Posted in Guest posts · Master's blog

The documentary India’s Daughter was screened at Fitzwilliam on Sunday 26 April to an audience of over 200 as part of the series “In Conversation with the Master”, and was followed by a Q&A with director-producer Leslee Udwin and associate producer Riddhi Jha. India’s Daughter was broadcast internationally by the BBC as part of their Storyville season in March 2015, but broadcasting the film is currently prohibited in India.

This guest blog is written by Harriet Sands (HSPS, 2013) who, together with Grace Carroll (HSPS, Management, 2011), worked hard on publicity to ensure that the Auditorium was filled – no small achievement for a Sunday evening in exam term.

Leslee Udwin’s documentary India’s Daughter documents the brutal gang-rape of Jyoti Singh. Jyoti, a 23 year-old medical student in Delhi, died from her injuries after being raped and beaten by six men in a public bus in 2012.

Udwin’s film presents a moving account of a case which inspired unprecedented levels of public demonstration. The documentary stands out from others (perhaps most pertinently Daughters of Mother India) in interviewing one of the rapists, Mukesh Singh, who expressed deeply misogynistic sentiments. These sentiments were complemented by those of his defence lawyers, ML Sharma and AP Singh, who claimed that there is “no place for a woman” in Indian culture, and that victims somehow deserved their fate as they should not have been on the streets at night. Singh said that if his daughter or sister “engaged in pre-marital activities … in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight”.

Organisations and movements around the world protest against this mentality (the SlutWalk and Reclaim the Night movements are good examples), but the horrific nature of Jyoti’s case together with the response, not just from civil and women’s rights campaigners, but from across society, made her case a worthy subject of documentation. It is true that in focusing on this particular case, Udwin approaches an “awkward intersection between feminism and patriotism” [1] and risks entering “post-colonial feminism”. However, this is more than just a documentary about India. What is presented clearly in India’s Daughter, and is perhaps more camouflaged [2] in other countries, including the UK, is the low value placed on women and the determination of some men, and women, to reproduce the imbalance of the system. Sexual violence against women exists across the world; in the UK, 1 in 5 women experience some form of sexual violence in their adult lives.

Concerns were raised in the Q&A session about the ethical and legal implications of showing the interview with convicted rapist Mukesh Singh while his appeal process is ongoing. While Udwin claimed all precautions necessary were taken, it is hard not to feel uneasy about the possibility that the film could lead to an increased demand for the death penalty.. An audience member repeated concerns raised by Kavita Krishnan [3], secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, who is interviewed in the film, that the title and narrative presenting Jyoti as her parents’ daughter, and the “nation’s daughter”, perpetuates the idea that women are not seen in their own right.

Udwin’s film was an evocative, painstaking account of Jyoti’s absence. The intimate nature of the documentary seemed almost ethnographic in its approach, which whilst true to the emotion of the case, accounts for interpretations that fail to recognise the place of the documentary in the wider campaign against sexual violence towards women. Much of the criticism of the documentary has centred on the supposed stigmatisation of Indian males, though the documentary challenges the viewer to expose the patriarchal tendencies embedded in their own cultures. A recent commentary in The Guardian about the effect of bad relationships on girls made the claim that “American girls grow up in a culture where women are ornamental…” and highlighted the “dangers in a model of womanhood defined by sacrifice and folding yourself into others”.  This resonated with the contrasting pictures of Punita Devi, the wife of one of the rapists and the parents of Jyoti Singh. Ms Devi faces a life of destitution in a conservative rural village where education, employment and independence are seen as male pursuits. In contrast, Jyoti’s family had sacrificed much to allow their daughter to be educated and to achieve her dreams. They espouse the view that girls need not just to be praised for their looks and their nurturing behaviour towards others, but need to have an identity outside of their relationships. This also requires an expectation that men and boys will have more of the sensibilities often associated with femininity.

Knowing very little about India and the history of Indian gender equality movements, I initially felt nervous after watching Udwin’s documentary. Wary of passing judgement on attitudes in India, I felt a sense of the danger of endorsing a “white saviour” stance [4]. While I retain many misgivings about India’s Daughter, after the screening, followed by a conversation with the Master Nicky Padfield, director Udwin and associate producer Riddhi Jha, it became clear that the potency of the documentary is in its critical (rather than hypercritical or hypocritical), exposition of a case that exemplifies oppressive attitudes to gender equality, in India and elsewhere.

India’s Daughter encourages reflection on the misogynistic principles laid bare in the documentary, but which exist in every society. Recognising this is important; ignoring it is inexcusable, whether in India or elsewhere.

