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ssm41@cam.ac.uk

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Tutor in Constitutional Law and Human Rights Law and Fellow/Bye-Fellow at Fitzwilliam and King's Colleges

Ph.D (Cantab) (Yorke Prize recipient); LL.M (First) (Cantab); Grad Dip Legal Practice (Griffith University); LL.B (First) (Griffith University); BSc (Psychological Science) (Griffith University)

Interests

My research examines the ways in which public law impacts upon, and can provide protections for, especially vulnerable sections of society. I am currently engaged in two projects, one of which builds upon the research I conducted for both my thesis and monograph and the second relates to the text that I am co-authoring on human rights law in the United Kingdom.

The first project broadly concerns medical treatment of children and stems from the work I have conducted on assisted dying and for a series of articles (which are regularly updated) on medical treatment of children published on Westlaw. More specifically, I am examining the ways in which judicial decision-making relating to life-sustaining medical treatment of Gillick-competent and capacitous minors (i.e. those aged 16 or 17 years) has emasculated their rights when it comes to medical decision-making. This constriction of rights has been particularly felt by children who belong to certain faiths, most notably Jehovah’s Witnesses.

My research, which employs a combination of methodologies including doctrinal, medico-legal, theoretical and comparative, has revealed that the wishes of Gillick competent and capacitous children are regularly disregarded by courts when dealing with issues surrounding life-sustaining treatment, despite doctrine consistently reasserting the fundamentality of wishes to a determination of best interests. This inconsistency between principle and application is not unique to the United Kingdom, with courts in other common law jurisdictions such as Canada and Australia adopting similar approaches. The case law indicates that, despite repeated assertions to the contrary, sanctity of life concerns carry preeminent weight and, in the overwhelming majority of cases, will trump the autonomy and, indeed, bodily integrity, of children, including those who are very close to becoming an adult under the law. This approach is anomalous when contrasted with the way in which courts (both in the UK and internationally) treat capacitous and, indeed, incapacitous adults, who have expressed clear wishes to cease (or not be administered with) life-sustaining treatment. When examined through the lens of rights, this inconsistency of approach is particularly acute: while courts have repeatedly confirmed that sanctity of life concerns are important but not preeminent when it comes to decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment of adults, and other rights such as freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment and religious freedom are especially important, the same principles do not appear to apply to children. My research questions whether, having regard to relevant human rights principles, this differential treatment of Gillick competent and capacitous children vis-à-vis adults can be justified. In particular, I am examining whether the concept of best interests is differently conceptualised when it comes to children? And, does the conceptualisation of best interests employed by the courts when deciding whether life-sustaining treatment of Gillick competent and capacitous children ought to be continued or administered comply with relevant human rights standards? My initial research suggests that the courts’ consistent diminishment of the wishes of older children in the context of life-sustaining medical treatment raises significant issues in terms of the rights of children including, for instance, Articles 3 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 3 and 9) and Articles 12 and 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The second aspect of my research examines the role of human rights in the context of domestic abuse, in particular the scope and function of the State’s positive obligations under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Following the Grand Chamber’s 2021 decision in Kurt v Austria, in which the Court held that states have an obligation to carry out “autonomous, proactive and comprehensive” lethality risk assessments, it is necessary to consider whether the UK’s current legislative and regulative regimes relating to domestic abuse comply with its (new) obligations under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

My research also considers the limitations in the reasoning of Kurt, in particular the majority’s conclusion that there was no breach on the facts and what subsequent decisions of the court mean in terms of the protection of victims of domestic abuse who belong to particularly vulnerable groups, for instance women from minority ethnicities. While there is some indication in recent cases that the European Court of Human Rights is aware of the limitations of the Grand Chamber’s reasoning, there is a pressing need for principled development of the Kurt requirements to ensure that the progress made by the Court benefits all victims of domestic abuse. In particular, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights puts into stark focus the implications for marginalised members of society of judicial decision-making which fails to appreciate the intersectionality of domestic abuse and ethnicity, sexuality, religion and so on. Noting these limitations, my research considers whether the contents and enforcement of the Istanbul Convention can provide assistance in bolstering the protections that flow from Kurt.

