Dr Paul Wragg

Dr Paul Wragg


I am an Associate Professor of Law specialising in media law. 

I have been at Leeds since September 2009, having previously taught at Durham University and the University of Birmingham.  I qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and worked in practice in London, Leeds and Birmingham.  I have held visiting fellowships at the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne. 

Until Dec 2017, I was Director of Employability, for eight years, in which I oversaw the School’s strategy for preparing our students for the graduate market.  It was my responsibility to ensure the initiatives and opportunities we created within the school, and the partnerships we established with local, regional and London-based organisations, met the goal of informing, connecting and empowering our students to realise their career ambitions.  I was also Chair of the Faculty Employability Group and a member of the University’s Employability Group.

Research interests

I have a number of research interests that coalesce around my primary interest in free speech theory.  This takes in aspects of legal theory, regulatory theory, political philosophy, moral philosophy, and linguistic philosophy.  My work is heavily influenced by the political philosophy of John Stuart Mill and, increasingly, that of Immanuel Kant's (much maligned) Rechtslehre.  I have been fascinated, for a long time, with the dynamic interplay between press freedom and privacy rights in the UK and European Court of Human Rights case law and, more recently, on the apparent dichotomy between press freedom and (meaningful) press regulation.  It is a feature of my work that I argue against the balancing of competing rights to free speech and privacy (or, as I have also written about, employer rights to discipline and dismiss) and, instead, argue in favour of using the concept of coercion as an analytical tool to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate rights claims (see especially 'Protecting private information of public interest: Campbell’s great promise, unfulfilled' (2015) 7(2) JML 225).  My work has been published in leading journals in the UK and abroad, such as Public Law, Sydney Law Review, Industrial Law Journal, the Journal of Media Law, and the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly.  It has been referred to by, amongst others, a House of Lords select committee on press freedom, the Australian Law Reform Commission, and mentioned in the Supreme Court.  I am regularly invited to speak at conferences, to academics, non-academic end users, and policy-makers.  I have given presentations in the UK and around the world, including the USA, Australia, India, and much of continental Europe.

I am currently writing a monograph for Hart publishing entitled 'A Free and Regulated Press: Defending Coercive Independent Regulation' which sets out and defends a scheme of meaningful press regulation that would meet Lord Justice Leveson's conclusion, in his 2012 report on press culture and ethics, that 'real harm to real people' is a serious contemporary problem deserving of effective resolution.  This scheme will be distinctive in advancing the (neglected) liberal view on press regulation/press freedom in contrast to the orthodox claims of the political left and right which insists press freedom is a teleological (ie purposive) concept.  By rejecting this view, and arguing press freedom can be understood only on consequentialist grounds (relating to harm), the book shows how the paradox in particularly leftish thought that press freedom is both precious and unruly, needing coercive measures but without causing serious financial harm, is resolved and meaningful press regulation is achievable.  In short: I argue that press freedom involves no duty relating to democratic participation and is no more than an obligation to make good (on the unwarranted harm it causes), not do good.

Relatedly, I am in receipt of major AHRC funding for an interdisciplinary project relating to the nature and extent of press freedom in the UK and continental Europe (AH/R00644X/1).  This is a two-year project. More details can be found here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/journalism/news/sheffield-researchers-team-press-governance-study-ahrc-1.753108

I am a member of the Code Committee of IMPRESS, the UK's only official, independent press regulator.  I wrote, with others, the regulatory code provisions which govern the relationship between members, their audience, and those that they write about.  I was also responsible for the guidance which accompanies the code.  This is used by the public and by the press when complaints are made or contemplated.  More information can be found here: https://impress.press/about-us/code-committee.html.

I am Editor-in-Chief for Communications Law (Bloomsbury Press), one of the leading specialist journals devoted to media and technology law, and have been since January 2016.  I am also an Associate Fellow of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, an organisation I have been connected to since October 2012 and was previously the section convenor for the Media and Communications section of the Society of Legal Scholars.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Law
  • LLB (Dunelm)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the HEA
  • Society of Legal Studies
  • Member of the Inner Temple

Student education

I have taught law, at undergraduate and postgraduate level, since 2000 on subjects as varied as Trusts & Equity, Contract Law, Public Law and Employment Law.  Currently, my teaching focuses on Contract Law and Media Freedom.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Business Law and Practice
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>