Biography

Rebecca Williams is a Professor of Public Law and Criminal Law, in association with Pembroke College. Rebecca was previously a fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge, having done her PhD at Birmingham. Before that she was both an undergraduate and a BCL student at Worcester College, Oxford. Rebecca's principal teaching interests are criminal law and public law, and her research interests include:

 

  • Law and Computer Science
  • Criminal Law (including EU criminal law)
  • Public Law (including EU and US public law and comparative approaches)
  • The interrelationship between public law and unjust enrichment

Increasingly her work focuses on the relationship of law and technology and the ways in which the law will need to develop in order to keep pace with technological developments and together with Professor Tom Melham from the Department of Computer Science and Dr Václav Janeček from the Faculty of law she is a co-founder of OLTEP, the Oxford LawTech Education Programme. Her work also includes examining optimum methods of decision-making and the use of criminal law as a form of regulation and it has been cited in the European Court of Justice, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales, and the High Court of Australia.

Publications

Recent additions

  • Václav Janeček and R Williams, 'Education for the Provision of Technologically Enhanced Legal Services' (2021) Computer Law & Security Review 1
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clsr.2020.105519
    Legal professionals increasingly rely on digital technologies when they provide legal services. The most advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) promise great advancements of legal services, but lawyers are traditionally not educated in the field of digital technology and thus cannot fully unlock the potential of such technologies in their practice. In this paper, we identify five distinct skills and knowledge gaps that prevent lawyers from implementing AI and digital technology in the provision of legal services and suggest concrete models for education and training in this area. Our findings and recommendations are based on a series of semi-structured interviews, design and delivery of an experimental course in ‘Law and Computer Science’, and an analysis of the empirical data in view of wider debates in the literature concerning legal education and 21st century skills.
  • R Williams, 'The Theoretical Basis of Accomplice LIability' in Beatrice Krebs (ed), Accessorial Liability after Jogee (Hart 2020)
    Argues that accessory liability has essentially pragmatic foundations, meaning that when it is necessary to decide some detailed aspect of the doctrine there is no sufficient normative foundation that can be used to guide the answer. This explains the difficulties and repeated appeals involving the doctrine. Two potential underlying normative justifications are suggested, approval or a partially causal approach, but argues that neither can be used to explain all aspects of the current law and that were either to be adopted consistently this would involve changes in the substantive law and the operation of the doctrine.
    ISBN: 9781509918904
  • R Williams, 'UK Criminal Law: Just Another Regulatory Tool?' in Matthew Dyson, Benjamin Vogel (ed), The Limits of Criminal Law: Anglo-German Concepts and Principles (Intersentia 2018)
    Argues that attempts simply to use criminal law as a regulatory 'big stick' are bound to fail. Draws on the work of Robinson and Darley, and the experience of cartel criminalisation in the UK to suggest how criminal law might lead public opinion rather than simply following it.

Journal Article (9)

