Professor Ian Cram
Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law
I am a Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law.
My new book is entitled 'Citizen Journalists: Newer Media, Republican Moments and the Constitution' and is published in January 2016 as part of the Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series. The book explores the phenomenon of ‘citizen journalism’ from a legal and constitutional perspective. It describes and evaluates emerging patterns of communication between a new and diverse set of speakers and their audiences. Drawing upon political theory, the book considers the extent to which the constitutional and legal frameworks of modern liberal states allow for a ‘contestatory space’ that advances the scope for non-traditional speakers to participate in policy debates and to hold elites to account.
From January - June 2018, I will be a Visiting Research Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom, EUI, Florence.
In May 2017, I was appointed to the list of independent legal experts of the European Parliament's Research Service to provide advice to the Parliament on Administrative, Comparative and Constitutional Law topics. I will serve a four year term until July 2021.
I have recently appeared as an expert witness on constitutional reform at the House of Commons and in 2015 was cited by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee in its report Revisiting the Cabinet Manual (HC 233; 2014-15)
My previously published work on Contempt of Court has been referred to by the Law Commission in various reports on this subject Scandalising the Court (Law Comm No.335; Dec 2012); Juror Misconduct and Internet Publications (Law Comm No. 340, December 2013) and Court Reporting (Law Comm 344; March 2014)
I acted as General Editor for the new edition of Borrie & Lowe The Law of Contempt that was published in 2010.
I serve on the Board of Editors of the International Comparative Law Quarterly.
My main research interests are in the fields of public law and comparative constitutional Law, with special reference to freedom of expression.
I teach constitutional law, media law, human rights and administrative law.
I would be happy to consider potential PhD students in the fields of:
- public law
- comparative constitutional law
- human rights.
Citizen Journalists Newer Media, Republican Moments and the Constitution, Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015),
This monograph explores the phenomenon of ‘citizen journalism’ from a legal and constitutional perspective. It describes and evaluates emerging patterns of communication between a new and diverse set of speakers and their audiences. Drawing upon political theory, the book considers the extent to which the constitutional and legal frameworks of modern liberal states allow for a ‘contestatory space’ that advances the scope for non-traditional speakers to participate in policy debates and to hold elites to account.
Terror and the War on Dissent (Springer, 2009),
‘Amending the constitution’, Legal Studies, 36.1 (2016), 75-92,
How easy ought it to be to enact constitutional amendment? In the absence of constitutionally prescribed procedures, fundamental reforms in the UK can often appear hurried, under-consultative and controlled by transient political majorities. In the recent referendum on Scottish independence, the NO campaign’s promise of additional powers to Holyrood in the face of a possible ‘Yes’ vote appears to fit this pattern (even if, for reasons of political sensitivity, it was not driven directly by members of the Coalition government). A recent sample of concluded constitutional reforms, including the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, have drawn criticism from within Westminster on the grounds of defective process. Specific options to improve pre-parliamentary and parliamentary stages of constitutional reform have been proposed with a view to attaining principled procedures of constitutional reform removed from executive control that signal attachment to process values such as wide and effective consultation, deliberation outside and inside Parliament, and informed scrutiny. The foregoing prescriptions for remedying defective processes may, however, be said in the ultimate analysis to retain a normative preference for a more formal, elite-managed vision of constitutional change that is premised upon a limited conception of the citizens’ ‘informed consent’. In any case, in purely descriptive terms, top-down managed change does not capture the totality of patterns of past constitutional reform in the UK. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, for example, radical grassroots campaigns for the extension of the franchise resulted ultimately in universal adult suffrage. More recently, the Scotland Act 1998 can be seen as the culmination of a civic society–led, deliberative engagement with ordinary voters over decades that offered an alternative vision of ‘bottom-up’ constitutional reform to that seen in more formal, elite-led processes of constitutional reform. The inclusive and participatory nature of the campaign for Scottish devolution marked out a radically different model of constitutional reform to that which has typified Westminster-style amendment and which is still largely directed by political elites. In such circumstances as prevail currently at Westminster, it is difficult to give much credence to claims that the outcomes of constitutional reform processes enjoy the ‘informed consent’ of the people.
‘Stop, look, listen: the university’s role in counterterrorism Does the UK’s Prevent strategy go too far in its demands on institutions? A group of experts share their perspectives’, Times Higher Education 2016,
The recent attacks by Islamic terrorists in Paris and San Bernadino, California have once again focused feverish political attention on measures to prevent radicalisation. The attacks came shortly after UK universities became subject to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which controversially obliges academics to monitor students for signs of radicalisation. Universities are also required to deny a platform to radical speakers unless the risk of audience members being drawn into terrorism can be “fully mitigated”. By 22 January, English universities must submit a self-assessment of their level of preparedness to comply with their new duties to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. But are universities really incubators of radicalism? And are the Prevent requirements proportionate and workable? Will they have the desired effect? And how do they compare with the approaches of other countries?
‘The Law Commission's Contempt proposals - getting the balance right?’, Criminal Law Review, 2013.6 (2013), 465-482,
Considers the proposals of the Law Commission's consultation paper of November 2012 for the reform of the law of contempt by publication in respect of pre-trial publicity about criminal suspects, including: (1) the establishment of an "at risk" period when this publicity would be scrutinised particularly for contempt; (2) changes to the threshold test; (3) procedural issues relating to contempt by publication cases; (4) changes to the rules on the use of reporting postponement orders; and (5) the regime's application to online publishers and social media users.
‘Failing Justice Brennan’s Quest? Anticipating Terrorism Risks and the US Supreme Court’, Public Law: the constitutional and administrative law of the commonwealth, 2013 (2013), 30-51 (Accepted),
‘The "War on Terror" on Campus’, Journal for the Study of Radicalism, 6 (2012), 1-34,
‘Coercing communities or promoting civilised discourse? Funeral protests and comparative hate speech’, Human Rights Law Review, 12.4 (2012), 455-478,
Extreme speech forms pose acute questions for liberal democracies. Abstract, non-absolute constitutional commitments to freedom of speech/expression are required to be interpreted against countervailing values such as equality, privacy and social harmony. On this side of the Atlantic, the rich body of First Amendment analysis generated by the US jurists is frequently dismissed as an outlier among the group. The emphasis there upon individual freedom and distrust of state power is said to miss the collective dimension of human existence and the rightful role of the state in promoting caring, empathetic communities. In what follows, tensions between the United States and UK/European attitudes towards the limits of constitutional protection for speech are analysed through the lens of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Snyder v Phelps. I argue that, despite the undoubted nastiness of the speaker’s words and intentions in that case, the more censorious European response to such abuse is underpinned by a troubling attempt to enforce a degree of homogeneity upon political discourse. The state’s aim in so coercing may appear benign. However we should not lose sight of the fact that, so empowered, temporary political majorities may impose a range of speech restrictions that ultimately diminish personal autonomy under the guise of advancing the common good.
‘Beyond Lockean Majoritarianism? - Emergency, Institutional Failure and the UK Constitution’, Human Rights Law Review, 10.3 (2010), 461-485,
‘Resort to foreign constitutional norms in domestic human rights jurisprudence with reference to terrorism cases’, Cambridge Law Journal, 68.2009 (2009), 118-141 (Accepted),
Media Contact Areas
I am happy to talk to the media about legal controversies in free speech and human rights more generally.