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LSE human rights academic says he’d ‘love’ to have a public debate with Lord Sumption, who slammed him in a scathing book review

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34

Why not?

Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption has written a pretty scathing review of a book written by London School of Economics law academic Conor Gearty.

The professor’s On Fantasy Island. Britain, Europe and Human Rights defends the Human Rights Act 1998 against the “fantasies” driving arguments for its repeal. Though perhaps an unsurprising line for human rights specialist Gearty to take, Sumption — a high-earning commercial barrister turned judge — doesn’t seem convinced. He thinks Gearty fails to acknowledge counter-arguments and adopts an “abrasive rhetoric” in his writing. Because of this, Gearty’s book:

[W]ill cheer those who already agree with him, it will do nothing to convert the sceptics.

Continuing his Gearty-directed onslaught in academic journal the Law Quarterly Review, Sumption says he cites “no evidence” for some of the assertions he makes and is “excessively fond of extravagant philippics.”

Sumption does note the book contains “much that is serious and valuable.” For example, its defence of the European Convention on Human Rights against press and political criticism in chapters five to ten is “argued with verve and learning.” That said, he is particularly critical of the “basin of abuse” Gearty throws at those who do not agree with his views. In Sumption’s words:

Underlying much of this is what seems, at any rate to this reviewer, to be a misconception of real burden of the case on the other side.

The wild-haired Supreme Court justice — who recently donned a series of funny ties while hearing the Brexit legal challenge — added:

In [Gearty’s] view, those who disagree are suffering from the delusions of post-imperial nostalgia and resentment of Britain’s declining place in the world, which is why they do not want to live by the same rules as the rest of Europe or accept the views of a foreign tribunal. No doubt there are people who do think like this. But it is hardly a fair summary of the position of the more thoughtful objectors.

Despite the harsh words, Gearty appears to have taken the whole thing in his stride. Having been made aware of the review when Legal Cheek got in touch, Gearty, a founding member of Matrix Chambers, said in response:

This is a serious review making some very strong points, some very positive about the book, some critical. I think it may well be that Lord Sumption and I have very different views of the extent to which the common law protected civil liberties in the past, and on the operation of the Convention today. I’d love to debate him in a public forum but I imagine that would never be possible — perhaps [Legal Cheek] would want to host it!

Unfortunately, having run this public debate idea past Sumption’s people, we’ve been told the review speaks for itself and that there is nothing he wishes to add to it.

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34 Comments

Lord Sumption

Cash me outside how about dah?

(59)(1)

Anonymous

All legit criticism of the book, in my opinion.

It seems the criticism was at the content of the book and not personally. It should be taken as such.

There are plenty of examples where he HRA has been used / cynically exploited by people who do not want to face the consequences of their own criminal behaviour – e.g. Article 8, Right to family and private life engaged to fight deportations back to countries of origin when the def has committed a murder, for example.

The HRA does in fact, need to be changed or repealed and replaced.

Bit MAD to ASSUME that all people who have concerns about the “uses and abuses” / good and bad of the HRA are somehow nostalgic for old imperial days of yore and that “Brits just don’t want to follow the rules” – a creative imagination on the part of the author. The author is in no position to make controversial judgments about people who simply hold a different view.

There are problems with the HRA and how it is used.

I am young, university going female (EU national) and certainly don’t feel this way. It is more about FAIRNESS and a BALANCE between the right of the population to be safe and free from physical harm against one persons repeated criminal convictions and right to a family life. The rule of law (which the HRA sometimes undermines by blocking deportation for a criminal offence when it is prescribed in statute) also plays a part.

(4)(15)

Anonymous

“e.g. Article 8, Right to family and private life engaged to fight deportations back to countries of origin when the def has committed a murder, for example.”

This doesn’t happen. If you plead Article 8 you’d be lucky to avoid deportation for a simple overstay after the expiry of your visa, never mind if you’d murdered someone. You’d have to have the most unbelievable set of private/family life circumstances imaginable, such as say 3 children in the UK all with terminal illnesses and a talking cat who can only survive on British Whiskas.

(19)(4)

Anonymous

I’m saying there are parts of the HRA that are good, there are parts of the HRA that are bad.

Sometimes the bad outweighs the good.

The right of a rapist to stay in the country after serving their sentence?
The rights of terrorists to stay in the country despite incitement of racial hatred whilst simultaneously living off the public purse?

These are not “SUB – EDITORS” of the daily mail, I wish it was, the above statements are preposterous and unfortunately TRUE.

The current situation in relation to the HRA is absurd. It is literally self – satirising the true intentions and purpose of the act itself.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11577057/Somali-rapist-can-stay-in-Britain-on-human-rights-grounds.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9076344/The-abuse-of-the-Human-Rights-Act.html

(0)(1)

Anonymous

You are just plain wrong.

Cynical exploitation of the HRA.

There are good points to he HRA, there are bad points of the HRA.

The bad points need to be addressed – by amendment.

Read this –

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11577057/Somali-rapist-can-stay-in-Britain-on-human-rights-grounds.html

(0)(4)

Anonymous

Terrorists exploit the HRA.

Seems like the HRA, while its intentions are good, is a bit like tax legislation. – Too many loopholes and unintended outcomes that was never the intention of Parliament, nor the original drafters of the ECHR:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11381944/Human-Rights-Act-has-helped-28-terrorists-to-stay-in-UK.html

Seems like you cant point out the obvious problems without wrongly being accused of being a daily mail sub editor…………what happened to reasonable debate?

