Her talk drew on experiences of practising at the Bar and 40 years in the field of criminal law, where she has conducted many leading cases, including the Balcombe Street Siege, the Brighton bombing trial, the Guildford Four Appeal, the Michael Bettany Espionage case, the Jihadist fertiliser bomb plot and the transatlantic bomb plot. She has also championed law reform for women, chaired the British Council and the UK Human Genetics Commission.
Expressing how education changed her life, Helena praised LJMU for being a champion of widening participation as she opened the Lecture. She also spoke of the Director of LJMU’s Foundation for Citizenship, Professor David Alton's dedication to human rights, which reflects the University’s own ethos.
Helena took the audience through the history of human rights since the Second World War, after which many people wanted a way to make societies fairer which led to the Welfare State and NHS being set up in the UK. She also raised the question of why the rules of law takes in some places and not others. From this, the discussion turned to future global challenges, including a battle for resources of water, oil and gas and climate change. Helena talked about how there is a need for a global law and that this is possible, emphasised by her example of Eleanor Roosevelt bringing together lawyers from across the world in 1947, with the result being that the same values were shared by all.
The idea that justice is about more than courtrooms was a main focus as Helena asked the audience to consider what justice actually means and how it should always incorporate the circumstances of the individuals involved.
Although there may be big challenges ahead for human rights, Helena highlighted the positives, from the decline of dictatorships across the last few decades to the success of international Corporate Law. She also stated her pride at the British Legal System and its role in the European Convention of Human Rights.
She stressed to the audience that everyone is a human rights champion and it is important to protect individual liberty and dignity, as freedom of speech brings the ability for people to learn and therefore create a better society.
Professor David Alton, Director of LJMU’s Foundation for Citizenship said:
“We are remarkably fortunate to have Helena Kennedy QC to deliver a Roscoe Lecture. Baroness Kennedy is insistent that any country which says it believes in the rule of law must be unprejudiced, reasonable and open to public scrutiny and where miscarriages of justice occur, they must be put right.”
The Good Citizenship Award was presented to Abbie Winstanley from Allanson Street Primary School, who is now in Year 7 at St Augustine’s. Her citation was read by Allanson Street Primary School Deputy Head, Paul Boyle who told the audience how Abbie epitomises the ideal young citizen through being kind, caring, reliable, a good friend, responsible, a good role model, trustworthy, hardworking, helpful and inspirational. During her time at Allanson Street, Abbie set up and ran Wake Up, Shake Up for Key Stage Two children, to help them to make a positive start to the day. During lunch she would also take on the role of peer mentor, encouraging younger children to develop the skills of being a good friend, taking turns and playing fairly. She is also a devoted big sister to her younger brother who has Down’s Syndrome. To make sure she can communicate with Alfie, she goes to a British Sign Language class every week and thoroughly enjoys helping mum to take care of him at home.
Allanson Primary School is one of around 800 schools and colleges who award LJMU Good Citizenship Awards.