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Covid, Criminal Justice and Human Rights - Watch the film

May 20, 2021

Covid has revolutionised the process of criminal justice. Both defendants and witnesses have been forced or cajoled to appear on a video link into court. And most suspects in police custody have had virtual rather than face-to-face advice. But what implications do these changes have for human rights? Research indicates that effective participation and fair trial rights are compromised by virtual justice.

At the same time, the government has changed the criminal law on an almost weekly basis through complex and often unclear regulations made by secondary legislation. This has impacted on every aspect on our lives. A particularly interesting case study is the right to protest which has been sidelined – perhaps even blocked altogether – by the criminal laws enforcing lockdowns.

Highly acclaimed human rights advocates: Penelope Gibbs (Director, Transform Justice) and Adam Wagner (Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers), explore these themes around criminal justice and human rights. Chaired by Kellogg Fellow and Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law, Shreya Atrey.


About the speakers and chair

Adam Wagner is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and a Visiting Professor of Law at Goldsmiths University of London. For the past year he has been Specialist Advisor to the Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into the human rights impacts of the government’s policies on Covid-19 and has acted in a number of challenges to Covid regulations.

Penelope Gibbs is visiting fellow at Kellogg College. She worked in radio production and at the BBC before being inspired to influence social change in the third sector. She set up the Voluntary Action Media Unit at TimeBank before joining the Prison Reform Trust to run the Out of Trouble – a five year campaign to reduce child and youth imprisonment. In 2012 Penelope set up Transform Justice, a charity which advocates for a better justice system in England and Wales – a system which is fairer, more open, more humane and more effective. Transform Justice promotes change by generating research and evidence to show how the system works and how it could be improved. Penelope has researched and written a number of publications for Transform Justice including: Justice denied? The experience of unrepresented defendants in the criminal courts; Magistrates: representatives of the people?; and Defendants on video- conveyor belt justice or a revolution in access? She blogs regularly on virtual justice issues:

Penelope has also volunteered in the justice system – she sat as a magistrate for three years and was chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice.

Shreya Atrey is an Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the Department for Continuing Education and the Faculty of Law, based at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights. Her research is on discrimination law, feminist theory, poverty and disability law. Her monograph, Intersectional Discrimination (OUP 2019), which won the runners-up Peter Birks Book Prize in 2020, presents an account of intersectionality theory in comparative discrimination law. Previously, she was based at the University of Bristol Law School (2017-19). She was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence in 2016-17 and a Hauser Postdoctoral Global Fellow at the NYU School of Law, New York in 2015-16. She completed BCL with distinction and DPhil in Law on the Rhodes Scholarship from Magdalen College, University of Oxford. Shreya is currently an associate member of the Oxford Human Rights Hub and an Official Fellow of Kellogg College.

The Oxford Human Rights Hub (OxHRH) aims to bring together academics, practitioners, and policy-makers from across the globe to advance the understanding and protection of human rights and equality. Through the vigorous exchange of ideas and resources, we strive to facilitate a better understanding of human rights principles, to develop new approaches to policy, and to influence the development of human rights law and practice.