Tomkins, Adam

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Male. Education: Earned master's degree.


Office—St. Catherine's College, Manor Rd., Oxford OX1 3UJ, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Lawyer, legal scholar, educator. King's College, London, England, senior lecturer in law; St. Catherine's College, Oxford, England, fellow and tutor in law, 2000—.


(Editor, with Conor Gearty) Understanding Human Rights, Mansell (New York, NY), 1996.

The Constitution after Scott: Government Unwrapped, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with Tom Campbell and K. D. Ewing) Sceptical Essays on Human Rights, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Public Law, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.


Adam Tomkins is a lawyer and educator whose research and teachings focus on public law, constitutional law, administrative law, European Community law, and United States constitutional law. His Understanding Human Rights, which he coedited with Conor Gearty, is a collection of essays that resulted from the 1994 W. G. Hart Legal Workshop held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in London, England. The volume is divided into seven sections, and a variety of rights are discussed by contributors from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and South Africa. Among them are women's rights and equality, homosexual rights, and human rights in regard to the environment. In a section called "New Frontiers," the perception of rights, as in the right to life/freedom to choose debate, are considered, as well as whether animals have rights. Human rights and international law are discussed in the section titled "Reappraising Orthodoxy."

New Law Journal contributor Ramnik Shah described as "brilliant" an essay by Maleiha Malik, in which she writes of the importance of communal or collective rights around the world. G. E. Devenish contributed "Human Rights in a Divided Society" which studies post-apartheid South Africa and the structure of the new constitution.

Jonathan Herring wrote in the Law Quarterly Review that "the collection is well worth reading. By presenting a wide range of issues in which rights are relevant, this book demonstrates both the richness and limitations of human rights."

The Constitution after Scott: Government Unwrapped is Tompkins's study of Sir Richard Scott's "Report of the Inquiry into the Export of Defence Equipment and Dual-Use Goods to Iraq and Related Prosecutions." Scott, a Court of Appeals judge, was drafted to conduct an inquiry into the scandal surrounding allegations that ministers failed to inform either Parliament or the people about a 1988 loosening of a rather strict government policy that allowed the sale of weapons and military equipment to Iraq. In the 1990s, customs officials began prosecutions of firms for obtaining their export licenses under false pretenses. When the cases came to light, ministers were also accused of exploiting the law on public interest immunity to exclude this fact and their subsequent trades during criminal proceedings.

The report running nearly 2,000 pages is so complex that it was read by few. Ivan Hare commented in the Cambridge Law Journal that Scott's report "contains no summary of findings and includes elliptical language which many will find as impenetrable as Dickens's Chancery fog."

Tomkins studies and analyzes the report in language directed at a broader audience to include journalists, lawyers, and academics. Using quotes throughout, he first notes the constitutional significance of the report, then examines the relationships between the various entities involved, including the ministers, Parliament, the courts, intelligence and security, and the civil service. He even makes comparisons to the "Iraqgate" scandal in the United States. Scott's intention was not to force the resignation of the guilty—that was a matter for Parliament—but to document the facts. After the release of Scott's report, a number of changes were made. The civil service code was revised, new guidelines on immunity were issued, and Parliament passed a resolution on ministerial responsibility. Hare noted that Tomkins "feels that these reforms are likely to prove more beneficial in strengthening the legislature's arm against the executive than the Constitution and Freedom of Information Act proved to be in the United States."

Choice reviewer H. Steck wrote that "this terrific book, its vigorous style, and the author's passion for the values he defends form a potent stimulant for thinking about British government." Steck noted that Tomkins' greater concern is constitutional government.

Jerry Waltman commented in the Law and Politics Book Review that "the chapter on ministers and parliament is the core of the book, but the remainder supplements it well.… This chapter is a thorough and admirable summary of what happened and why it had constitutional implications. The chapters on freedom of information and control of the intelligence services are similarly drawn. For American specialists, the chapter on public interest immunity may be the most interesting." Waltman continued, saying that in The Constitution after Scott, "we get a refreshing dose of the old-fashioned type of academic writing, in which the author is not hesitant to say 'this is good' or 'that is bad.' It has a position, but not a narrow partisan one; instead, his values are liberal constitutionalism and democratic accountability."

Tomkins is coeditor of Sceptical Essays on Human Rights, a collection published soon after the Human Rights Act of 1998 came into force in October 2000. The act incorporates into the laws of the United Kingdom certain freedoms and rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The volume contains twenty essays by international scholars who, although they believe in the importance of human rights, question whether the responsibility for defining and enforcing laws that ensure these rights should be separated from the usual political processes of representative government. They also consider the constitutional impact of doing so and examine alternative ways of promoting and ensuring human rights.

London Review of Books contributor Stephen Sedley wrote that this volume "sits uncomfortably on the millennial cusp, looking back at a past which is now over and forward to a future which has barely begun. Even the sound pieces on Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, all of which have somewhat richer recent experience than England, are rightly tentative."



Cambridge Law Journal, November, 1998, Ivan Hare, review of The Constitution after Scott: Government Unwrapped, pp. 624-625.

Choice, April, 1999, H. Steck, review of The Constitution after Scott, p. 1528.

International and Comparative Law Quarterly, July, 1997, Dominic McGoldrick, review of Understanding Human Rights, pp. 729-730.

Law and Politics Book Review, April, 1999, Jerry Waltman, review of The Constitution after Scott, pp. 173-176.

Law Quarterly Review, October, 2000, Jonathan Herring, review of Understanding Human Rights, pp. 696-697.

London Review of Books, September 19, 2002, Stephen Sedley, review of Sceptical Essays on Human Rights, pp. 17-18.

Modern Law Review, March, 1999, Ian Leigh, review of The Constitution after Scott, pp. 298-309.

New Law Journal, October 27, 2000, Ramnik Shah, review of Understanding Human Rights, p. 1576.

Parliamentary Affairs, April, 1999, Diana Woodhouse, review of The Constitution after Scott, pp. 342-353.

Times Higher Education Supplement, August 29, 2003, Laurence Lustgarten, review of Sceptical Essays on Human Rights, p. 25.*