Human Rights and Democracy Forum

About us

The Human Rights and Democracy Forum was established in 2017 to support research and innovative research-led teaching involving questions of human rights and democracy. Based in Exeter Law School, the forum encompasses research on the legal, political, contextual and historical dimensions of these issues, including substantive, comparative and theoretical methods. Welcoming colleagues from all disciplines, as well as the participation of undergraduate and postgraduate students, the Forum’s main activities include:

  • Supporting and developing individual and collaborative research projects
  • Delivering undergraduate and postgraduate modules in these areas, drawing on members' research expertise
  • Running research seminars by Forum members and by guest speakers
  • Developing connections with external networks, organisations and institutions in related areas
  • Supporting postgraduate research students working in related areas
  • Providing opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved with Forum activities, to develop their interests and provide opportunities to explore research and employment ideas

There is a strong tradition and a wealth of human rights research at Exeter Law School, with other ongoing activities in this area in the Exeter Centre for International Law.



Name Research interests

Christine Bicknell

European and international human rights law; prevention and prohibition of torture under the European Convention on Human Rights and UN law

Catherine Dupré

Comparative constitutional law; human dignity and human rights; the European Convention on Human Rights; human rights in the EU; judicial dialogue; the rule of law and democracy in Europe

Jess Duggan-Larkin

Public international law, human rights and constitutional law, with a particular focus on the international action of states and issues that require global collective action such as climate change

Richard Edwards

Constitutional law; human rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights; civil liberties and human rights in criminal justice, policing, and police powers

Adam McCann

The relation between law, governance, and human rights; especially the legal framework surrounding end-of-life medical decisions in the context of broader governance and political theories

Severine Saintier

Human rights in the business world; consumer energy rights and fuel poverty

Stephen Skinner

Comparative legal history of criminal law in democratic and anti-democratic systems; the rule of law; the right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights and the use of lethal force in domestic policing operations


Associate members

Jonathan Cooper, OBE, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers and editor, European Human Rights Law Review

John Wadham, Associate Tenant, Doughty Street Chambers:

Adam Wagner, Barrister, One Crown Office Row and founder, UK Human Rights blog


Current projects

Human Rights and the International Action of States

Jess Duggan-Larkin is currently examining the role of human rights in regulating the international actions of states, with a particular focus on global collective action problems. Building on doctrinal analysis of Articles 55(c) and 56 of the UN Charter and theoretical considerations, the project involves three detailed case studies on responses to climate change, World Bank Safeguards and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Project outputs have included conference papers, interviews with participants at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in October 2015, and participating in an Expert Meeting on Climate Change and Human Rights in October 2016. Dr Duggan-Larkin is currently working on a monograph entitled Human Rights and Global Collective Action Problems: From Legal Obligations to Principled International Practice.

Human Rights and Executive Action in the Area of Foreign Affairs

Jess Duggan-Larkin is researching the impact of human rights on the legal, administrative and political oversight of executive action in the area of foreign affairs. Beginning with the doctrinal issue of the justiciability of foreign affairs powers, with a particular focus on the UK, the project undertakes a comparative analysis of judicial oversight of such powers. Beyond the doctrinal, the project will go on to consider other forms of oversight, particularly the role of parliament and the civil service.

Human Dignity, Human Rights and Democracy

Catherine Dupré has been a pioneer in studying and developing the concept of human dignity in the field of comparative constitutional law and her latest monograph, The Age of Dignity (Bloomsbury/Hart 2015), stands out in the field as the first comprehensive and theoretical engagement with these issues in the European context. Professor Dupré is currently developing her work in two different directions. The first involves using human dignity as a diagnostic tool to assess and respond to crises in democracy and human rights. As part of this and together with a team of colleagues she is convening an international conference at the European University Institute, Florence. The second direction is taking her outside Europe as an advisor to the Dignity-Rights Project launched in May 2017, which aims to educate, advocate and provide litigation support worldwide.

Crises in European Constitutionalism and Democracy

Catherine Dupré’s research expertise in Hungarian constitutionalism returned to the forefront of her research activities with the adoption of the new Hungarian Fundamental Law in 2011. Professor Dupré was one of the first scholars to engage in critical discussion of the Hungarian government’s self-proclaimed turn to ‘illiberal democracy’. Her analysis of the Fundamental Law’s provision on human dignity was translated in Hungarian, Spanish, Italian and French. Building on a ground-breaking paper (C Dupre, ‘Unconstitutional Constitution: a Timely Concept’ in A von Bogdandyand P Sonnevend (eds.), Constitutional Crisis in the European Constitutional Area: Theory, Law and Politics in Hungary and Romania, Oxford: CH Beck, Nomos and Hart, 1995), she is currently developing a theoretical framework for European constitutionalism, aiming to enhance the protection of democracy in Europe. In order to promote international discussion on the crises of democracy that have since spread outside Hungary to other EU Member States, she convened an interdisciplinary conference in Budapest in June 2016 together with leading Hungarian constitutional law scholars, Gábor Tóth and Kriszta Kovács. An edited collection is now being considered by a leading publisher.

