The Bar Council puts questions to Professor Conor Gearty KC (Hon) in advance of the conference panel session on the threats to the Rule of Law later this month.
On Saturday 26 November at the Bar Council conference, Professor Conor Gearty KC (Hon) will take part in a panel session focused on the threats to the Rule of Law.
The session will be chaired by Baroness Kennedy, and other guest speakers include the Vice President of the Ukrainian National Bar Association Valentyn Gvozdiy, the Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association of Advocates Mikołaj Pietrzak, and the former Chair of the Bar Council of Ireland Maura McNally SC.
What motivated you to become a barrister?
I had qualified as a solicitor in Ireland but not practised, then when I became a professor (at King’s College in London) I thought maybe now is the time to engage with practice and at this point the route that made most sense to me was to qualify as a barrister.
There is a connection between my academic work and the practice I do that really works with both parts of my life.
Dominic Raab is now back in charge at the Ministry of Justice - what does this mean for the Rule of Law and human rights?
We will see. Dominic Raab seems well-nigh obsessed with the Human Rights Act, and not in a good way, but because he is hemmed in by wider politics (such as the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol) he can’t just get rid of it. His Bill of Rights Bill over the summer was a ‘dog’s dinner’. One of the few things the hapless Truss administration got right was to kill it off. Raab needs to let the subject go and engage with the many other crucial sectors for which the Ministry of Justice has responsibility.
On the Rule of Law, we shall see whether he has more in his hostile repertoire than he has already produced by way of previous legislation. It seems hard to believe that there will be Parliamentary time made available for yet more hostile legislation on judges and so on, but then again Raab was such a loyal lieutenant to the current Prime Minister during the summer, who knows?
Given the range of Parliamentary proposals affecting access to justice, the Rule of Law, and human rights - which aspects of the current political agenda and associated public discourse is the most concerning?
The use of legislation as both a tool and a performative device to score cheap political points against the opposition, never mind the content, feels the most disconcerting. There has always been a bit of this in politics but now it seems to drive the Government’s whole approach to what laws are needed (in our area).
You once described the UK as a "mid-ranking, rather friendless country" - what would you suggest the new Prime Minister should do to improve the UK's reputation abroad?
Try going to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) and listening. Start making speeches about our colonial legacy and the need to get beyond it. Inaugurate a Museum of Imperialism. These initiatives would be a public service.
The Prime Minister could do all these things more easily than Keir Starmer - the right can hardly get rid of him, and he will most likely lose in two years anyway.
Professor Conor Gearty KC (Hon) is a founder member of Matrix Chambers and was among the set’s first academic members, he is also Professor of Human Rights Law at the London School of Economics (LSE), Vice-President for Social Sciences at the British Academy, a Bencher of Middle Temple and King’s Inn. His next book is entitled: Homeland Insecurity: The Rise and Rise of Global Anti-terrorism Law.
Read Conor's full biography and find out more about the other guest speakers at the Bar Council conference.