Public International Law and the Public Good

By Dr Lee McConnell, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School

Notions of the ‘public good’ or ‘public interest’ are found in many areas of legal doctrine and discourse. At the international level, references to such ideals are perhaps most common in the context of human rights, but they are also present in many other subfields of international law. The UN Charter commits itself to the promotion of ‘social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom’, and to the ‘economic and social advancement of all peoples’. In the domain of State responsibility, erga omnes norms are said to be owed to ‘the international community as a whole’ (Barcelona Traction at [33]). The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea designates areas of the seabed and ocean floor as ‘the common heritage of mankind’ (Art 126 and preamble). The Outer Space Treaty provides that space exploration ‘shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries’ (Art 1). The GATT/WTO agreements recognise that trade relations should be ‘conducted with a view to raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income’ worldwide (Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, preamble). As this brief survey demonstrates, international law is a field that ‘tells a story of its own progressive development, and of its prominent role in the betterment of others’ (Sinclair, 2017: 2) It is a field which portrays itself as playing a substantial role in responding to global concerns, and as possessing ‘an immanent progressive value for the world, for civilization, for humanity’ (Skouretis, 2011: 6). (more…)

The unbearable lightness of being in the public interest

by John Coggon, Professor of Law, University of Bristol Law School

The public interest has no single, fixed definition. Even as a technical term of art its sense varies both for being context dependent and for being a question that may be settled by different sorts of institutional actor. It may, for instance, demand consideration of national security, national economic interest, protection of health, maintenance of a justice system, protection of fundamental rights. And determinations may be made by courts, politicians, legislators, executive agencies, and so on. Each can and will bring different forms and ranges of consideration to the process of determining what the public interest demands, and whether those demands are compelling. (more…)

Reflections on Fourteen Years of Conservative Rule

Bringing together reflections from different members of the Centre for European and Public Law at the University of Bristol Law School, this collection focuses on the legacy of Conservative rule. Phil Syrpis questions how long the question of the UK’s relationship with the EU can be left to one side. Emily Hancox considers the various mechanisms adopted to deal with the legacies of EU law in the UK in the light of broader constitutional trends. Robert Greally reflects on the balance between the ‘politics of power’ and the ‘politics of support’ in the Conservative Party’s constitutional statecraft since 2010.

Picture by Edward Massey


The Public Interest, Law, and Regulation: Clear, Consistent, and Coherent Relationships?

by John Coggon, Edward Kirton-Darling, Margherita Pieraccini, Albert Sanchez-Graells, University of Bristol Law School

Rick Payne and team / Better Images of AI / Ai is… Banner / CC-BY 4.0

Widely in legal education, research, and practice, and across different areas of legal jurisdiction, law is a discipline that is characterised by its sharp division into sub-disciplines. With this division comes super-specialisation. That specialisation has the effect of inviting in-depth focus on discrete areas of law and regulation, without claims to expertise or application across the whole. At the same time, though, there are some basic legal concepts and phenomena that span the different ways that we might carve up the legal system. One, of course, is the concept of law itself. And there is a diversity of others, such as rights, duties, enforceability, and burdens of proof. A significant concept on that list is the public interest: a consequential aspect of law and regulation in practice and legal analysis. (more…)

Is Mr Bates vs the Post Office reviving a wider public concern for alleged innocent victims of wrongful convictions?

by Dr Michael Naughton, Reader in Sociology and Law (University of Bristol Law School and  School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS))

This article asks if Mr Bates vs the Post Office is reviving a wider public concern for alleged innocent victims of wrongful convictions that was lost with the setting up of the CCRC?


I remember Gerry Conlon once saying to me that he was glad that he was wrongly convicted in England rather than his native Northern Ireland. His reasoning was that it was so common for Catholics to be wrongly convicted in Northern Ireland during the so called ‘Troubles’ that those who were wrongly convicted were unlikely to even challenge their convictions because they didn’t have any confidence or faith in the system to overturn them. By contrast, Gerry continued, British people had such faith in their criminal justice system that when they found out through stories in the mainstream media, newspapers, television, radio, that innocent victims had been wrongful convicted they were so outraged that they bombarded their MPs and demanded that those convictions were overturned. (more…)

