Southampton conference: Academics lose legal challenge to reverse cancellation

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Southampton conference: Academics lose legal challenge to reverse cancellation

1-southampton-uniAcademics fighting to hold a conference questioning the right of the state of Israel to exist have had their case thrown out of the High Court.

The conference was due to go ahead at Southampton University this weekend until the plug was pulled by college bosses earlier this month.

The university had been advised of the risk of disorder or even a terrorist attack on the campus, the court heard.

Organisers today took the case to the High Court in London where they attempted to launch a judicial review challenge to the university’s decision.

But after a full-day hearing, Judge Alice Robinson ruled against the organisers and upheld the university’s decision.

Permission had been withdrawn because the university decided it was not possible to put in place measures to ensure staff and student safety, she said.

She continued: ‘This was obviously a very difficult decision for the university. Nobody could be in any doubt that there has been very careful scrutiny of all of the issues.

‘There is no evidence the decision was taken otherwise than in good faith with a conscientious application of the duty to protect free speech.

‘But a decision was reluctantly taken to withdraw permission for the conference. I am quite satisfied that there are no arguable grounds for challenging the decision.’

The organisers’ barrister, Mark McDonald, had argued that evidence used by the university to make its decision was not strong enough to justify it.

The risks were of the potential for clashes between right and left wing groups and of an actual terror attack, according to a pre-event assessment.

But Mr McDonald said the ‘severe’ terror risk applied no more to the event than to events at any other university building in the country.

He continued: ‘The evidence was limited of public disorder. 

‘The evidence itself is based upon second or third hand hearsay. It doesn’t stand up for close analysis at all.

‘Even if it does, taken at its highest level, it is simply not sufficient to withdraw permission to have the conference.’

The evidence was of supposed links between a pro-Israeli group and the English Defence League (EDL), he said.

That was said to leave the possibility of EDL members turning up to demonstrate against the event, potentially attracting clashes with far-left groups.

The chance of a Paris-style anti-semitic terror attack at the event was ‘extremely remote’, he continued.

For the university, Edward Capewell said it had not ruled out holding such an event in the future.

It only wanted more time to commission an independent report to look into how it could be done safely, when faced with the chance of up to 1,000 protestors turning up.

Judge Robinson upheld the university’s decision.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: