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BBC Lectures By One of Britain’s Top Lawyers Will Stir Controversy

BBC Lectures By One of Britain's Top Lawyers Will Stir Controversy 4
Image: The Guardian
BBC Lectures By One of Britain's Top Lawyers Will Stir Controversy 5
Image: The Guardian

The outspoken thoughts of one of the UK’s top lawyers Lord Sumption, will be closely listened to when he delivers key lectures on the BBC next year.

The broadcaster announced Lord Sumption, the snowy and wild haired former academic and QC, as delivering the renowned Reith Lectures on its Radio 4 next year in a series of five talks that will focus on the increasing role played by the courts with the ‘decline of politics’.

Lord Sumption has previously said that Parliament is defaulting on its role by leaving to the courts the key decisions that should be made by politicians.

He argues that the UK Human Rights Act 1998 is the culprit for expanding the role of judges into an arena that should be exclusively for elected representatives in parliament.

His lectures on the BBC will also be of keen interest to lawyers and law students who have closely watched the increased role of the judiciary, including its Supreme Court rulings in respect of the Brexit Article 50 case from 2016, which went against the government and became a major touchpoint of controversy and headline raising.

Lord Sumption will have retired by the time the lectures are delivered and will be provided a free reign to explain matters about the increased role of the UK judiciary and whether there should be a written constitution or not.

This was an issue that made headlines in 2011 and he has also been the subject of some controversy when appointed from the bar, where he worked on a number of major cases (see below)  to the Supreme Court, which was an eyebrow-raising promotion for those in the profession.

Rapid Elevation From Top Earning QC

Lord Sumption was made a QC at the early age of 38 and rapidly made a name for himself.

The Guardian once described him as being a member of the “million-a-year club”, the elite group of barristers earning over a million pounds a year.[15][8] He once commented in a letter to The Guardian in 2001 that his “puny £1.6 million a year” should be compared to the vastly larger amounts that comparable individuals in business, sports and entertainment are paid.[15]

Among his numerous court appearances prior to his elevation to the bench were  appearances in the Hutton Inquiry on the UK Government’s behalf,[2] in the Three Rivers case,[3] his appearances on behalf of the former Cabinet Minister Stephen Byers and his representation of the UK Department for Transport in the Railtrack private shareholders’ action against the British Government.[4] He also defended the Government in an Appeal hearing brought by Binyam Mohamed,[5] and appeared in the successful defence of the controversial Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in a private lawsuit brought by Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.[6]

The Reith lectures were launched in 1948 in honour of the BBC’s first director-general, Sir John Reith, and have become a prestigious platform for a variety of academics, professionals and thinkers on some key issues.  As radio talks they are similar nonetheless to TED talks and are consumed by those interested in the vital issues of the day.

Among those who have been invited to deliver the lectures are Stephen Hawking, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and others.

The Cambridge Debate: Should Lawyers Wishing to Practice Law Study at University?

On 27 February 2013 the Faculty of Law hosted an important and lively debate between Lord Sumption and Professor Graham Virgo on the motion ‘Those who wish to Practise Law should not Study Law at University’.

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