Icelandic Constitutional Reform

Catherine Dupré’s ongoing interest in constitutional reform and constitution-making processes is currently focussed on Iceland where reform of the constitution was triggered in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. Together with Ágúst Thór Árnason, Professor Dupré convened the first international conference to discuss and reflect on the constitutional reform, at the University of Akureyri in September 2016. Building on this conference, the convenors are currently working on an edited collection, which brings together the key actors in the Icelandic constitutional reform, and analyses all the key stages in the process between 2009 and 2017.

State Power and the Rule of Law under Democracy and Anti-Democracy: English and Italian Criminal Law in the Interwar Period

Stephen Skinner is researching the relationships between state power and the rule of law in contrasting politico-legal systems through a comparative history of criminal law in democratic Britain and Fascist Italy in the interwar period. The project examines the ideological, contextual and jurisprudential foundations of general provisions and specific offences in the 1930 Italian Penal Code and contemporaneous English criminal law, focussing on crimes against the state, public order provisions and concepts of legality and certainty. Project outputs have included a series of conference papers and articles in international peer reviewed journals, as well as an edited collection, Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity (Bloomsbury-Hart, 2015). Professor Skinner is currently editing a second collection of essays, entitled Ideology and Criminal Law under Fascist, National-Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes (under contract with Bloomsbury-Hart).

Lethal Force, the Right to Life and the ECHR

Stephen Skinner is also working on the theoretical, substantive, contextual and interpretative dimensions of European human rights law on the use of lethal and life-threatening force in domestic policing and security operations. Starting with a study of how the European Court of Human Rights has developed its case law on such uses of force and the right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR, the project encompasses inter-disciplinary analysis of legal narrative construction, the development of standards by the European Court of Human Rights and their implications, alternative extra-legal perspectives on the use of force and related human rights questions, as well as engagement with aspects of police training and practice. Project outputs have included a workshop at Doughty Street Chambers in March 2015, a visit to the Metropolitan Police Service’s firearms training centre in August 2015, as well as papers in human rights journals. Professor Skinner is currently working on a monograph entitled Lethal Force, the Right to Life and the ECHR: Narratives of Death and Democracy (under contract with Bloomsbury-Hart).

Prisons, Torture and Inhuman Treatment across Europe

Christine Bicknell is conducting research into prison conditions and the use of torture in a number of European states.


Past projects

The Fascist Roots of the Italian Penal Code: Fascist Law and Contemporary Commentary in Comparative Perspective

Leverhulme Research Fellowship

Human Dignity and Constitutionalism in Europe


Leverhulme Research Fellowship

Catherine Dupré
Leverhulme Trust
2010 - 2011

Human Dignity and Constitutionalism in Europe

Catherine Dupré
British Academy
2009 - 2010



Skinner SJ (eds)(2015). Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity. Oxford, Hart

Dupre CCL (2015). The Age of Dignity: Human Rights and Constitutionalism in Europe. Oxford, Hart Publishing/Bloomsbury

McCann A, Hallo de Wolf A, van Rooij M (eds)(2014). Law and Governance: When Private Actors Contribute to Public Interests. The Hague, Eleven International

Saintier SDA (eds)(2013). Commercial Contracts: a transatlantic Perspective., CUP

Saintier SDA (2005). Commercial Agents and the law. London, LLP

Saintier SDA (2002). Commercial Agency Law. London, Ashgate

Journal articles

Saintier SDA (2017). The elusive notion of good faith in the performance of a contract, why still a bête noire for the civil and the common law?. Journal of Business Law Full text.

Skinner SJ (2016). Crimes Against the State and the Intersection of Fascism and Democracy in the 1920s-30s: Vilification, Seditious Libel and the Limits of Legality. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 36.3, 482-504. Full text. DOI.

McCann A (2015). Comparing the Law and Governance of Assisted Dying in Four European Nations. European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance, 2(1), 37-91.

Saintier SDA (2014). Good faith as an overriding requirement in commercial agency contracts: 'legal irritant' or successful 'transformation'. ZVertriebsR, 3(May 2014), 166-174.

