Forthcoming conference: Legal and Judicial Legacies of Empire

Thursday 5 June 2014

The impact of Britain's legal legacy on the countries of the former empire will be analysed and discussed by some of the finest legal brains in the Commonwealth on Tuesday June 17 at Senate House.

It’s the sixth in a series of conferences exploring the legacy of the British Empire for today’s Commonwealth countries. The series is intended to enable practitioners, both past and present, to record the practical effect of that legacy in their various countries. This conference is organised jointly by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS), the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association and the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association (OSPA).  It is being funded and sponsored by OSPA, the international law firm Stephenson Harwood, the Commonwealth Secretariat Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division, and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies which, like the ICwS, is a member of London University's School of Advanced Study.

Legal and Judicial Legacies of Empire boasts a line-up of speakers that reads like a who’s who of the international judiciary. Among the legal experts are former chief justices from Guyana (Justice Desiree Bernard) and from Lesotho (Mahapela Lehohla), India’s former Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee and a Sharia judge from Malaysia, Dr Haji Mohd Na’im Mokhtar. They are joined by barristers, leading law academics and human rights experts.

Lord Judge, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, will set the scene for this one-day event with an opening keynote address entitled, Some thoughts on Magna Carta. Nearly 800 years old, the Magna Carta, has been an influential document for democracy and constitutional law worldwide.

As the Director of the ICwS, Professor Philip Murphy notes ‘one of the central research interests of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies is the way in which the legacies of European expansion and imperialism in earlier centuries are of continuing relevance to contemporary society and international relations. The legal legacy of Empire is one of the most marked.  As such, we and our partner organisations are delighted to be able to bring together such a distinguished group of practitioners and academics to discuss this important issue’.

The conference programme is divided into five sessions and includes discussions on: the application of English law and other legal systems in the Empire and after Independence; the Evolution of Courts; the Dark Side of the Moon: the Legacy of old Laws; Human Rights and the New Common Law of the Commonwealth.  The conference is open to anybody interested in these topics, with the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.

Journalists interested in attending Legal and Judicial Legacies of Empire should contact Events Manager Olga Jimenez on +44 (0)20 7862 8871 /

Notes for editors:

1.   For further information please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study, University of London at / 020 7862 8670 (office) / 07808 102 735 (mobile) or David Le Breton at OSPA ( / 01732 363836).

2.   The Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) is the only postgraduate academic institution in the UK devoted to the study of the Commonwealth. Founded in 1949, its purpose is to promote interdisciplinary and inter-regional research on the Commonwealth and its member nations in the fields of history, politics and other social sciences.  Its areas of specialism include international development, governance, human rights, north-south relations and conflict and security.  The Institute of Commonwealth Studies is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

3.   The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) was founded in 1947 as a national academic institution serving all universities through its national legal research library.  Its function is to promote, facilitate and disseminate the results of advanced study and research in the discipline of law, for the benefit of persons and institutions in the UK and abroad.  Its areas of speciality include arbitration and dispute settlement, company law, comparative law, economic crime, financial services law and legislative studies and law reform, and the legal profession and delivery of legal services. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

4.  The School of Advanced Study, University of London (SAS) is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2012-13, SAS welcomed 833 research fellows and associates; held 2,231 research dissemination events; received 21.7 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 194,529 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.

5.   The Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) is a charitable association and the only international association bringing together judges and magistrates at all levels to advance the administration of the law by promoting the independence of the judiciary; to advance education in the law and administration of justice, and to disseminate information and literature on all matters of interest concerning the legal process within the Commonwealth.

6.   The Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) fosters and promotes high standards of legal education in the Commonwealth. The Association has an online open access peer-reviewed journal and newsletter as well as learning and teaching resources which can be adapted for use in law teaching. CLEA are responsible for the Commonwealth Moot, a prestigious competition for law students, with regional heats and a final which takes place at the CLA Conference and is decided by Judges from the Commonwealth. We also provide a focal point for a network of law teachers throughout the Commonwealth who have a shared interest in the teaching of law.

7.   Commonwealth Secretariat Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division (LCAD) facilitates cooperation among member countries in constitutional and international law, the development and administration of systems of justice, and in combating serious and transnational crime.  This legal cooperation is a unique feature of the Commonwealth, made possible because member countries have similar legal systems, most based on or greatly influenced by the common law.  In all its work LCAD seeks to collaborate with the legal professional bodies in the Commonwealth including the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association, Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association, Commonwealth Legal Education Association and other specialist professional groups.

8.  The Overseas Service Pensioners' Association (OSPA) was founded in 1960, with the primary object of the protection of the pension arrangements for Overseas Service officers and widows.  But the chief interest now is in spreading a better understanding of what the Colonial Service (since 1954 properly called Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service – HMOCS) was, who its members were, what they did, why and how they did it, and to what effect.  More generally, what was their life like?  This information needs to be out on public record so that people today and in the future can know about and have access to first-hand evidence of how the colonial territories were governed and developed in the closing years of Empire, especially after 1945.