Since the introduction of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill by the Thatcher government of the mid 1980s, Universities have been under a statutory duty to take reasonably practicable steps to secure freedom of speech within the law for members, students, employees and visiting speakers. In the wake of a number of recent, high-profile cases in which academics and others have faced being no platformed and worse, the government is arguing that the existing duty is inadequate to satisfactorily protect speech rights on campus, and has introduced a Bill into Parliament with the stated intention of enhancing the protection. In this session, Tom Cross contrasts the Bill with the current law and considers its implications. In particular: is the premise for the Bill well-founded, and is the enforcement toolkit which it envisages likely to be effective?
Tom Cross is a leading barrister who is visiting the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights during Michaelmas Term 2021. He is recognised by the leading directories as one of the most highly rated juniors at the UK Bar across numerous areas of practice, including administrative and public law, civil liberties and human rights, education, data protection, local government, employment and professional discipline. His many high profile cases in recent years, in which he has acted on all sides, include the ‘lockdown’ judicial review (Dolan), the challenge to the Census 2021 guidance (Fair Play for Women), Charlie Hughes’ battle for medicinal cannabis on the NHS, the challenge to Bermuda’s prohibition of same-sex marriage (Ferguson), the claim by Sir Philip Rutnam against the Home Secretary, the claim by Deliveroo Riders to ‘worker’ rights (IWGB), the Article 50 / Gina Miller litigation, the challenge to the Parole Board’s decision to release the “Black Cab Rapist” (DSD), and the school sex segregation case (Al-Hijrah). He is co-author of several textbooks including The Protections for Religious Rights: Law and Practice (OUP: 2013), Disciplinary and Regulatory Proceedings (Jordans: 2019), Judicial Review (Supperstone, Goudie and Walker) (LexisNexis, 6th Edn: 2019), and Education and the Courts (forthcoming), and speaks on a range of topics across media. His work at the Bonavero will focus on free and compelled speech in the UK education system, the efficacy of human rights law in regulating activity on social media, and the relationship, from a rights perspective, between the State and the family.