Newcastle Law School

Our Covid-19 research

Our Covid-19 related research

We are combining our diverse research excellence to tackle COVID-19 and respond to this major global challenge.

Contact Tracing Apps

Professor Lilian Edwards

Lilian is a leading academic in the field of Internet law. She has taught information technology law, e-commerce law, privacy law and Internet law at undergraduate and postgraduate level since 1996 and been involved with law and artificial intelligence (AI) since 1985.

She is a Member of the NHS COVID-19 App Data Ethics Advisory Board.

Lilian is leading a team of authors of a draft Cornavirus (Safeguards) Bill.

The Coronavirus (Safeguards) Bill 2020: Proposed protections for digital interventions and in relation to immunity certificates.


Lilian Edwards, Michael Veale, Orla Lynskey, Rachel Coldicutt, Nóra Loideain, Frederike Kaltheuner, Marion Oswald, Rossana Ducato, Burkhard Schafer, Aileen McHarg, Elizabeth Renieris

This Bill attempts to provide safeguards in relation to the symptom tracking and contact tracing apps that are currently being rolled out in the UK; and anticipates minimum safeguards that will be needed if we move on to a roll out of “immunity certificates” (commonly known as passports) in the near future.

Wills and Gifting Property

Dr Derek Whayman 

Derek is a lecturer in law at Newcastle University. He specialises in common law property subjects and equity and fiduciary law. He has published numerous articles on these subjects and is the author of Essential Cases: Equity & Trusts, published by Oxford University Press.

The present global coronavirus pandemic will no doubt have prompted many into writing, or rewriting, their wills. Given the perception is that the prices charged by solicitors is high, many will be tempted to take the cheaper option of getting an online will. Such a will is designed via a web form, printed at home, and then witnessed and signed, perhaps by neighbours at a safe distance.

Existing research has demonstrated that many of the wills made by unqualified will-writers are of a poor standard and do not do what their creators want. Dr Whayman’s research has confirmed this is often the case for this new generation of online wills. Sometimes the web app will produce legally incorrect output. His research is focused on how the courts’ powers of rectification, designed in the 1970s, can deal with this unforeseen problem and to what extent. It concludes that despite this, since the courts have taken a broad view of that legislation, they will be able to use it to deal with some cases of computer error. Nonetheless, improvements could and should be made to the legislation.

  • Derek has also published a research briefing on Bargain Wills? Picking up the Pieces: The Rectification of Computer Generated Documents (PDF: 1.28MB). This briefing discusses how the courts have tended to interpret the law of rectification of wills flexibly and they may continue to do so in these novel circumstances. The explanation of the process of computer-generation of wills and application of it to the law will assist the litigator and advisor.
  • As we are told to ‘stay home’ and we worry about our mortality, getting a will from an online provider might be tempting. In his latest research, Derek Whayman has identified a number of problems with this route and considers how the courts and legislators might respond to them. He recently published and article on ‘The Rectification (and Construction) of Computer-Generated Documents’ (2019) 30 King’s LJ.

Dr Sue Farran 

Sue joined Newcastle Law School in 2019 having previously held posts at Northumbria University, the University of Dundee, the University of the South Pacific (based in the Republic of Vanuatu) and the University of the West of England. She is an Associate of the Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of St Andrews. Her research interests lie in the field of human rights and property, encompassing in particular the rights of women, children and indigenous people, and land, natural resources and intellectual property. Sue teaches Equity and Trusts and Land Law and she has published in the journal, Trusts and Trustees.

Ideally all those confronting the possibility of death from the Covid-19 virus would have had the time and resources to draw up a will. The reality is that many have had, and will have, neither. One possibility is the equitable institution of donatio mortis causa, but it is not without its problems.

With a will and gifts made during lifetime there has to be a very clear intention evidenced either in writing in the case of a will, or by conduct (possibly combined with writing) in the case of gifts. A will can be altered while the person who makes it is still alive and does not come into effect until after death. A gift made while a person is alive, once made is absolute, unless it is a conditional gift. A Donatio Mortis Causa (DMC) is just that: a gift that is conditional on the death of the person making it (the donor). If the person making it does not die the gift does not take effect. If the donor does die the gift MAY take effect provided, the donor contemplated death – for example from Covid 19 due to age/underlying health conditions or being at high risk through work and this prompted the gift; AND the donor transferred control of the property to the intended donee.

Sue Farran has examined the possible problems that could arise if this method of making provision for loved ones is used, particularly in respect of property, notably houses and land, to which title is registered. The courts in England and Wales have not ruled definitively on whether title to land which is registered, can be transferred to another informally through a DMC. With unregistered land provided the donor has the title deeds this can be done, either by handing over the deeds themselves or a key to a deed box. With most moveables transfer of control is not so problematic, for example the key to a car, or a desk in which there are share certificates, an inventory of paintings, antiques, books, jewellery, perhaps with a token transfer of one of these items. Registered land has no paper title, and the same is true of some shares, bank accounts, insurance policies and investment portfolios. Increasingly we are living in a world in which our rights to such property are held electronically. In a time of lockdown this can, or course, be a boon, but it might also have its drawbacks.

Needing a Will: Your Options

Human Rights

Both Sean Molloy and Conall Mallory have done research on Human Rights Law during the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Sean Molloy

Sean is a Research Associate at Newcastle Law School. His expertise is in Human Rights Law, Public Law, Transitional Justice and Peace Agreements. 

Here are some of his blog posts:

Sean also wrote a report on States of Emergencies - Molloy, S. (2020) Negotiating States of Emergency (PA-X Research Report). Edinburgh: Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh. 

Dr Conall Mallory

Conall is a Lecturer in Law at Newcastle Law School. Conall's principal research interests lie in the areas of Human Rights, Public Law and Public International Law. His current research focuses on issues relating to legal accountability for human rights violations. His monograph, 'Human Rights Imperialists: The Extraterritorial Application of the European Convention on Human Rights' was published with Hart in April 2020.

Here are some of his blog posts/webinars:


International Borders

Dr Colin Murray

Colin is a Reader in Public Law. His current research is focused in the fields of national security law, legal history and public law. He leads a major ESRC research project on the impact of Brexit upon governance and identity in Northern Ireland. 

As the UK and Ireland went into varying states of lockdown to combat the pandemic, the Common Travel Area (CTA) and cross-border co-operation on the island of Ireland have come under renewed strain. Colin has recently published on The UK in a Changing Europe on the Covid-19 crisis across the Irish border.

Covid and our Environment

Re-Imagining Environmental Justice in Post-Pandemic Ireland

Dr Ciara Brennan is founder of the Environmental Justice Network Ireland. EJNI have asked individuals from a broad range of backgrounds to contribute their thoughts on environmental justice in post-pandemic Ireland in a series of short films. Their goal is to demonstrate the different ways in which people from diverse backgrounds describe their own experiences of environmental justice (or injustice) and how they engage with some of the biggest questions that decision-makers and society must contend with in the new reality post-Covid. You can watch the videos online.

Covid and Urban Green Spaces

Professor Chris Rodgers has recently published in the Environmental Law Review on 'Nourishing and Protecting our Urban “Green” Space in a post-pandemic world'.

Graffiti in a time of pandemic

This collage brings together photos taken by students and colleagues at Newcastle Law School, collated and arranged by Jasmine Davidge. It is part of a wider collaborative research project looking at COVID-19 related graffiti in the community, being led by Dr Sue Farran.