The Sir Gerald Gordon Seminar on Criminal Law

Report by Professor Fiona Leverick, School of Law: On 13 June 2017, 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. The seminar is now in its ninth year. It was first held in 2009 – a date firmly imprinted on my memory as I attended it a month after giving birth to my daughter and had to swiftly (and not entirely successfully) transition from the world of nappies and sleepless nights to the discussion of topics such as the criminalisation of sado-masochistic assaults, witness anonymity and criminal law codification.

Following the success of the inaugural event, which led to a Festschrift, Essays in Criminal Law in Honour of Sir Gerald Gordon, the decision was taken to establish an annual generalist criminal law seminar, which is still the only such event in the UK academic calendar. In its first year, the seminar was attended only by academics. It has, however, gradually developed into a forum bringing together figures from the academic and practitioner community. This year there were 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 seven speakers on a wide variety of topics. Professor Lucia Zedner (University of Oxford) spoke about due process as safeguard by and from the state. Dr Ilona Cairns (University of Aberdeen) discussed the nature of the relationships that are covered by the criminal offence of domestic abuse, contrasting the draft Scottish legislation with the equivalent legislation in England and Wales. Dr Kevin Brown (Queen’s University Belfast) examined the highly controversial issue of public space protection orders, demonstrating how they have been used to exclude unpopular minorities. Dr Genevieve Lennon (University of Strathclyde) spoke about policing human rights, discussing some of the key cases stemming from both the European Court of Human Rights and the domestic courts. Jacob Bronsther (London School of Economics) argued for the justification of punishment on the basis of deterrence, putting forward and defending two theoretical accounts by which this might be achieved. Professor Ester Herlin-Karnell (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) spoke about EU preventive regulation and the idea of criminal law.

Finally, Professor Peter Alldridge (Queen Mary, University of London) gave an account of forfeiture provisions in the criminal and civil law, tracing their historical development and critically examining some of their possible justifications.

Any account of the seminar would not be complete without a few words about Sir Gerald himself. Sir Gerald Gordon CBE QC LLD is one of the most influential figures in Scottish criminal law and procedure. 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 fourth 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. He continues to edit Renton and Brown’s Criminal Procedure according to the Law of Scotland and the Scottish Criminal Case Reports and his presence at the seminar is an inspiration for all of us who work in the field of criminal law.

Next year’s seminar will take place on Thursday 7 June 2018 and, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the event, will include a public lecture by Lady Scott. Details will be available on the Sir Gerald Gordon seminar website in early 2018.

~ Professor Fiona Leverick (Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, School of Law)

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