My thanks to Sonal Sachdev Patel (Economics, 1999) for inviting Nicky Padfield to host this screening and conversation.

Leslee Udwin is on Twitter.






From left: Riddhi Jha, Nicky Padfield and Leslee Udwin.

From left: Riddhi Jha, Nicky Padfield and Leslee Udwin.

Leslee and Riddhi in discussion with students The Master in discussion with students

A packed Auditorium



Conversation continues over refreshments

Conversation continues over refreshments



Posted in Guest posts · Master's blog

This guest post is by Fitzwilliam’s Bursar, Andrew Powell.

In October 2014 Glasgow University announced its decision to sell its fossil fuel investments: “Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption.” Last week SOAS, University of London announced that it will divest in fossil fuels within the next three years. Oxford and Edinburgh Universities have deferred decisions on similar motions.

A recent Science Week debate on “The roles and responsibilities of universities in relation to planetary sustainability” (initiated by Fitz Fellow Dr Bhaskar Vira, at which the Master spoke on the panel) and a meeting with Fitzwilliam students involved with CUSU’s Positive Investment Cambridge, have focused my attention on the topic of responsible investing in this sector.

So, what should Fitzwilliam’s response be?

As a charity, our duty is to deploy our resources most effectively in support of our charitable aims. The Charity Commission (which is our regulator) gives the following guidance on ethical investing:

Ethical investment means investing in a way that reflects a charity’s values and ethos and does not run counter to its aims. However, a charity’s trustees must be able to justify why it is in the charity’s best interests to invest in this way. The law permits the following reasons:

  • a particular investment conflicts with the aims of the charity; or
  • the charity might lose supporters or beneficiaries if it does not invest ethically; or
  • there is no significant financial detriment

The College’s first aim is to provide education and learning in the University. As an endowed charity our mission is to continue that ‘in perpetuity’ – making sure at all times that the interests of future students are not damaged by today’s decisions.

Both the College and the University are heavily dependent upon energy to operate– but as things stand, the only alternative that has the ability to substantially replace fossil fuels with a consistent reliable supply is nuclear energy; recent events such as the Fukushima disaster have highlighted how dangerous a large scale switch could be. Renewable technology has a long way to go before it can take over – we are going to be dependent on fossil fuels for a long time to come. And of course oil is the source of a huge number of the chemicals and products that we all use in our everyday lives.

Change is going to have to be gradual, not discontinuous; so whilst investing in renewables we should also be focusing on shifting traditional generation methods from high carbon to low carbon. Ironically the organisations best equipped to drive this change are the energy companies themselves. Amongst all businesses they are the most skilled and focused on planning for the long term.

Companies respond primarily to the needs and behaviour of their customers and the legislative and regulatory environment in which they operate. The recent fall in the oil price has already called into question the value of reserves, and because of that uncertainty the College’s portfolio is already ‘underweight’ in fossil fuel shares. In the policy arena our investment managers are taking a leading role; their formal statement for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“Paris 2015”) calls for:

  • a robust system of carbon pricing/ taxation.
  • phasing out of subsidies for fossil fuel consumption.
  • meaningful energy efficiency targets and emission requirements for the buildings industry and transport.

Divestment is a card that can be played only once; any such campaign therefore needs to be very clear about its practical objective and fully think through the likely consequences. It may satisfy the conscience of the members of the institution and have an effect on public opinion but will it actually make a difference to the economics of fossil fuel production?

The financial logic of mass divestment is that the cost of raising capital should rise to a point where the price of fuel goes up, or reserves become uneconomic to extract. This affects all the activities of the company, not just the ones that are targeted by the campaign. In practice a company faced with such action has many choices:

  • Seek alternative investors – there is no shortage of investors in the world at the moment!
  • Move to a less transparent listing centre – the London stock-market is among the most transparent and accountable in the world but the choice of companies to invest in is shrinking.
  • Sell assets to competitors.

None of the above will lead to a reduction in production.

The two usually quoted examples are the campaign in the 1980s against investment in South Africa, and more recently, the campaign led by the health sector for divestment in tobacco companies.

There is no doubt that the campaign for companies to isolate South Africa was an important contributor to the eventual collapse of the apartheid regime. I worked for Barclays at the time, which had a substantial banking presence in South Africa and found itself in the ‘front line’ of the campaign. For several years we argued strongly, and with conviction, that the morally correct position was to stay invested and apply our ethical principles in running the local business. In the end it was the loss of customers, not the action of shareholders that led to Barclays’ decision to withdraw.

