Lord Kerr Essay Competition 2023
The Young Lawyers Committee were delighted to hold the Lord Kerr Competition for the second year running. The essay question was ‘Is there a human right to live free from poverty? Should there be?’
On 4 July, we held an event to celebrate the essay competition and our winners, featuring a panel discussion, prize-giving and an opportunity to network with fellow HRLA members.
The event began with an introduction from Patrick Kerr, whose kind donation in the name of his father makes the essay competition possible. We were reminded of the significant role Lord Kerr played in protecting human rights, and how proud we are to continue his legacy through this essay competition.
We then moved onto a panel discussion on the topic ‘Does the UK need a Bill of Socioeconomic Rights?’, where we were joined by three excellent panelists – Professor Geraldine Van Bueren KC, Dr Koldo Casla and Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC. All contributed to a lively discussion where the panelists stressed the urgency of affording protection to socio-economic rights in the UK, but also emphasised the care we need to take in doing so – ensuring we protect the position of the Human Rights Act and situate the debate within the challenging political backdrop of the UK. We are very grateful to the panelists for sharing their thought-provoking views on this topic, and for the great questions asked by audience members that helped continue the conversation.
We then announced the winners and runners-up of this year’s competition, as follows:
Winner: Alexis Boddy
Runners up: Francesca Jackson and Rhiannon Maher
The winners essay by Alexis Boddy can be read on the UK Supreme Court Blog. The runners ups essays are on the HRLA website. Francesca Jacksons essay can be found here, and Rhiannon Mahers essay can be found here.
All entries were of extremely high quality, and the committee were delighted to see that the competition is continuing to grow from its inauguration last year. We would like to thank everyone who submitted an entry, all our fantastic judges who gave up their time to mark, our brilliant panelists, all the event attendees and of course, Patrick Kerr for making this all possible. We all look forward to seeing the competition continue next year!
About the Lord Kerr Essay Competition
Lord Brian Francis Kerr, Baron Kerr of Tonaghmore, PC, was a Northern Irish barrister and a senior judge who was Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and then a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. At the time of his retirement, he was the longest-serving Supreme Court Justice and the last original member of the Court. Lord Kerr was an energetic courtroom interrogator who became an ardent defender of individual citizens’ human rights. He was a progressive figure whose rulings advanced the rights of women and children and resolved controversies from the Troubles. He was most proud of the court’s 2018 ruling that eventually led to the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. With other justices, he concluded that the Northern Ireland assembly’s law on abortion was incompatible with human rights. Following his passing, the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) received a gift donation from his son, Patrick Kerr to create an opportunity that celebrates the formidable legal career that Lord Kerr had through his influential judicial understanding of human rights and the law. From this gift, the HRLA and the Young Lawyers’ Committee (YLC) have created an essay competition that focuses on a contemporary human rights issue.