We were privileged to welcome Emyr Lewis, Professor of Law and Head of the Department of Law & Criminology at Aberystwyth University to Christ College Brecon, to deliver a lecture on the long-lasting influence of Lord Atkin’s judgements. The lecture was greatly received by our audience of pupils and special guests, providing insight into his inspirational story.
“I protest, even if I do it alone” -Lord Atkin, Liberty and the Rule of Law
“The effects of Lord Atkin’s judgements are still felt in mainstream politics and legal proceedings today, and his decisions, like those of all judges, set a precedent. This particular lecture focused on the impact of Lord Atkin’s dissenting judgement in Liversidge v Andersen (1941).
The case involved the arrest at will of an individual “suspected” of having “hostile associations”. This was in accordance with fresh WW2 legal regulations, designed to rapidly detain those suspected of working against the war effort.
The detainee took the government to court over failing to receive an explanation for his arrest, simply having to accept the “reasonable cause” of the Foreign Secretary who had ordered his arrest.
The House of Lord’s voted 4-1 to uphold his detention, Lord Atkin being the only one against.
In his opposing judgement, Lord Atkin saw the decision of his fellow judges as a failure to act independently to preserve liberty and safety. He expressed his outrage by comparing one of his fellow judges to “Humpty Dumpty”, and arguing that the panel had acted in the interest of what was easiest for the government, giving it more power than had been intended.
The most fascinating part of the lecture was the exploration of how these principles are applied today: The Government’s Rwanda immigration scheme was ruled illegal in accordance with the ECHR due to the destination being deemed ‘unsafe’. This is the very same principle that Lord Atkin argued for in 1941, the preservation of the safety of the individual by the law.
Lord Atkin’s defiance, and moral fortitude live on to this day. He believed that the law’s purpose was to protect the defenceless, those who have no power under threats from the all-powerful.
On behalf of Christ College, I would like to thank Emyr Lewis for his inspiring and thought-provoking lecture. It was an opportunity to reflect upon the actions of an Old Breconian who has shaped modern social belief simply through his moral convictions.
The spirit of Lord Atkin’s judgement can be summarised by his statement: “I protest, even if I do it alone”.”
The lecture was inspiring for all who attended and was followed by a wonderful dinner courtesy of our talented caterers. Prof. Lewis spoke in a way that both people inside and outside of the profession could clearly understand, one to remember for all Breconians.
For the full lecture transcript, please visit: https://ccbcommunity.co.uk/news/school-news/249/249-2023-Lord-Atkin-Lecture
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