In this interview, Ken Macdonald, formerly Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions and now Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, talks about the importance of free speech and the introduction of “prevent” duties to universities. He also comments on the Rhodes Must Fall campaign.
Since the mid-2000s, it’s been said that counter-terrorism measures have restricted free speech, especially in universities. The debate came to a head in 2015, with the creation of “prevent” duties under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which require universities, hospitals, schools, and other institutions to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
In early 2016, Max Harris and Sarah Glatte of Free Speech Debate sat down with Lord Ken Macdonald, Warden of Wadham College, to talk about these issues. Lord Macdonald introduced amendments in the House of Lords to ensure that “prevent” duties were applied in a way that is respectful of free speech and academic freedom, and has worked with the University of Oxford in its application of “prevent”. Ken Macdonald is a Queen’s Counsel, a past Director of Public Prosecutions, a Deputy High Court Judge, and Chair of Reprieve, a charity working against the death penalty worldwide. He became a Liberal Democrat life peer in 2010.
Lord Macdonald talks in this interview about the importance of free speech, and observes that the British government’s introduction of counter-terrorism “prevent” duties to universities was “a mistake.” He also comments on the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in Oxford.