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Durham Law School

Staff profile

Professor Gavin Phillipson, BA, LLM (Cantab)

Professor in Durham Law School
Ref Mentor, Durham Law School
Director of PGR Funding, Durham Law School
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42805
Fax: +44 (0) 191 33 42801
Room number: PCL218
Director of the Human Rights Centre

(email at


Gavin Phillipson has held a Chair in Law at the University of Durham since January 2007; he is a qualified solicitor and has been a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne. His research interests lie in the fields of public law, particularly areas of European and UK human rights law, and the interface of those fields with public law and constitutional and political theory. He has published widely in these areas in top UK, US and Canadian journals, including the Modern Law Review, Law Quarterly Review, Current Legal Problems, Cambridge Law Journal, Public Law, McGill Law Journal and Law & Contemporary Problems.

He has published three books, including, with Helen Fenwick, Media Freedom under the Human Rights Act (2006, OUP), a comparative and theoretically-informed treatment of areas of UK media law (favourably reviewed (2007) Public  852-855). A fourth - Debating Hate Speech (with Eric Heinze, Hart) - is forthcoming in 2018. He has given papers by invitation at numerous conferences and seminars overseas, including in Washington, Duke and George Washington Law Schools and the universities of CDPC Université Panthéon-Assas Paris, Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong, Monash, Melbourne, and UNSW (the latter two as visiting scholar). He has guest-taught comparative privacy law on the LLM programmes of Melbourne, Kings College London and City University, London.

His scholarship on horizontal effect and the development of a common law right to privacy (published in four articles in the Modern Law Review and in the Media Freedom book) has been of particular importance: it has been cited in and influenced judgments of the High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords and the New Zealand Court of Appeal, as well as being discussed with approval in a speech by Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court (2012). It was also used by the Media Lawyer’s Association in their intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Von Hannover v Germany (no 2) (2012) (Grand Chamber). In addition he gave evidence by invitation to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions (cited in its 2012 report); he was also asked to comment in 2012 on the DPP’s draft guidance on prosecuting journalists for privacy-related offences and influenced the final form of those guidelines. His evidence to the Law Commission on the areas of Contempt of Court (2013) and Hate Crime (2014) is cited and discussed extensively in he relevant Reports.

Professor Phillipson's work on defamation significantly impacted upon the recent reform of libel law. He was the academic member of the Ministry of Justice Working Group on Libel (2010) and drafted parts of its report. His evidence on the Defamation Bill to the Joint Committee on Human Rights was discussed extensively in the Committee’s Report (Dec 2012) and demonstrably influenced its conclusions. HIs work was also recently cited by the Northern Ireland Law Comimssion report on defamation. The above resulted in an Impact Case Study submitted by Durham University to REF 2014. Recently his work on the development of a new convention on the exercise of the war powers convention has been discussed by Parliament's Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (2014).

He has made frequent contributions to national and international media coverage of the above issues, including in the Telegraph, Sunday Times, Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Christian Science Monitor, Boston’s Chronicle of Higher Education, Norway’s Al Posten, and Denmark’s Politikein. He has been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Unreliable Evidence (2013), Law in Action (2014) and Summer Nights (2013) discussion programmes.

As a Professor, he has carried out four senior management roles: Chair of the LNAT Consortium, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Chair of the Undergraduate Exam Board and, most recently, Deputy Head of School. He has taught a wide range of subjects at both undergraduate and Master’s level. He has supervised ten postgradudate research students to successful completion and is currently supervising five more.

Teaching Areas

  • UK Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Comparative Free Speech Law
  • Comparative Privacy and Defamation
  • Advanced Issues in Public Law
  • European Human Rights Law
  • Media Law

Research Interests

  • Hate Speech, Comparative Free Speech Law
  • Public Law esp constitutional dialogue, the prerogative, bicameralism, constitutional conventions
  • The Human Rights Act esp judicial deference; horizontal effect.
  • Freedom of Speech and Media Freedom in English law esp defamation law
  • Privacy in English law and comparative privacy law.
  • Anti-terrorism law and human rights
  • Freedom of public protest, esp direct action.

Research Groups

  • Gender & Law at Durham
  • Human Rights Centre

Research Projects

  • Grants

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

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