Seven sorts of reasons to support the Tobacco and Vapes Bill 2024’s (apparently) strange approach to age limits

by Professor John Coggon, University of Bristol Law School

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill’s introduction to, and now passage through, Parliament has reignited debates on fundamentals of political authority and public health ethics; debates about the meaning and reach of fundamental freedoms, the scope and limits of the state’s protective functions, and ultimately the boundaries of legitimate government intervention. Amongst its provisions, particular interest has been sparked by the bill’s creation of an offence of selling tobacco products, herbal smoking products, and cigarette papers to persons born on or after 1st January, 2009, and the buying of such products for such persons. Questions have been raised about the coherence and justifiability of these measures. Limitations defined by reference to a fixed birth date rather than a specified age (say a ban regarding persons under 18) are not unprecedented. But they are extraordinary. However, both the extraordinariness here, and its moral significance, have been overstated. In this blog, I give background critical context, and then explain seven sorts of reasons why the bill’s approach is less remarkable than may be thought—and with that, rather harder to challenge. (more…)

Decolonisation, Anti-Racism, and Legal Pedagogy: Strategies, Successes, and Challenges

by Professor Foluke Adebisi, University of Bristol Law School

In 2021, I, Suhraiya Jivraj and Ntina Tzouvala undertook a project to curate pedagogical perspectives on teaching legacies of empire in law schools across different continents. The result was an edited collection with a specific focus on post- and decolonial thought as well as on anti-racist methods in pedagogy. Decolonisation, Anti-Racism, and Legal Pedagogy: Strategies, Successes, and Challenges. Taylor & Francis, 2023.

With contributions from diverse jurisdictions, including India, South Africa, Australia, and Canada, the volume aims to critically examine the ways that decolonisation and anti-racism can be innovated in legal pedagogy. We hoped to demonstrate how teaching can be modified and adapted to address long-standing colonial and racial injustice in the curriculum. For more on our initial vision for the volume, see the original call for papers. (more…)

Do IT Workers Need Labour Rights? A Critical Look at Gig Contracts as an Intermediate Employment Model in Ukraine

by Yana Simutina, Visiting Professor, University of Bristol Law School

(Photo: UNDP in Ukraine/Internews)

The digitalisaton and emergence of the gig economy has led to significant changes in employment and labour relations around the world. As businesses seek more flexible and cost-effective solutions for hiring workers, policymakers are considering adapting the regulatory framework to the challenges of new forms work. Ukraine, a country undergoing economic and social transformation, has experienced growth in the digital sector over the last decade (especially before the full-scale Russian invasion). Against this background, a new legal framework for IT companies is called Diia.City was launched in 2021 by adopting the Law on Stimulating the Development of the Digital Economy in Ukraine (LSDDE). The LSDDE introduced new legal concepts such as the ‘gig contract’, which is not legally defined or applied in other jurisdictions or EU law. In any case, the use of the term ‘gig’ is associated with digital platforms and fragmented activities carried out outside the framework of traditional forms of employment, with irregular or additional income without labour protection. Given that the ‘gig contract’ category has a rather negative connotation from a labour law perspective, several questions arise. First, what are the potential benefits and challenges of this employment model? Secondly, in a broader context, are gig contracts a sustainable solution to the challenges of employment relations in the digital economy, or do they further blur the boundaries between civil and labour law? (more…)

Is the Loss and Damage Fund all that it promises to be? Examining some of the Fund’s shortcomings and putting things into perspective after COP 28

By Alexia Kaplan, LLM Student, University of Bristol Law School,

Friends of the Earth International

COP 28, the latest United Nations Climate Conference, came to an end in December 2023. It began with an agreement to launch the loss and damage fund, which was kick-started by the UAE’s $100 million pledge. A further 15 countries followed suit, making pledges of varying amounts, and by 2 December 2023, a cumulative total of $655.9 million had been pledged to the loss and damage fund. The fund has been heralded by many as the biggest success of the entire conference and a historic agreement – being the first time that a substantive decision was adopted on the first day of the Conference. The delegates of nations present from around the world, rose in a standing ovation when the agreement was passed. (more…)

Loss and Damage in Developed Countries: Who or what gets left behind?

by Temitope Tunbi Onifade, University of Bristol Law School


Vanuatu’s proposal for ‘an International Climate Fund to finance measures to counter the adverse consequences of climate change, and a separate International Insurance Pool to provide financial insurance against the consequences of sea level rise’ put the issue of loss and damage on the agenda during the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1991. This agenda has evolved to refer to negotiations on ways to address extreme weather and slow onset events not fully dealt with by adaptation measures. Powerful jurisdictions such as the United States and European Union uniformly opposed it when it first came up and for many years after. However, this attitude has gradually changed at subsequent meetings of the highest decision-making body of the convention, called Conference of the Parties (COP). (more…)