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Lawrence McNamara



Dr Lawrence MCNamara
B Ec (hons) (Monash), LLB (hons), PhD (Sydney)


I joined York Law School in 2017.

Prior to coming to YLS I was an academic in Australian law schools for ten years before moving the to the UK in 2007 to take up a post at the University of Reading where I was a Reader in Law and Director of Postgraduate Research.  I have held various adjunct and visiting positions in Australia and the USA. In 2013, I left the university sector to join an NGO, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL), where I was Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director of BIICL’s Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.  I am now part-time (0.8) at YLS and part-time (0.2) at the Bingham Centre.



My research builds outwards on a concern with the regulation of speech, especially with regard to the media.  My work has included publications on racial and religious hate speech, and my monograph, Reputation and Defamation (OUP, 2007) was shortlisted for the Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship.  In the last ten years I have worked around issues relating to counter-terrorism law and policy. I have focused particularly on how information is accessed, managed and disclosed, looking at how transparency and accountability might be enhanced, studying the roles of parliament, the judiciary, the executive and the media. From 2009-2013 I held a Research Councils UK Global Uncertainties Fellowship in Ideas and Beliefs for the “Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know” programme. I worked extensively on issues related to the UK Justice and Security Act 2013.


  • Opening up closed judgments: balancing secrecy, security and accountability

It is increasingly common for closed material procedures (CMPs) to be used in civil cases where national security issues arise. Judgments in these cases will be closed and not available to the public, some of the parties, or some of the lawyers. Over time, though, there may not be grounds for closure because the danger to national security will pass. However, the law does not presently provide for review of judgments to see if they might later be opened.

This project aims to remedy that shortcoming by working with stakeholders to devise a practical evidence-based system that will enable closed judgments to be reviewed and if there is no longer a danger to national security for those judgments to be opened

The project is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

  • Respecting Private Rights, Pursuing Public Interests: Parliamentary Scrutiny of the Private Sector 

There is a sense that parliamentary select committees are increasingly exercising their powers very broadly and subjecting the governance, management and operation of private companies to scrutiny more than ever before. While there is a public interest and benefit from such scrutiny, concerns have been raised about procedural fairness, lack of clarity in rules, the relationship of committee hearings with parallel legal or regulatory proceedings, and the possibility of overreach by committees in the exercise of their powers. As such, it gives rise to a tension between respecting private rights and pursuing public interests. Surprisingly, this dimension of committees’ work has attracted little scholarly attention. This project seeks to remedy that gap. It asks: how do parliamentary committees balance private rights and public interests when they engage with the private sector? Analysing committee data and using research interviews, the project aims to provide insights into how coercive powers are exercised in practice, including the processes by which contentious issue are resolved.

This project is funded by the British Academy, with Lawrence having been awarded a BA Mid-Career Fellowship. It is being conducted jointly with the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law where Lawrence also holds a post.


Selected publications

  • National Practices, International Challenges: Access to Justice for Children, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, Report for the International Bar Association, October 2016 (with J Beqiraj)
  • The Rule of Law in Parliament: A Review of Sessions 2013-14 and 2014-15, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, Report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law, February 2016 (with S Harris)
  • ‘Secrecy, the Media and the State: Controlling and Managing Information about Terrorism and Security’ in G Martin, R Scott-Bray & M Kumar (eds), Secrecy, Law and Society, Routledge, London & NY, 2015, pp 139-157
  • ‘Free Speech’ in Des Butler & Sharon Rodrick Australian Media Law, LBC, Sydney, 5th ed 2015, 5-30, and previous eds)
  • ‘Legal Aid and the Constitutional Right of Access to Justice (Response to the ‘Transforming Legal Aid’ Consultation CP 14/2013)’, [2013] Judicial Review 223-236 (with Mark Elliott and Tom Hickman)

Contact details

Dr Lawrence McNamara
York Law School

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 5848