Václav Janeček and R Williams, 'Education for the Provision of Technologically Enhanced Legal Services' (2021) Computer Law & Security Review 1
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clsr.2020.105519
Legal professionals increasingly rely on digital technologies when they provide legal services. The most advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) promise great advancements of legal services, but lawyers are traditionally not educated in the field of digital technology and thus cannot fully unlock the potential of such technologies in their practice. In this paper, we identify five distinct skills and knowledge gaps that prevent lawyers from implementing AI and digital technology in the provision of legal services and suggest concrete models for education and training in this area. Our findings and recommendations are based on a series of semi-structured interviews, design and delivery of an experimental course in ‘Law and Computer Science’, and an analysis of the empirical data in view of wider debates in the literature concerning legal education and 21st century skills.
R Williams, 'Structuring Substantive Review' [2017] Public Law 109
The question whether Wednesbury should be “buried” or “consigned to the dustbin of history” and replaced with proportionality has received a great deal of attention, not least from the Supreme Court, whose members have taken different perspectives on the same issue within the space of the last two years, and in Keyu, the Supreme Court’s most recent decision on the topic, Lord Kerr suggested that “a final conclusion on the question whether proportionality should supplant rationality as a ground of judicial review” may have to be “frankly addressed by [the Supreme] court sooner rather than later”. Wednesbury and its apparent alternative, proportionality, are thus presented as mutually exclusive alternatives, “bluntly opposed to each other” such that we have to choose between “bifurcation” or the replacement of Wednesbury with proportionality. On this view, proportionality is seen as entailing, as Lord Neuberger put it in Keyu, “implications which are profound in constitutional terms and very wide in applicable scope”. The argument here, however, is that there is relatively little to choose between these two approaches. Within common law rationality review the courts already undertake precisely the same kind of reasoning as they do under proportionality. This has recently been recognised by the Supreme Court in Kennedy and Pham, by Lords Mance and Kerr in Keyu, and by Lord Carnwath in Rotherham v BIS. There certainly are different kinds of substantive review, but as these cases have demonstated, these differences derive directly from the subject matter of the cases, rather than from any inherent distinction between proportionality and rationality. As for the academic debate, by focusing principally on the Wednesbury v proportionality issue this has, to some extent, become diverted from its main objectives. Both those who advocate proportionality and those who advocate bifurcation are concerned to enhance the clarity and predictability of review, while also maintaining the vital appeal/review distinction. But in fact neither proportionality as it currently operates, nor Wednesbury, delivers these desired benefits across the board. It will therefore be further argued that we should move away from focusing on issues of classification, and focus instead on the two key issues at the heart of all forms of judicial review, namely what in substance is alleged to have gone wrong with the decision, and how intensively that issue is to be reviewed.
R Williams, 'The Multiple Doctrines of Legitimate Expectations ' (2016) Law Quarterly Review 639
Argues that the law of legitimate expectations can be better understood by subdividing it into a series of different kinds of expectation, each of which has a different normative basis. Understanding these different bases can then inform the 'ingredients' necessary for the upholding of the expectation as well as the appropriate remedy. This in turn will provide greater guidance and less uncertainty for public authorities.
R Williams, 'Voluntary intoxication – A lost cause?' (2013) Law Quarterly Review 264
The article argues that there are two key problems with the current law concerning voluntary intoxication. First, the rules applicable so-called crimes of basic intent, contrary to some of the more recent case law, can in fact only apply coherently to reckless result crimes. Second, given the differences between the threshold for liability for sober defendants and the threshold for liability for voluntarily intoxicated defendants, the current rules amount in cases of basic intent to criminalisation of the intoxication itself. If this is to be the case, the article argues that the law should take this approach openly, so that in any case where the defendant lacks mens rea as a result of voluntary intoxication (s)he should be convicted instead of a new statutory offence of 'committing the actus reus of offence X while intoxicated', which could also apply coherently to all offences.
R Williams, 'Deception, Mistake and Vitiation of the Victim\\\'s Consent' (2008) 124(Jan) Law Quarterly Review 132
ISBN: 0023-933X
R Williams, 'When is an Error not an Error? Reform of Jurisdictional Review of Error of Law and Fact' [2007] 2007(Winter) Public Law 793
ISBN: 0033-3565
R Williams, 'The Beginnings of a Public Law of Unjust Enrichment?' (2005) 16(1) King's College Law Journal 194
ISBN: 0961-5768
R Williams and Professor Christopher F. Forsyth, 'Closing Chapter in the Immigrant Children Saga: Substantive Legitimate Expectations and Administrative Justice in Hong Kong' (2002) 10 Asia Pacific Law Review 29
Article discussing the closing stages of a series of judgments given by the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong concerning the interpretation of Article 24 of the Basic Law on the right of residence in Hong Kong. The piece argues that the Hong Kong executive, Legal Aid Board and Court system all found the technique of informal communication useful in managing claims for residence, but that the usefulness of this technique on future occasions is dependent on full protection being given to the expectations it creates so that trust in the administration can be maintained. The article also discusses some of the general background theory and doctrine concerning legitimate expectations in administrative law more generally and argues that although the courts are often concerned with the numbers of people claiming legitimate expectations, in fact there may be more subtle issues to consider such as whether the class of persons is finite and identifiable.
ISBN: 1019-2557

Chapter (7)