McCann A (2014). Irish Legal solution to the Hammock Case. European Review of Private Law, 22(1), 119-129.

McCann A, Colombi Ciacchi A, Oldenhuis F (2014). Non-contractual Liability for Defective Immovable Property - the Hammock Case in a Comparative Perspective. European Review of Private Law, 22(1), 89-156.

McCann A (2014). The CJEU on Trial: Social Justice and Economic Mobility. European Review of Private Law, 22(5), 729-767.

Dupre CCL (2013). Human Dignity in Europe: a Foundational Constitutional Principle. European Public Law, 19 (2)(May 2013), 319-341.

Dupre CCL (2012). Dignity, Democracy, Civilisation. Liverpool Law Review DOI.

Duggan-Larkin J (2010). ‘Can an Intergovernmental Mechanism Increase the Protection of Human Rights? the Potential of Universal Periodic Review in Relation to the Realisation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’. Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 28, 548-581.

Bradgate R, Saintier S (2007). 'Compensation' and 'indemnity' under the agency regulations: How the common law system copes with the invasion of civilian concepts. , 311-338. DOI.


McCann A, Colombi Ciacchi A (2016). Fundamental rights and humaneness in European private law: the case of health care. In Ferreira N, Kostakopoulou D (Eds.) The Human Face of the European Union Are EU Law and Policy Humane Enough?, Cambridge University Press, 104-130. 

Skinner SJ (2016). The Core of McCann: Lethal Force and Democracy under the European Convention on Human Rights. In Early L, Austin A, Ovey C, Chernishova O (Eds.) The Right to Life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights: Twenty Years of Legal Developments since McCann v the United Kingdom, Oisterwijk: Wolf Legal Publishers, 67-73.

Skinner SJ (2015). Conclusion: Repression and Legality. In Skinner S (Ed) Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity, Oxford: Hart, 191-196.

Skinner SJ (2015). Fascist by Name, Fascist by Nature? the 1930 Italian Penal Code in Academic Commentary, 1928-1946. In Skinner S (Ed) Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity, Oxford: Hart, 59-84.

Skinner SJ (2015). Introduction: Fascism and Criminal Law, 'One of the Greatest Attributes of Sovereignty'. In Skinner S (Ed) Fascism and Criminal Law: History, Theory, Continuity, Oxford: Hart, 1-11.

Skinner SJ (2015). Reati contro lo Stato e l'intreccio tra fascismo e democrazia degli anni venti e trenta del Novecento: vilipendio, libello sedizioso e la sospensione della legalità. In Lacche L (Ed) Il Diritto del Duce: Giustizia e Repressione nell'Italia Fascista, Rome: Donzelli, 57-77.

Dupre CCL (2015). Unconstitutional Constitution: a Timely Concept’ in P Sonnevend (ed.), the Hungarian Constitution in the European Constitutional Area (Hart Publishing. In  (Ed) A von Bogdandy and. Sonnevend (ed.), Constitutional Crisis in the European Constitutional Area: Theory, Law and Politics in Hungary and Romania, Oxford: CH Beck, Nomos and Hart, 351-370.

McCann A (2014). Euthanasia in England, France and the Netherlands: a Comparative Law and Governance Perspective. In McCann A. Hallo de Wolf A, van Rooij M (Eds.) Law and Governance: When Private Actors Contribute to Public Interests, the Hague: Eleven International

Dupre CCL (2012). Human Dignity:Rhetoric, Protection, Instrumentalisation. In  (Ed) A Constitution for a Disunited Nation. Hungary's New Fudamental Law, Budapest: Central University Press, 143-170.

Saintier SDA (2010). Commercial Agency Law in France. In  (Ed) The European law of commercial agency, Hart, 151-175.

Research supervision

The Law School has a dynamic international body of postgraduate researchers working in a wide range of fields. Find out more about PhD studies and funding.

We welcome enquiries from prospective research students interested in developing projects with support from any research funding body, including both the AHRC and ESRC. Please contact us to discuss possibilities.

Current research students

A range of exciting PhD projects are currently being undertaken by postgraduate students affiliated with the Human Rights and Democracy Forum.

Contact us


For non-media enquiries about the Human Rights and Democracy Forum and its activities, please contact us in one of the following ways:

Stephen Skinner

Telephone: +44 (0)1392 723379

The Human Rights and Democracy Forum
Law School - Amory Building
University of Exeter
Rennes Drive


Media enquiries are also welcome - please contact:

Telephone: +44 (0)1392 722307