Topic: Criminal evidence, human rights and procedural tradition: towards cosmopolitan common law or anarchy in the UK?

Presenter: Professor Paul Roberts - University of Nottingham

The Human Rights Act 1998 has now been in force in England and Wales for almost a decade. Its impact has been especially pronounced in relation to criminal evidence and procedure. The 'right to a fair trial' guaranteed by ECHR Article 6 generates by far the greatest volume of Strasbourg Court jurisprudence, and these developments now directly affect the interpretation of UK statutes and the development of the common law in criminal proceedings in England and Wales.

A European law of human rights with universalist aspirations presents a challenge for the domestic courts of states parties to the ECHR. To what extent can local procedural traditions be reconciled with the text of the Convention and its interpretational jurisprudence? This implicit tension in the ECHR system came to a head this year in a series of cases concerned with the admissibility of hearsay evidence in English criminal trials. Utilising these decisions as a detailed case-study, this paper considers how the common law might continue to evolve in more cosmopolitan directions without entirely abandoning its procedural traditions or playing into the hands of the current political backlash against the Human Rights Act. The UK experience may hold some comparative lessons for other common law jurisdictions (including Australian states) currently experimenting with or contemplating introducing human rights legislation. 

All welcome, no RSVP required.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: 3346 9350, email:

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