The Putney Debates 2019 were held on 13-14 March at St Mary's Church, Putney, in association with the University of Oxford Law Faculty, to address the constitutional implications of the EU Referendum result for our judiciary.
The 2019 Debates were chaired by Denis Galligan, Oxford Emeritus Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, and the UK's leading legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg, who opened the debates on 13 March, the day after MPs had their ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit. With the prospect of a second referendum still in play, the Debates represented an invaluable opportunity for engaged citizens to put their questions to the expert panellists, including of Court of Appeal judges, defenders of civil liberties, legal and political commentators, and constitutional experts.
The Debaters examined the impact of the ‘Enemies of the People’ controversy and threats to the independence of the judiciary posed by populist movements in the UK and further afield.
Justice Robert E Sharpe set out the terms of the opening session, arguing that judicial review should not be seen as ‘politics by other means’.
Catherine Barnard, Cambridge Professor in EU Law and Senior Fellow in the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe project, exploded myths about the much-criticized European Court of Justice.
Linda Mulcahy, Oxford Professor of Socio-Legal Studies and Director of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, asked the audience to re-evaluate how we frame the question of judicial independence, emphasizing the need for accountability and transparency to increase public confidence in the justice system.
The Putney Debates 2019 were attended by over 100 people, who all received a free copy of Constitution in Crisis: The New Putney Debates, the book that accompanies the debates, featuring bitesize essays by prominent public intellectuals. The Times newspaper covered the debates in its edition on 14 March, describing it as offering some 'level-headed debate', in contrast to the debates in Westminster over the ongoing constitutional crisis caused by Brexit.
For those unable to attend the Putney Debates 2019 in person, both days of the debates were filmed, and videos are now available on FLJS video channel.