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Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research

Talking Law

In February 2016 the ILCR received an AHRC 10th Anniversary Public Engagement Grant for a project entitled ‘Talking Law’. The aim was to unite scholars and legal professionals with members of public in a discussion about the role of law in our society.

This was achieved through a dramatisation of the trial of Patrick Hamilton (tried and executed for heresy in St Andrews in 1528), followed by a public debate about the legal issues raised by the trial which are still relevant today.

The sell-out event took place at the Byre theatre in St Andrews on 6 May 2016. Hamilton’s trial was re-enacted by student actors, and a panel comprising a judge, a barrister and a retired assistant chief constable then discussed the issues which resonated with their own experience of the legal profession. Questions were then invited from an audience of both academic and non-academic attendees and matters such as freedom of speech and the impact of the death penalty on society were discussed.

A companion website was created which contains background information, guides to further reading, virtual reconstructions of the key locations involved in the trial, quizzes and other interactive material.

Talking Law received national media coverage through a feature on the BBC News website.

In 2017 Talking Law was shortlisted for an Association for Heritage Interpretation 2017 Discover Heritage Award, in the category ‘Interpretation for a Target Audience’. The awards dinner was held in Inverness on 5 October 2017, where Talking Law was announced as the runner-up in its category.

A pitch for a follow-up radio series, bringing the ‘Talking Law’ format to a wider audience, is currently being developed.

We are also pleased to announce that the Early English Laws website is available again. The project publishes online and in print new editions and translations of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced up to the time of Magna Carta 1215. The online resource was transferred to the University of St Andrews in 2023; the website is being updated but access to material is now restored.

Talking Law at the AHI 2017 Discover Heritage Awards Dinner