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An Irishman abroad claims prestigious memorial essay prize

Mature student James O’Connor is the winner of the Tom Bingham Memorial Essay Prize for 2018.

This joint initiative of the OU Law School and the OU Law Society commemorates a British barrister and judge, the Rt Hon the Lord Bingham of Cornhill (1933-2010), who served as Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice and as Senior Lord of Appeal. Lord Bingham’s book, The Rule of Law, posthumously won the Orwell Prize for political writing in 2011.

The competition, generously funded by Lord Bingham’s former chambers, Fountain Court Chambers, celebrates his commitment to the rule of law, and the potential of our Law students to contribute to it. Entrants were asked to consider in their essay if court fees can ever be consistent with access to justice and the rule of law, with the winner claiming £250 and two runners-up (Emma Greening and Francesca Reason) receiving £125 apiece.

This year’s winner James is a 62-year-old Irishman who now lives with his wife in her home state of Sarawak in Malaysia. Having retired two years ago after a career in procurement in the oil and gas industry, working mostly in Asia, he initially started the OU law degree as a ‘hobby’.

I’m enjoying it immensely, and it may yet turn into a second career. After all, age is no barrier, especially in Malaysia as we now have a 93-year-old Prime Minister! I had read Bingham’s The Rule of Law and loved both its clarity of expression and the profound thinking that lies behind it. The essay question was deceptively simple but I quickly saw that it raised philosophical, political, economic and practical issues in addition to the legal aspect. Researching these different strands and then gathering them together into a coherent whole was time-consuming but gave me great satisfaction so it’s very pleasing to have the effort recognised.

James O’Connor
Winner of the Tom Bingham Memorial Essay Prize 2018

Read James O'Connor's winning essay here PDF