 

CV / Biography

Ph.D (Cantab) (Yorke Prize recipient); LL.M (First) (Cantab); Grad Dip Legal Practice (Griffith University); LL.B (First) (Griffith University); BSc (Psychological Science) (Griffith University)

PhD in Law, Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge (2016-2019) 

  • Yorke Prize recipient (2021)
  • Gonville and Caius Tapp Scholarship
  • Cambridge Australia Scholarships Fulton Scholarship

LL.M (First), Trinity Hall College, University of Cambridge (2014 – 2015)

  • Sir William Wade Prize for Civil Liberties and Human Rights
  • Trinity Hall Bateman Scholarship
  • Executive Member, Cambridge Pro Bono Project
  • Editor, Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law

Queensland Bar Association Bar Practice Course (2014)

  • Successfully completed March 2014

Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice (2012)

  • Admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland

Bachelor of Laws (First Class Hons) / Bachelor of Psychological Science (Griffith University) (2004-2009)

  • Law School Medal (awarded to the first-ranked graduate)
  • University Medal (awarded for academic excellence)
  • Griffith Award for Academic Excellence (2005 – 2009)
  • Top Student Award for Research Extension (Honours Thesis) (2009)
  • Top Student Award for Innocence Project II (2009)
  • Top Student Award for Law of Politics (2009)
  • Social Justice Award (2009)
  • Top Student Award for Evidence Law (2008)
  • Top Student Award for the Innocence Project I (2008)

Teaching experience

  • Lecturer in Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge (2019 – ongoing). Includes delivering lectures in constitutional law, administrative law and the LL.M Law and Information subject, and supervising dissertations in the Puplic Law seminar
  • Supervisor, constitutional law and tort law University of Cambridge (2019  – ongoing)
  • Teaching Associate, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge (2015 – 2019). Included overseeing LL.M workshops in Civil Liberties and Human Rights, providing supervisions in human rights law and running the case law analysis seminars in the Legal Skills and Methodolgy undergraduate course
  • Guest lecturer, Kings College London, Professor Penney Lewis's 'Medical Ethics and Law' seminar (7 November 2017)
  • Tutor: Villiers Park ‘Inspiring Excellence Programme’ in Law (March 2016; March 2017)
  • Sessional Lecturer: Griffith Law School (2013)
  • Tutor: Department of Politics and Public Policy, Griffith University (2008-2009)
  • Tutor: Griffith University, GUMURRII Student Support Unit (2007-2009)

Research experience

  • Headnoter for ‘European Human Rights Reports’: 2016 – 2019
  • Provision of research assistance to Dr Kristy Hughes (University Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge): 2015 – 2018
  • Provision of research assistance to Dr Kathleen Liddell (University Senior Lecturer; Director Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences): 2016
  • Provision of research assistance to Dr Stephanie Palmer (Senior University Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge): 2015 – 2019
  • Provision of research assistance to Professor Dapo Akande (Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford): 2015 – 2016
  • Provision of research assistance to Ms Jo Miles (Fellow and Director of Studies (Trinity College); University Senior Lecturer in Law): 2016
  • Provision of research assistance to Dr Veronika Fikfak (Lecturer and Fellow in Law, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge): 2015, 2017-18, including assistance with the preparation of a research memorandum for use in litigation before the United Kingdom Supreme Court concerning withdrawal of CANH of patients in a PVS
  • Research Assistant to Head of Griffith Law School Griffith University: 2008-2009

Other experience

  • Presenter, Third International Conference on End of Life, Law, Ethics, Policy, and Practice, Ghent, Belgium, March 2019
  • Presenter, Trinity College Law Student Colloquium, 3 February 2018
  • Presenter, Second International Conference on End of Life, Law, Ethics, Policy, and Practice, Halifax NS, 15 September 2017
  • Declarations Human Rights Podcast, Centre for Governance & Human Rights (University of Cambrige), 'Is there a right to die?'
  • Presenter, Cambridge Cancer Centre Early Detection Programme Annual Symposium, 16 January 2017
  • Presenter, The Future of Registered Partnerships (a Durham-Cambridge Family Law Conference), 11 & 12 July 2015

Publications

Books

  • Human Rights Law in the UK: Themes and Principles (with Drs Kirsty Hughes and Stephanie Palmer) (CUP: forthcoming)
  • Assisted suicide and the European Convention on Human Rights (Routledge: 2021)

Book chapters

  • ‘Real and immediate risk’, ‘Domestic violence’, ‘Life’, ‘Death Penalty’, ‘Preventive operational measures’, ‘Life, protected by law’ in Istrefi and Ratniece (eds), Companion to the European Convention on Human Rights (Brill, 2023)
  • ‘Abortion and the “right to choose”: Roe v Wade and consumer rights’ in Ramsay and Gardner (eds), Landmark Cases in Consumer Law (Hart Publishing: forthcoming)
  • ‘Assisted dying’ in Slokenberga, Garland and Singer (eds), Children’s Rights in Biomedicine in Europe: Protecting Children in Pursuit of the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (forthcoming)
  • 'Registration of relationships in Australia', in Scherpe and Hayward (eds), The Future of Registered Partnerships (Intersentia, 2017)

Articles

  • 'Mavericks or misconception? A reply to Campbell and Allan' (2021) 48 Journal of Law and Society 1, 106-119
  • 'Public health emergencies and human rights: Problematic jurisprudence arising from the covid-19 pandemic’, (2020) 5 European Human Rights Law Review 488-498 (with Dr Stephanie Palmer)
  • 'Declaratory misgivings: assisted suicide in a post-Nicklinson context' (2018) 2 Public Law 209
  • 'Assisted suicide and the European Convention on Human Rights: A critical analysis of the case law' (2018) 21 Trinity College Law Review 244
  • 'A human rights perspective of assisted suicide: accounting for disparate jurisprudence', (2018) 26 Medical Law Review 1
  • ‘Sovereignty and the responsibility to protect: co-dependent or mutually exclusive?’ (2011) 20 Griffith Law Review 1

Case notes

  • ‘Mud sticks: Publication of information about pre-charge criminal investigations and the tort of misuse of private information’ Cambridge Law Journal (forthcoming)
  • 'Deference, "fairness" and accountability in the national security context' (2021) 80 Cambridge Law Journal 2, 209-212
  • 'Friends of the Earth: "Government Policy", relevant considerations and human rights' (2021) 33 Journal of Environmental Law 2, 449-454
  • ‘False imprisonment vis-à-vis deprivation of liberty: Smashing the ossuary’ (2020) 79 Cambridge Law Journal 2
  • ‘The meaning of “Public Assembly”: Policing Protest in the 21st Century’ (2020) 79 The Cambridge Law Journal 1
  • 'Who Gets the Ventilator? Important Legal Rights in the Covid-19 Pandemic', Journal of Medical Ethics (2020) (with Drs Liddell, Skopek, Palmer and J Anderson and A Sagar)

 

Online (Westlaw entries, Blogposts etc)

Book reviews

  • Book review: 'Medical decision-making on behalf of young children: A comparative perspective. By Imogen Goold, Cressida Auckland and Jonathan Herring (eds)' [Hart Publishing, 2020 pp 390, Hardback, ISBN 978-1-50992-856-9, Oxford, £80.00] (2021) 35 International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family 1
  • Book review: 'Principled Reasoning in Human Rights Adjudication. By Se-Shauna Wheatle' [Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2017. xvi 234 pp. Hardback £64.99. ISBN 978-1-78225-981-7.] (2018) 77  Cambridge Law Journal (2) 435-438