Tom Bingham Memorial Essay Prize 2019

The Rt Hon the Lord Bingham of Cornhill (1933-2010) was a British barrister and judge (pictured). He served as Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and as Senior Lord of Appeal.  He had been described as ‘one of the world’s most acute legal minds’ and in 2011 his book The Rule of Law won the Orwell Prize for political writing.

Rt Hon the Lord Bingham of Cornhill

Those of you who are familiar with the OULS will be well aware that every year, the Open University Law School and the OULS work together to create an Essay Competition in memory of the late Lord Bingham. This year is no different. Much of the current political commentary today surrounds Brexit and the effects that this will have on our domestic legislation. Some such legislative proposals surround our Human Rights.


Therefore, the much anticipated question is:

“A state which savagely represses or persecutes sections of its people cannot in my view be regarded as observing the rule of law, even if the transport of the persecuted minority to the concentration camp or the compulsory exposure of female children on the mountainside is the subject of detailed laws duly enacted and scrupulously observed.” 

Tom Bingham, Rule of Law, p. 67

Critically evaluate the view that the protection of human rights is a fundamental feature of the rule of law. You should give consideration to different theories of the rule of law when writing your answer.


In this essay you are asked to consider whether protection of human rights should be considered to be part of the rule of law. You should ensure that you critically evaluate the statement as well as addressing the question.

When writing your answer you are likely to give consideration to ‘thin’ and ‘thick’ theories of the rule of law, and you will spend some time discussing Bingham’s own views on the protection of rights and the rule of law. You may wish to consult Tom Bingham’s own writings on the subject. This essay requires you to do research beyond the module materials of the Open University’s undergraduate law modules.

Competition rules, eligibility and further guidance on how to submit entries is available online. A certificate of own work must be submitted with all entries.

The deadline for entries is 17:00 (GMT) on 22 April 2019.


Prizes – Sponsored by Fountain Court Chambers

The prizes for the winner and runners-up have kindly been donated by Lord Bingham’s former chambers, Fountain Court Chambers. Fountain Court are a long established set of commercial barristers, based in the Temple, London and have a distinguished record of being involved in cases making new law. As well as an award winning chambers, Fountain Court offers a very attractive Training and Pupillage Award to the best and brightest candidates regardless of their background.

The winner of the competition will receive £250 and two runner-ups will receive £125, as well as certificates which will be presented at the OU’s Student and Alumni awards in July 2019.


Written by:

James Sudworth – OULS Vice Chair


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