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Conscience in Equity: a new Utopia

The Faculty of Law presents this public lecture by Professor Graham Virgo, 2016 NZ Law Foundation Distinguished Visiting Fellow, 2016 FW Guest Memorial Lecturer


In 1516 Sir Thomas More published Utopia, which identifies an attractive vision of law and society. As Lord Chancellor, More helped to develop Equity as a mechanism to secure justice which was not provided through the rigid interpretation of the Common Law. From the start, the equitable jurisdiction was founded on conscience. It is a jurisdiction which remains of profound practical importance in England and New Zealand. But, as the jurisdiction has developed, and although the language of conscience and unconscionability remain the touchstone for equitable intervention, judges and commentators have lost sight of what conscience and unconscionability actually mean. By tracing the historical development of conscience it is possible to identify the theoretical structure which justifies and explains the equitable jurisdiction and shows how it should develop in the future. Even though some commentators have predicted the death of Equity, by refocusing on the essence of conscience, the equitable jurisdiction can be reinvigorated and lead us to a new legal Utopia.

About the presenter

Professor Graham Virgo is Professor of English Private Law in the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge and has been a Fellow of Downing College since 1989, where he read Law as an undergraduate. He went on to read for the BCL at Oxford where he was awarded the Vinerian scholarship. He then read for the Bar. He was Senior Tutor at Downing College between 2003 and 2013, and has also served as Director of Studies in Law. He is a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn and a door tenant at XXIV Old Buildings. He received a Pilkington Prize from the University of Cambridge for excellence in teaching in 2002 and was a finalist for the OUP Law Teacher of the Year in 2013.

He writes and researches in the fields of Criminal Law; Equity and trusts and the Law of Restitution. The third edition of his Principles of the Law of Restitution was published in 2015. In 2016 the second edition of his Principles of Equity and Trusts and the second edition of Equity and Trusts: Text, Cases and Materials, written with Paul Davies, will be published. He is a contributor to Simester and Sullivan’s Criminal Law: Theory and Doctrine, the sixth edition of which will be published in 2016. He is a contributor to Chitty on Contracts (32nd ed, 2015) and co-author of Andrews, Clarke, Tettenborn and Virgo Contractual Duties: Performance, Breach, Termination and Remedies (2013, the second edition of which will be published in 2017). He has also written, with colleagues at Cambridge, What About Law? Studying Law at University (2nd ed., 2011).

He became Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education in October 2014. In that capacity he has oversight of all aspects of education policy and strategy for undergraduate, graduate and part-time students, as well as libraries and sport.

Date Thursday, 4 August 2016
Time 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Audience Public
Event Category Humanities
Event Type Public Lecture
LocationMoot Court, Level 10 Richardson Building
Contact Phone64 3 479 3773

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