis of what Trinity stands for. Universities should be able to facilitate the exchange of ideas. The protesters have violated that fundamental belief. Trinity will remain a home for debate and we will do everything possible to make sure that efforts to suppress the free exchange of ideas do not succeed. I look forward to welcoming Ambassador Boker back to Trinity to speak again in the near future.

Hear! Hear!

Update (6 April 2017): from Trinity News:

Students for Justice in Palestine fined for protest at Israeli ambassador talk

College has also refused to accept a petition on behalf of the group

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have been fined €150 following their protest of a talk, organised by the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA), given by the Israeli ambassador to Ireland. …

Free Speech University Rankings

Spiked FSUR

I have written on this blog in the past about university free speech rankings in the UK and the US. The online current affairs magazine, spiked, has published its third annual Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) of the UK’s universities (THE | The Tab | The Times here and here):

… it paints a grim picture. Our survey, ranking 115 UK universities using our traffic-light system, shows that 63.5 per cent of universities now actively censor speech, and 30.5 per cent stifle speech through excessive regulation. This marks a steady rise in censorship over the past three years. Now only six per cent of UK universities are truly free, open places.

Tom Slate, Deputy Editor of spiked, and co-ordinator of the survey, comments:

For anyone who’s been anywhere near a campus recently, this will come as no surprise. Students’ unions no longer just No Platform the odd edgy speaker – they ban ‘tarts and vicars’ parties and ‘offensive hand gestures’. But what’s perhaps most striking in this year’s findings is how fast universities are catching up. Though SUs are still far more censorious than universities, 23.5 per cent of university administrations are now ranked Red, compared with 15 per cent just last year.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) maintain an equivalent survey of US universities; and the Institute of Public ­Affairs do the same in Australia. These assessments are not the only sources of such dispiriting information. Direct surveys of students on campus in the US (pdf) and the UK (pdf) found that, while students support free speech in principle, many are willing to entertain significant restrictions. In any event, and whatever about Trinity’s return to the Times Higher Education‘s World University Rankings, in my view a green light on these free speech rankings would be a university ranking worthy of the name. If any benefactor out there wants to support similar research for higher education institutions in Ireland, I would be happy to co-ordinate it. Roll up; roll up!

Litigating against Mass Surveillance in the US

ACLUThere will be a public lecture by Ashley Gorski on

Litigating against Mass Surveillance in the US – The National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union

in the Swift Lecture Theatre, Room 2041A Arts Block, Trinity College Dublin (map here), next Friday 10 February 2017 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. All are welcome to attend, and booking is not required.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was founded in 1920 to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Whether it’s achieving full equality for LGBT people, establishing new privacy protections for our digital age of widespread government surveillance, ending mass incarceration, or preserving the right to vote or the right to have an abortion, the ACLU takes up the toughest civil liberties cases and issues to defend all people from government abuse and overreach.

The ACLU National Security Project advocates for national security policies that are consistent with the Constitution, the rule of law, and fundamental human rights. The project litigates cases relating to detention, torture, discrimination, surveillance, censorship, and secrecy. Originally created as an informal working group after the September 2001 attacks, the National Security Project is now at the forefront of virtually every major legal battle relating to national security, civil liberties, and human rights.

Ashley Gorski, via ACLUAshley Gorski (pictured, left) is a staff attorney at the National Security Project, where she works on issues related to post-9/11 racial and religious discrimination, torture, detention, and religious freedom. She is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. Prior to joining the ACLU, she worked at a New York law firm and served as a law clerk to the Hon Jon O. Newman, United States circuit judge for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and to the Hon Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, United States district judge for the Southern District of New York. She is in Dublin to give evidence, about Mass Surveillance in the US, in the case currently before the High Court between the Data Protection Commissioner and Facebook, about current rules by which data is shared between the EU to the US.

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Welcome

Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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