Postgraduate annual law lecture from leading barrister
The School of Business and Law welcomed Nicholas Griffin KC (King’s Counsel) to speak to our law students about justice and law.
His guest lecture, titled: Justice and the law in the wake of disaster, gathered a large group Brighton Law School students and staff.
The keynote talk focused on Nicholas’ experience of working in public inquiries, inquests, investigations and reviews, especially highlighting “the multiple processes that take place in parallel following an event of public concern, from criminal investigations to public inquiries, considered from the perspective of equality, fairness and efficiency.”
Nicholas is a leading barrister in the UK, who is a King’s Counsel. The Law Society defines King’s Counsel as: ‘Barristers or solicitor advocates who have been recognised for excellence in advocacy. They’re often seen as leaders in their area of law and generally take on more complex cases that require a higher level of legal expertise.’
He is also a Bencher, Inner Temple. The Inner Temple is an inn of court – ‘the Inns of Court hold the exclusive right to call students to practise law at the Bar of England and Wales’. There are four inns of court.
Nicholas has 30 years of experience working as a barrister and spoke to our students about examples such as the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the Undercover Policing Inquiry, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the UK Covid-19 Inquiry and the Fishmongers’ Hall Inquests.
He spoke about what it’s like to work on public interest cases, giving an insight into the terms of reference for public inquiries, what it’s like to not know what you’ll be working on next, and how the various cases intertwine.
“An inquiry finds an authoritative account of what happened,” he explained to our postgraduate and undergraduate law students.
He went on to explain that the purpose is fact-finding, analysis and formulating recommendations to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again in the future. He also noted that public inquiries incite accountability and aim to rebuild public confidence.
Nicholas explained there are statutory and non-statutory public inquiries, and the main difference is power versus flexibility.
A statutory inquiry has the power to request evidence but is less nimble, takes longer and costs more. A non-statutory inquiry doesn’t need to be public.
He then spoke about inquests, plus how inquests and public inquiries can lead to criminal proceedings.
When talking about some of the biggest cases Nicholas has worked on, he said: “Grenfell and Covid-19 have highlighted social issues, such as the wealth disparity in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
“The pandemic shone a big and uncomfortable light on inequalities across the UK, with disproportionate levels of exposure and deaths between those with disabilities, key workers, the elderly and ethnic minority groups.
“[Public inquiries] may perpetuate or exacerbate existing inequalities.”
Nicholas shared how these legal processes can be re-traumatising and alienating to those affected or involved. They can be uncomfortable and are often a lengthy process.
This guest lecture was fascinating for our audience, with lots of questions about his work on noteworthy public inquiries, as well as about what powers each procedure has.
We’re extremely grateful to Nicholas for visiting our home in Elm House, and a big thank you to our postgraduate law course leader, Adaeze Okoye, for arranging this visit.
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