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Posted: 12.11.17

Sir Simon Hughes Delivers The Lord Atkin Lecture


On Friday 11th November, Sir Simon Hughes returned to his old school to deliver the 14th annual Lord Atkin Lecture to a packed audience of Sixth Form pupils, members of the legal profession and guests.

Previous speakers have included former Master of the Rolls the late Lord Bingham, former Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen, the Government’s former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation Lord Carlile of Berriew, expert in European Law, Professor Sir Alan Dashwood and last year Dominic Grieve MP, who spoke about Britain’s future with or without a written constitution.

Simon Hughes was born in Cheshire and brought up in England and Wales, attending Christ College for his secondary education. His university years were spent at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he graduated in Law and then studied at the College of Europe in Bruges.

Simon was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1974 and worked as a barrister before being elected to Parliament for his home constituency in 1983. He remained the MP for Bermondsey and the northern part of Southwark until 2015.

From 1983 he was a front bench spokesman in the House of Commons for the Liberals and Liberal Democrats until 2013, including on Education and as Deputy Commons Liberal Democrat Leader from 2010 – 2014. In December 2010 Simon was appointed as HMG Advocate for Access to Education, and reported to the Prime Minister in July 2011. From 2012-2014 Simon was a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights; from December 2013 to May 2015 he was Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties, and from 2014-2015 a Member of the Prime Ministers Holocaust Commission. In Parliament, Simon was founding Co-Chair of the All Party Groups on Conflict Issues and Islamophobia and Co-Chair of the Group on Youth Issues.

Simon has been an Honorary Fellow of London South Bank University since 1992, and is a Trustee of Bacon’s College, Chair of Governors at St. James’ CE Primary School, and a former Trustee of the Social Mobility Foundation.

Simon became a Privy Counsellor in 2010, and was knighted in 2015.

In February 2016, Simon was appointed as Head of Public Affairs at the Open University.

Sir Simon’s talk was entitled “Who decides who is guilty? Will trial by Jury always be with us?” In a talk that lasted just over an hour, he started by explaining the history of trial by jury in England and Wales and explaining the differences to the systems in Northern Ireland and Scotland. He also explained how trials differed across the world.

In a thought-provoking, in-depth, yet accessible narrative Sir Simon explained how the trial process worked in England and Wales and highlighted the pros and cons of trial by jury. He explained the options available to judges and juries and how, in some cases, trial by jury was not deemed the best process. This involved cases where it was felt the trial material was too complex such as fraud cases or too dangerous, such as trials of gang members, where jurors could be put at risk.

Sir Simon explained some of the recent changes to legislation governing trial by jury and also gave his predictions for the future.

During the question and answer session, Sir Simon dealt with numerous questions from an engrossed audience who were keen to seek his views on the justice system. The Sixth Form pupils posed some sharp, insightful questions to which Sir Simon responded with authority and humour.

A drinks reception was held afterwards where some keen, potential lawyers from the Sixth Form were able to spend time talking to our guest, whose pleasure in engaging with young people was evident. Sir Simon joined the Head and guests for a dinner later in the evening before returning to his numerous commitments back in London. It was a great pleasure to see him back again at Christ College and we hope to see more of him in the not too distant future.

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