On 9 June 2016, the annual Sir Gerald Gordon seminar on criminal law took place at the University of Glasgow, supported by the Clark Foundation for Legal Education and the Faculty of Advocates, and attended by Sir Gerald himself. Sir Gerald Gordon CBE QC LLD has been one of the most influential figures in Scottish criminal law and procedure in the last century. He was Professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University from 1972 until 1976 and his work The Criminal Law of Scotland was one of the first volumes to be published in the prestigious Scottish Universities Law Institute (SULI) series in 1967. It is now in its third edition and is regarded as the leading source on Scots criminal law by the courts (where it is frequently cited) and academics alike. Sir Gerald was a sheriff from 1976 to 1999 and a temporary High Court Judge until 2004. He was a member of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission from its inception in 1999 until 2009. He was knighted in 1999, having previously been made a CBE, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2002.
The first Sir Gerald Gordon seminar was held in 2009. Following the success of this event, the decision was taken to establish an annual generalist criminal law seminar – the only such event in the UK academic calendar. In the last seven years, the Sir Gerald Gordon seminar has become a key event for Scottish criminal lawyers, bringing together leading figures from the academic and practitioner community, with delegates in attendance from the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.
At this year’s seminar, papers were presented by six speakers on a wide variety of topics. Professor John Jackson (Nottingham) spoke about whether there is a need for special counsel in criminal proceedings. Dr Hannah Quirk (Manchester) gave a paper in which she voiced her concerns about the manner in which historical sex abuse enquiries are dealt with, both within and outside the criminal justice system. Professor Nicola Lacey (LSE) gave a presentation in which she outlined the argument contained in her recently published book, In Search of Criminal Responsibility: Ideas, Interests and Institutions. Dr Matt Gibson (Liverpool) spoke about the way in which religious practice is dealt with by the criminal law and pointed out the inconsistency with which the law has granted exemptions to criminal liability on this basis. Professor Pamela Ferguson (Dundee) gave a presentation entitled ‘Whither Criminal Procedure?’ in which she discussed the idea of a plea of ‘innocence’ and evaluated the safeguards against wrongful conviction in Scottish criminal procedure. Finally, as is usual in this event, one slot was reserved for a postgraduate student and this year Linn Döring (Max Planck Institute, Freiburg) delivered an excellent presentation on the subject of criminalising social workers for failures in child protection cases in Germany.
Next year’s seminar will take place on Tuesday 17 June 2017 – details will be available on the Sir Gerald Gordon seminar webpages in early 2017.
~ Professor Fiona Leverick