The campaign for divestment of holdings in tobacco companies has been running since at least the 1990s and the College’s investment policy has explicitly ruled out such investment since 2002. The campaign has had little effect on the companies themselves but has certainly cost the College some return – tobacco has been the best performing sector since the FTSE index was created in 1985; over the last 5 years a simple tobacco exclusion would have negatively impacted performance by 0.6% per annum relative to the full index.

An interesting article on the effectiveness of divestment strategies can be found at this link.

I have been impressed by the level of debate in the meetings I have attended. I did not hear unthinking calls for divestment. What I did hear was a desire for more transparency in investment decision making, for open debate and scrutiny of the ethical issues surrounding particular companies, and for positive engagement with the managements of the companies in which we invest, using our shareholder power as effectively as we can. I also heard recognition that there cannot be a sudden transition from high carbon to low carbon, that decarbonisation is a journey with many steps.

As responsible investors it is our moral duty to use the rights we have as shareholders in accordance with our own values. I look forward to a constructive and engaged dialogue on these matters over coming months and years.

Posted in Guest posts · Master's blog

This guest post is by Dr John Cleaver, Life Fellow and editor of ‘Fitzwilliam: The First 150 Years of a Cambridge College’.

Wilfrid Bertram Hirst

Wilfrid Bertram Hirst


On this day, 22 April 2015, we commemorate the centenary of the death of Wilfrid Bertram Hirst, the first member of Fitzwilliam Hall to be killed in the Great War.

Hirst was a typical member of Fitzwilliam Hall in the period immediately before the Great War. He came up to Fitzwilliam from Rotherham Grammar School, where he had been School Captain, in 1911 – his father was Mayor of the town. His aspiration also was typical: he strongly desired to seek Ordination; and after leaving school he became an assistant master at the Lincoln Choir School.

At that time, Fitzwilliam was not a college but provided an economical route into Cambridge for non-collegiate students: Fitzwilliam Hall was situated in Trumpington Street opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Censor, its principal officer, had from 1907 been William Fiddian Reddaway – he transformed Fitzwilliam, drawing the non-collegiate students into a corporate structure, albeit one that placed very heavy emphasis on the clubs and their activities, and he fought unrelentingly on its behalf.

A letter to Reddaway in August 1911 demonstrated Hirst’s determination and character:

I feel very strongly that I should not be doing myself justice if I do not read for Honours; of course I do not lay any sudden claim to brilliancy, but in my own mind I feel that perseverance and determination to fit myself as well as possible for the work in the Church will pull me through.’

Hirst was heavily and successfully involved in athletics – putting the weight, throwing the hammer, hurdling and high jump – and in team sports: he captained both the Football Club and the Hockey Club. The photograph shows the cricket team in the summer of 1913, with Hirst at top left; all but one would see active service, and three were to die.

The cricket team

The cricket team 1913














The academic side was not totally neglected, although for him it was perhaps for duty rather than for delight; Reddaway wrote later that: ‘above all things a man of action, he won two Firsts in the History Special, surprising those who had not penetrated the depth of his resolve to do his duty, however unattractive. His occasional excursions into coaching or secretarial work were always admirably carried through. The renunciation of a postgraduate year at Cambridge formed another fine triumph of self-discipline. He was preparing for Ordination at Lincoln when war was declared.’

At the onset of war Hirst spent six weeks in the ranks of the local Territorials, which he found a ‘most invaluable experience, if a little rough’ and was highly regarded. One Captain indicated that ‘his steadiness of principle was one of the things that struck me most, for so light-hearted an exterior’. After the frustration of waiting for a commission, he joined the Lincolnshire Regiment as Second Lieutenant. Hirst was delighted when he learned that he was to be posted to the Western Front, finding it ‘supremely gratifying; of all the most horrible things I can think of, a trip to Egypt, or India, with one’s Regiment at such a time would be the worst. Fitzwilliam Hall for the firing line, just as it ought to be.’

His Battalion remained in England until the very beginning of March 1915 when it was shipped to Flanders, and for the last week in March it was billeted at Ploegsteert, training and providing working parties for the Royal Engineers. This was the culmination he sought, and he wrote on 31 March to his mother: ‘A man who probably called himself a sniper had a few pot-shots at us, but was very wide … .’

In early April, he was billeted in the Flemish village of Dranouter, and then on 9 April went into the front line for the first time; for three nights all was quiet, but they were shelled on 13 April. After three nights back at Dranouter, they moved up again on 18 April. Thus began Hirst’s final period in the front line, as the entry for 21 April in the War Diary of the 1st/4th Lincolnshires tells: ‘In the trenches. Lt W.B. HIRST killed. Quiet day and night’. Wilfrid Hirst was brought into a casualty-clearing station unconscious from a bullet in the head, and died two hours later.




