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Terrorists exploit the HRA? Adam Wagner used to spend a lot of time debunking hysterical right-wing newspaper articles like that. He doesn’t bother any more. He says that rational argument won’t work against stuff that exists only to feed the unconscious id. Instead you need counter-propaganda.

Mind you, I have never been sure that Adam sees human rights in quite the same way many other people do.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Why is it people who want to SCALE BACK our HUMAN RIGHTS always have to emphasise with CAPITALISATION.

Is it a kind of nervous tic or are they all SUB-EDITORS for THE DAILY MAIL and THE EXPRESS?

(The fact Legal Cheek does this is not a good sign. Take note, mods.)

(12)(3)

Anonymous

You are an ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.

(9)(1)

LegalRec

Bit WEIRD to use CAPITALS for no apparent reason…

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Young and with quite a lot to learn I’d say…

(0)(0)

Not Amused

Of course he wants a public debate. The entire area of human rights is populated by narcissists. He’s not going to just sit back and engage in thoughtful reflection is he …

(9)(14)

Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

What is wrong with you? Why do you insist on being a tool at every turn? Tell me, do you ever look at anything and think “oh that’s nice”? Doesn’t being such a negative wanker just become so draining, so depressing?

Go outside and get a job.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

You ok, hon?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Conor Gearty is the best law teacher I’ve ever had, truly inspirational and absolutely hilarious.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

He’s definitely up there. Him and Mike Redmayne – RIP 🙁 – top it for me.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Cue comments from people who have read neither the book nor the review, and who cannot say which part of the ECHR they would want to drop. Cue another Legal Cheek grief fest full of libertarian millenials complaining about the left and minorities.

Sumption’s review is the closest thing you’ll see to an out and out hatchet job from a serving judge. Because Sumption made the Supreme Court, at a very early stage in his career, precisely because the government understood him to be “anti” human rights. See the speech he gave a few years ago in Kuala Lumpur (or Singapore? Neither jurisdictions are especially rights driven) where he opined that fundamental rights are dependent on budgets. It is the coda to his Supreme Court appointment.

Gearty, on the other hand, is just a little complacent. Most of the middle classes were and still are. Pre-Brexit, they thought all this was not going to happen, because it was so ridiculous. But half of any population is below average intelligence, and thus successful populist movements are often ridiculous, even while being terrible , even to the point of genocide. But Sumption wants to pretend that everything is just dandy, and in keeping with some illusory common law tradition, a pretence designed to benefit himself and the courts. That’s worse than Gearty’s complacency.

Sumption shouldn’t have reviewed the book. It was too political a task. But Sumption himself is a walking symbol of the politicisation of the Supreme Court.

(14)(2)

Anonymous

You are spot on in saying that Sumption is the embodiment of this smug, lawyerly, ‘the Common Law has all the answers’ pseudo intellectual bullsh1t.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

@10.09

Ooh, you little rascal! You started with Convention rights, moved on to Brexit, slipped “genocide” in and walked away whistling.

Bad. Very bad.

(2)(0)

Politically blind syndrome sufferer

“Cue another Legal Cheek grief fest full of libertarian millenials complaining about the left and minorities.”

What does this mean 10:09?
What’s a libertarian millennial?

(0)(2)

Politically blind syndrome sufferer

O thanks for that 10:09. LC are young adult libertarians who complain about lefties and minorities.
I should have thought libertarians would complain about the rule of law generally.
Why should they complain about minorities?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Shirts off in the car park.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

suns out guns out

(3)(3)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(1)

Just my 2 cents

I read both, and while the book was occasionally a little heavy on the rhetoric, what I found astonishing was that Sumption, who has previously found the time to write some very thoughtful and subtle judgments, decided to criticise Gearty’s ‘selective’ use of case law, and rebut him with… no case law at all. His article does not speak for itself. It posits what might be a legitimate criticism if properly backed up, but an ex-Oxford professor ought to know that an assertion is the beginning, not the end, of a convincing arguments. I’m sure the article will do much to embolden his supporters, but he too is preaching to the choir.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

You realise that Sumption’s article is a book review, not an essay?

(5)(3)

Just my 2 cents

Yep, a book review in the LQR by someone who should know better than to leave points half baked. Especially if he is going to follow up by responding to an offer of a proper debate by saying that his review ‘speaks for itself’ and that it has nothing more to say. The point is, it doesn’t speak for itself.

(2)(1)

SingaporeSwing

It’s a difficult one, but it does seem that the issues relating to the ECHR are becoming more and more political.

(0)(0)

Blacker the Sequel of the Prequel

I wrote a book review once, it was a tour de force critique of the Oxford Reading Tree series, dissecting the motives of Biff, Chip and Kipper.

I still don’t trust Kipper, I think he’s part of the Kremlin. I will elaborate in my new book: Blacker’s Best Bits.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Sumption thinks he’s Jamie Vardy

(1)(0)

Mrs Peacock

Quite disgraceful tittle tattle for plebs. Quite beneath ladies and gentlemen of distinction

(0)(1)

A drunk man looks at a thistle

Conor Gearty was UK and Ireland debating champion twice running. In a debate format he’s shit hot.

Of course, Sumption is barely a slouch…

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Sumption was just a paperwork barrister wasn’t he, for the most part?

(0)(1)

Comments are closed.