R Williams, 'The Theoretical Basis of Accomplice LIability' in Beatrice Krebs (ed), Accessorial Liability after Jogee (Hart 2020)
Argues that accessory liability has essentially pragmatic foundations, meaning that when it is necessary to decide some detailed aspect of the doctrine there is no sufficient normative foundation that can be used to guide the answer. This explains the difficulties and repeated appeals involving the doctrine. Two potential underlying normative justifications are suggested, approval or a partially causal approach, but argues that neither can be used to explain all aspects of the current law and that were either to be adopted consistently this would involve changes in the substantive law and the operation of the doctrine.
ISBN: 9781509918904
R Williams, 'UK Criminal Law: Just Another Regulatory Tool?' in Matthew Dyson, Benjamin Vogel (ed), The Limits of Criminal Law: Anglo-German Concepts and Principles (Intersentia 2018)
Argues that attempts simply to use criminal law as a regulatory 'big stick' are bound to fail. Draws on the work of Robinson and Darley, and the experience of cartel criminalisation in the UK to suggest how criminal law might lead public opinion rather than simply following it.
R Williams, 'R v Flattery, a landmark, a door or a floodgate?' in Handler and Mares (eds), Landmark Cases in Criminal Law (OUP 2016)
Considers the case of R v Flattery and its impact on the subsequent law on vitiation of consent to sex by mistake/deception.
R Williams, 'Overpaid Taxes: A Hybrid Public and Private Approach' in Birke Haecker, Charles Mitchell, Steven Elliott (ed), Restitution of Overpaid Tax (2013)
Continues the argument developed in 'Unjust Enrichment and Public law' in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court in FII. Argues that in Deutsche Morgan Grenfell the House of Lords took a wrong turning on the law of unjust enrichment in a public law context, a decision which has led to unnecessary and avoidable litigation, as evidenced by FII. Suggests that such litigation could in future be avoided by reversing the Deutsche Morgan Grenfell decision and adopting the hybrid public and private approach to cases of unjust enrichment involving public bodies.
ISBN: 9781849461733
R Williams, 'Cartels in the Criminal Law Landscape' in Caron Beaton-Wells & Ariel Ezrachi (ed), Criminalising Cartels (2011)
The chapter focuses on cartel criminalisation from the criminal law perspective, charting how the process of criminaliation fits within the current landscape of criminal law, particularly in England and Wales. It examines the compromises necessary if the criminal law is to be used to regulate cartel behaviour without damage to that project or indeed to the criminal law more widely.
R Williams and N Padfield, 'Le Cas Anglais: L’absence d'interactions? ' in Geneviève Giudicelli-Delage, Stefano Manacorda (ed), Cour de Justice et Justice Pénale en Europe (2010)

Case Note (2)

R Williams, 'Lady & Kid and others v Skatteministeriet and Ministre du Budget, des Comptes publics et de la Fonction publique v Accor SA: Unjust Enrichment and the European Court of Justice, a loss of national competence and principle?' [2011] British Tax Review 631 [Case Note]
Casenote arguing that in two recent decisions, Lady & Kid and Accor, the ECJ has extended its involvement in national causes of action in unjust enrichment still further. But by denying all defences to such claims other than a very literal version of the passing on defence, without hearing proper principled argument on the range of defences which might be available, the ECJ has replaced a loss of competence at national level but not the corresponding loss of principled reasoning. The casenote argues that these decisions thus provide further evidence of the problematic nature of the ECJ's so-called 'remedies jurisprudence'.
R Williams and R Shiers, 'FII GLO (Chancery) and F J Chalke; tax and restitution developing hand-in-hand' [2009] British Tax Review 365 [Case Note]
The authors examine the recent domestic decisions in the FII Group Litigation Order and F J Chalke, and demonstrate the significance of these taxation cases for the future development of the law of unjust enrichment. They consider in particular the impact of European case law in this area.

Book (1)

R Williams, Unjust Enrichment and Public Law: A comparative study of England, France and the EU (Hart Publishing 2010)
Since the decisions in R v IRC ex p Woolwich Equitable Building Society in 1990 and Hazell v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC in 1991, the courts have had, in a variety of contexts, to grapple with the relationship between unjust enrichment, public law and the law of the European Community. 20 years later, the decision of the European Court of Justice in Metallgesellschaft and Hoecsht v IRC in 2001 has led to a further explosion of such cases, many of which are still making their way through the courts. The central aim of this book is to examine such claims in France, England and the EC. The author argues that so far these cases have been viewed from either a public or private law perspective, whereas in fact both branches of the law are relevant, and the courts ought not to lose sight of the public law issues when a claim is brought under the private law of unjust enrichment. Support for this position is drawn from an examination of French law, which demonstrates that neither adoption of the ‘without cause’ approach to unjust enrichment, nor the longer-standing existence of a separate concept of public law removes the necessity for such a hybrid public and private understanding of the cases. Finally, in order to complete the picture the book examines cases where the limit on the public body’s powers derives, not from domestic public law, but from the law of the EC. Thus a further aspect of the book is that it analyses more specifically what is often referred to as the ECJ’s ‘remedies’ jurisprudence in order to investigate the division of labour between the European courts and the domestic courts in defining such claims.
ISBN: 1841134147 / 9781841

Other (5)

R Williams, 'Unjust Enrichment in EU Law' (2000) Bar European Group Bar European Group Seminar
King's College London Strand Campus Members of the Bar European Group. I was invited to speak alongside Laurence Rabinowitz QC by Tom de la Mare of Blackstone Chambers and the event was chaired by Lord Justice Etherton.

Research programmes

Research projects

Research Interests

 
  • Criminal Law (including EU criminal law)
  • Public Law (including EU and US public law and comparative approaches)
  • Law and technology
  • The relationship between law and technology
  • The interrelationship between public law and unjust enrichment

Options taught

Administrative Law, Criminal Law (Mods)

Research projects