Hirst had survived only twelve days performing duties in, or near, the front line. He was buried in Dranouter; his grave is the second in the single row of graves parallel to the nave of the church, almost overwhelmed by the polished granite of the civilian memorials.


For Fitzwilliam, the story of Wilfrid Hirst did not end with his death in Flanders – it continues to the present day. Fitzwilliam students are supported by a fund established in his memory and that of Eric Noel Player, his contemporary and close friend, who was killed in 1916 on the Somme.

About £400 was collected in their memories, and a house in Fitzwilliam Street was purchased to generate rental income for a Bursary; it yielded £28 p.a. The house was sold in 1959, prior to the move of Fitzwilliam to new buildings on Huntingdon Road. The current value of the Hirst Player Fund is around £125,000 and its income provides bursaries and studentships for men or women, preferably Ordinands, reading for a Degree or a Diploma in Theology.

At any time, one or two graduate students are in receipt of Hirst Player Studentships. So the spirit of the original scheme to commemorate Hirst and Player lives on, and contributes to the support of their successors a century later.

John Cleaver

About John Cleaver

John Cleaver MA PhD is a Life Fellow of Fitzwilliam College. He joined the College 45 years ago as a Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering, and spent most of his professional life in research in the physics of microelectronics and in establishing methods for microstructure and nanostructure generation. Since retirement from the Cavendish Laboratory he has undertaken numerous College functions and currently is Archivist; he edited 'Fitzwilliam: the first 150 years of a Cambridge College' (2013).

Posted in Uncategorised

The creation of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in 2005, on the recommendation of Lord Carter in December 2004, was welcomed by many. Lord Carter had rightly understood a significant problem: prisons and probation were working in very separate ‘silos’. He thought that an umbrella organization could bring them together to achieve ‘end-to-end sentence management’. But has NOMS solved the problem?

Not at all, many would agree. NOMS provides a roof over increasingly fragmented prison and probation ‘services’ but has not effectively ‘joined up’ this ‘system’ in any way. Nor is ‘management’ the right concept, if we want to help prisoners to desist from criminal life styles: we need to help them help themselves. The system needs management, not the offender. Probably the majority of offenders need individualized social, practical and financial support over a long time span. The significance of social bonds and support mechanisms should not be underestimated.

The process of desistance is hugely difficult: a process, a social transition, which requires a change both in attitude and identity. A rich literature shows how many offenders want to change, but are often ambivalent about the possibilities and endless challenges they face. Prisons are damaging places, and rarely help.  Even if an offender resolves to change whilst in prison, this resolve can dissolve on release, when he (and it is usually he) is faced with the realities of life on the outside.

There have been many wise words written on the pains of imprisonment (see Ben Crewe’s work), but ‘going straight’ brings its own pains: pains of isolation, pains of failure, pains of hopelessness. And these pains vary unpredictably from time to time. I have often described a prisoner’s journey though the prison system as a game of snakes and ladders: sometimes one goes up the ladders (transfer to a lower security level, or to higher earned privileges, release, of course), but there are just as many unexpected or unpredicted snakes (adjudications, recall….). In theory a prisoner should be on a gradual and smooth return from prison to society. The reality is far from smooth. The ‘spikes’ on the graph of prisoner re-entry, the high and lows, means that ‘sentence management’ is not a smooth process. From an offender’s perspective, these random ‘spikes’ do little to inspire a sense of fair play.

I would argue that the prisoner has a right to rehabilitation or reintegration or resettlement (as Humpty Dumpty said, words can mean what you choose them to mean), or put otherwise, that the state and society owe a duty to all its citizens to facilitate their reintegration, a duty not to return prisoners to society worse off than they were before they served their sentence. For that reason, a prisoner deserves a champion: someone whose first priority is helping his or her reintegration or re-entry. But a more pragmatic justification: it is in all of our interests that re-offending be reduced.

My proposal: providing every prisoner at the very start of his or her sentence with a ‘ champion’, a key worker… not an offender manager, but an old style probation officer, or social worker, whose job is to help the offender negotiate his or her way through our over-complex penal system. Not a prison officer or someone in uniform. Probably not an ex-offender: ex-offenders can make the best mentors, but would they have the ‘clout’ to advocate effectively with the ‘authorities’ to help speed an offender through the ‘system’? Probably not a volunteer mentor, as volunteers need careful (and expensive!) management. My recommendation: an old-fashioned independent and senior probation officer (even the 19th century police court missionary – we need probation officers with a missionary’s zeal!). They would have the lead as the offender’s advocate, arguing loudly for measures and interventions which support rather than impede desistance. Pushing the prisoner’s case for reintegration, for progress through the system, at every corner. Lord Carter nearly understood this: he wanted every prisoner to have his or her own ‘offender manager’. But our understanding of desistance has come a long way in ten years: ‘management’ is not the answer.

