Lecture series on The Politics of the Courtroom looks at the Political Lawyer, the Politics of Jury Trials, and the State Appointment of Judges 

Gresham College, London’s oldest Higher Education Institution, is delighted to announce the appointment of Thomas Grant QC as a Visiting Professor of Politics and Law.

Thomas Grant QC is a leading silk in practice at Maitland Chambers. He is one of the busiest members of the English Bar.

Among the significant cases in which he has appeared are Clarke v Marlborough Fine Art (concerning the estate of Francis Bacon); JSC BTA Bank v Ablyazov (one of the largest fraud claims ever brought before the English courts); and the litigation concerning the administration of the estate of Boris Berezovsky.

He is also a well-known public speaker and writer, regularly contributing to newspapers and magazines, and with two best-selling books to his credit, most recently Court Number One, The Old Bailey: The Trials and Scandals that Shocked Modern Britain, published in paperback this month.

Visiting Professor Thomas Grant said:

“These lectures will look at the courts as quasi-political arenas – from the practice of law in Apartheid South Africa and the United States in the era of segregation, to British courts today. After the Brexit-related legal controversies of the last few years, there is currently a lively debate on the proper function of the law – and judges - in shaping wider society. In these lectures, I want to consider the role of the lawyer, the jury, and the judge as engines of political and societal change, and what impact government interference in judicial appointments might have on decision-making and the rule of law.”

As a Visiting Professor at Gresham, Thomas Grant QC will continue the College’s tradition of delivering free public lectures within the City of London and beyond. More than 2,500 past lectures are freely available to view on the College’s website.

Sir Richard J Evans, Provost of Gresham College, said:

“Gresham College is delighted to have secured the services of Thomas Grant QC as Visiting Professor of Politics and Law. He is well-known for his public communication skills and his writing, bringing an informed understanding of the law to a wider audience.”

The Lectures

In 2020-21, Visiting Professor Thomas Grant QC will give four lectures on The Politics of the Courtroom. Depending on how the Covid-19 situation develops, these will either be delivered at Barnard’s Inn Hall, or available only online.

The Political Lawyer Monday 19th October 2020, 6pm-7pm, (Barnard’s Inn Hall)/ online

Traditionally a lawyer’s own views and political affiliation are irrelevant to the pursuit of the legal process. This lecture will examine – and celebrate - the work of lawyers who have crossed the usual lines and worked for political change. It will look at the life of South African advocate Bram Fischer, who defended Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial, and was himself prosecuted for sabotage and sentenced to life in prison. It will consider modern examples of lawyers paying a heavy price for political engagement as well as the ethical issues that are engaged, asking: how far can a lawyer go?

The Political Jury Monday 11th January 2021, 6pm-7pm, Barnard’s Inn Hall/ online

Is the jury system the bulwark of individual liberty? This lecture will look at the role of the so-called “perverse jury” in acquitting defendants where the law, or the charge itself, is deemed unjust. Famous examples are Kempton Bunton (for the “theft” of Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington in the 1960s), Clive Ponting, and Michael Randle and Pat Pottle. But the jury can also be a bastion of prejudice: in Apartheid South Africa black defendants would typically elect for trial by judge alone, fearful of an all-white jury.  This lecture will ask whether the jury system needs improvement. Should its right to deliver a perverse verdict be curtailed?

The Politics of Judging Monday 29th March 2021, 6pm-7pm, Barnard’s Inn Hall/ online

In the wake of the decision in the parliamentary prorogation case Miller (No.2) the politics of the judiciary has been thrust into the public eye. Was it “a constitutional coup” as some have claimed? The Government has promised to “update the Human Rights Act” and review the “relationship between the government, parliament and the courts”. Will this limit the power of the judiciary to do justice? Do British judges have too much “power” and are they over-politicised?

The Politics of Judicial Appointment  Monday 10th May 2021, 6pm-7pm, Barnard’s Inn Hall/ online

In this lecture, Grant looks at the existing system of judicial appointments. Has the time come for some form of political appointment of Supreme Court judges? Should there be parliamentary scrutiny of judicial appointments? This lecture will contrast the position of British and American Supreme Court judges. It will look at the dangers of governmental interference in the judiciary, looking at historic examples in the Soviet Union and South Africa, and recent cases in Poland and Hungary. Might the politicisation of the judiciary challenge the international reputation of the British courts?

About Visiting Professor Thomas Grant QC

Thomas Grant QC was called to the Bar in 1993 and appointed a QC in 2013. He was educated at Colchester Royal Grammar School, Bristol University and City University. He started off his career in the chambers of George Carman QC, where he completed his pupillage with Hugh Tomlinson QC. He is now a member of Maitland Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, London, from which he practises in the fields of commercial, fraud, confidentiality, professional negligence, company and real estate law.

He is the joint editor of two leading textbooks, Lender Claims (2010, Sweet and Maxwell) and Civil Fraud (2018, Sweet and Maxwell). He is currently Vice-Chair of the Professional Negligence Bar Association, one of the leading specialist bar associations. He is also a popular writer about the law, regularly contributing to The Times, and other newspapers and magazines. His books Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories (John Murray, 2015) and Court Number One: The Old Bailey Trials that Defined Modern Britain (John Murray, 2019) were both bestsellers. He also writes and appears in an annual theatrical review at the Old Bailey, Trial and Error, which raises tens of thousands of pounds for charity.

Gresham During Coronavirus/ COVID-19

During the lockdown period in the UK, Gresham College has been live-streaming as many lectures as possible online. We are currently expecting to start the 2020-21 academic year online-only, but to gradually introduce in-person audiences as lockdown eases.

Note to Editors: 

Further information and photos from Lucia Graves in the press office: l.graves@gresham.ac.uk

As lockdown eases, press tickets will be available for lectures, and embargoed transcripts are sometimes available ahead of time: please email Lucia to ask.