Sandy Steel

Sandy SteelPlease can you tell us a bit about your background?

I grew up in Motherwell, around 15 miles south east of Glasgow. At one time the town produced most of the steel in Scotland. Motherwell FC are known as the Steelmen (and, less impressively, ‘The Dossers’). It was, therefore, an almost irresistibly alluring locale for the Steel family. Its allure may, however, be considered in other respects resistible.

Nearby, in Newarthill, I attended Keir Hardie Memorial Primary School, close to where my grandparents lived, Keir Hardie being born a few miles from there. And then I went on to Hutchesons’ Grammar School in Glasgow, with the help of a bursary. I had a terrific Latin and Greek teacher and was very tempted to read Classics at university but ultimately opted for Law, studying at Cambridge. David Ibbetson and Nigel Simmonds supervised me in Tort, Contract, Legal History and Jurisprudence; they both unlocked and greatly encouraged my interest in legal philosophy and comparative law. I became fascinated with puzzles surrounding causation in the law (this one is still a favourite) and I wrote my PhD on when legal systems should hold people liable in tort without proof of causation.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m finishing a book on the distinction between acts and (pure) omissions in tort. This distinction is often invoked to explain and justify the (non-)existence of a duty or liability. Perhaps as often, though, it is not really explained what it is for conduct to be an act or pure omission. And sometimes other distinctions are (incorrectly) invoked as if they were equivalent to the act v omission distinction – for example, making worse v not making better, causing v not preventing harm. So part of the book is given over to better understanding the distinction, explaining its connection to these others, and ultimately arguing that the distinction is better replaced with one of its apparent equivalents. In the rest of the book I examine situations in which the law holds people to be under duties or liabilities with respect to pure omissions and seek to explain the grounds of these exceptional situations.

What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time?

I play jazz piano, sometimes in a trio/quartet. Here’s a far superior Scottish jazz pianist (playing a tune with a lockdown-apt title).

Sandy Steel's cat - RawlsDo you have any pets?

A cat, Rawls.







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