These thoughts are being written on my return from a conference held on 26-28 March in Greifswald, northern Germany on Prisoner Resettlement in Europe. I owe a debt to everyone there for having inspired me to shout a bit louder about what’s wrong with our penal system, or rather to try and keep a public conversation alive. My thanks in particular to Fergus McNeill and Ineke Pruin. But my thanks go to everyone there: it was truly inspirational. One of the best messages I heard: you can’t learn to swim without water.

Nicola Padfield

About Nicola Padfield

Nicola Padfield MA, Dip Crim, DES became Master of Fitzwilliam College in October 2013. She is a Reader in Criminal and Penal Justice at the Law Faculty, University of Cambridge, and has been a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College since 1991.

Posted in Master's blog

At the end of my recent brief trip to the USA (wonderful and stimulating alumni dinners in both New York and Boston; and a fascinating afternoon discussing the “meaning of success” with Global Cambridge), I was fortunate to be able to spend an afternoon in the court house in Boston (proper title: the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse – a curious American habit: it is inconceivable in the UK that a court house would be named after even a much loved local politician!).

The building is stunning: brick is a fun metaphor, since the law is also built brick by brick, case by case. But most exciting are the inspirational stone carvings throughout the building. The building resonates with quotations from the giants of US law: “Men and women were created equal; they are both moral and accountable beings, and whatever is right for man to do, is right for woman” (Sarah M. Grimke, 1837); “The law is the witness and external deposit of our mortal life. Its history is the history of the moral development of the race” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1897); “The responsibility of those who exercise power in a democratic government is not to reflect inflamed public feeling but to help form its understanding” (Felix Frankfurter, 1958), and so on.

From the rhetorical to the individual bricks. I sat in the overflow court for the high profile Boston Marathon murder trial of Dzhokhar “Johar” Tsarnaev. But was soon diverted into a host of other, more ‘ordinary’, cases.

I had been told that Judge Young was a master of his craft. Sadly, his first case that I went to watch (listen to?) ‘went down’. But his second hearing was a pre-trial hearing (in the absence of the defendant) in which the defence lawyer sought to speak to the judge in chambers. The judge stated that he didn’t believe in chambers (i.e. he wanted justice to be done in public) but he was prepared to come to the bar of the court. I have been in many courts in many countries, but I have never seen the judge come down into the body of the court and stand in a huddle with the lawyers, having a whispered conversation…. Much better than secret justice, chambers justice, but definitely intriguing. I had an excellent conversation with the defence lawyer at the end of the hearing, which included a discussion of jury tactics (so different in the US).

I also sat in on a sentencing hearing (a woman pleading guilty to tax fraud) and was amazed to hear the extent to which the guidelines predominate: a lengthy discussion about whether it was offence level 33 or 30, whether she should get 2 or 3 points for acceptance of responsibility, and so on. I am nervous that guidelines in our country may be starting to fetter unduly the discretion of the trial judge. But we haven’t seen anything yet!

Then there was a bail hearing (a detention hearing, I think in the US; an interesting reversal). It was clear to me that this defendant was very unlikely to get bail: but the judge was charming and kindly as she remanded him in custody. Most surprising to me in that hearing was the court layout: at the end, the defendant was handcuffed in court and then led to the front of the court and out of a door adjacent to the judge’s bench. We would not have handcuffed him in court, but then he would have been in a much worse position in the court: in a glass box at the back of the room, and then led down to the cells from the back of the box. Much better that this ‘dangerous’ man was sitting in the middle of the court, right next to his lawyer throughout the hearing.

A useful reminder that none of us should accept that the way we do justice is the right or the only way. There are many ways to do justice. And my alarm at the state of American prisons and jails (see the Vera Institute’s latest offering on the misuse of jails) should not extend to their court houses: the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse is impressive. “The dignity and stability of Government in all its branches, the morals of the people, and every blessing of society depend upon an upright and skillful administration of justice” (John Adams, 1776).

Nicola Padfield

About Nicola Padfield

Nicola Padfield MA, Dip Crim, DES became Master of Fitzwilliam College in October 2013. She is a Reader in Criminal and Penal Justice at the Law Faculty, University of Cambridge, and has been a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College since 1991.