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The School of Law, Policing and Forensics at Staffordshire University offers the LLB, LPC and LLM; degrees in Policing and Criminal Investigation, Professional Policing, Criminology, Criminal Justice with Offender Management, Forensic Science and Forensic Investigation. With over fifty staff members we have expertise in rape testing, prevention and prosecution, ballistic testing, fibre analysis, soil analysis, Family Law and Employment Law among others. We offer BA and BSc, MSci and MSCs along with a Masters by Applied Research in a range of areas, including Forensic Archaeology.

On this blog you will find news from the different areas of the School. You can follow us on twitter at:

@StaffsUniLPF

@StaffsCJF_Dept

@StaffsUniLaw

A Year On – The Bar Professional Training Course

Last year we published an article about celebrating the scholarship one of our students, Jake Edwards, won in order to complete the Bar Professional Training Course at Nottingham Trent University. We caught up with him to see how the course was and to tell us a little bit more about what it entails. 

I started the Bar Professional Training Course in September 2018 at Nottingham Trent University after receiving one of the Middle Temple Inn of Court Scholarships and the Nottingham Law School Dean’s BPTC Scholarship for Academic Excellence.

Before I enrolled on the BPTC I had to complete the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). This test will not assess your legal knowledge, instead, it will test your ability to use reason and logic. The questions will test your ability to evaluate arguments, recognise assumptions and draw inferences.

On the BPTC I had to complete twelve exams, each assessing a different discipline necessary for legal practice as a barrister. These areas are criminal litigation (evidence and sentencing), civil litigation and remedies, professional ethics, drafting, opinion writing, resolution of disputes out of court (RDOC), conferencing, criminal advocacy (comprising of two assessments examination in chief and cross examination) and civil advocacy. You must then choose two optional modules, I took advanced criminal litigation and family law practice.

The course is very different from any undergraduate law course, the emphasis shifts away from academic research and legal theory. Instead, the focus is on practical skills. The assumption is that you now know the law, or at the very least you will inform yourself of what the law is. The sorts of issues you will face on a day to day basis will largely relate to evidence, procedure and advice.

During the BPTC, I attended twelve qualifying sessions at the Middle Temple, as this is required before you are eligible to be called to the bar. There are a wide range of sessions available including but not expressly limited to advocacy weekends at the Cumberland Lodge, mooting competitions, dining nights, music nights and lectures.

Whilst studying on the BPTC I worked as a County Court Advocate. In this role I have represented clients in court before District Judges across the Midlands on a range of issues including personal injury claims, RTA claims, infant approval hearings, debt recovery hearings, fitness to work cases, mortgage possession hearings and deposit protection hearings. In this capacity you are subject to the same code of ethics that governs barristers and you will frequently find yourself up against opponents who are themselves practicing barristers usually up to five years call.

The BPTC assesses your level of competency with the grading ranging from not competent to outstanding. In July, I received my BPTC results in which I was graded an outstanding overall. I am now waiting to be called to the bar at the Middle Temple in November (Michaelmas call). To be eligible for call you must have obtained at least a competent overall on the BPTC along with twelve qualifying sessions.

Congratulations for all of your hard work Jake!

Graduate Wins Scholarship for Bar Professional Training Course

Lauren Bicknell, a Graduate in LLB Law with a Foundation Year, has won a scholarship from Middle Temple to study the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course).

“I am beyond delighted to share that I have been awarded the Jules Thorn Scholarship from Middle Temple to study the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) in Nottingham this September.

My path to the Bar has been somewhat unconventional. I finished my A-levels with less than desirable grades and only got in to University through Clearing. However, I have proved to myself that with resilience and determination, anything is achievable. I was exceptionally fortunate to have great mentors at Staffordshire University. Their unwavering support and guidance played an indispensable role in my success.

I am incredibly excited to begin this next chapter of my journey in becoming a barrister.”

Congratulations Lauren and all the best for the Bar Professional Training Course

Student Gains Paid Role After Volunteering in the Criminal Justice Sector

Kate Price, who will be going into her second year in the BA Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree in September, wrote a blog article for us last year about her experiences volunteering in Criminal Justice Sector. She is a proactive student and is now a paid staff member at CGL. She has written another blog post detailing the work involved and how you too can gain experience volunteering within the Criminal Justice sector, in custody and the community.

My Journey continues to grow…..

I previously wrote a blog and touched on how far I had come and what I had achieved in a short space of time, starting with applying to Staffordshire University in September 2018 after deciding I wanted to pursue my dream of working within the Criminal Justice sector both in custody and in the community, I was accepted on to the Criminal Justice with Offender Management Course to my delight and that was the beginning of fantastic things for me.

I decided to get some experience volunteering with offenders and ex-offenders through Change, Grow, Live (CGL – previously known as Sova), and after training I was given the opportunity to support service users at Probation, meet with individuals who needed support after being released from prison or fetch clients from prison on the day of their release and assist them with getting to their first probation meeting or to their home address/nearest train station, it was exactly the kind of experience I needed and it was a great insight. 8 months later I was informed that there was a job being advertised on the company website and that because I had been an active Volunteer I would be a good candidate, I was encouraged to apply for the role of Volunteer Coordinator, which I did…. And I was successful!! I am now a full time, paid staff member at CGL and I get to look after around 20 amazing Volunteers.

If you would like to become a volunteer please click on the link here and request an application pack as we are always in need, I would really like to encourage BOTH men and women to apply, we are in desperate need of some male volunteers if you know anybody that you think would like to join us please share our details.

What Are You Up to Now? Catching up with Law Alumni

We like to keep in touch with our alumni and hear about what they are doing since graduating. Jade Taylor studied the LLB Law with a Foundation Year degree with us as Staffordshire University and graduated in 2017. Since graduating, Jade has been a support Officer, Coordinator and volunteer in ares within the criminal justice system, including probation work, mentoring and children in care. She has written a guest piece for our blog about her experiences mentoring within the criminal justice system.

Jade Taylor graduated in 2017 with an LLB (Hons) in Law, taking the Foundation Year route.

August 2017 – July 2019 Volunteer Support Officer for CF03, SWM CRC, DLNR, Merseyside Circles

July 2019 – Promoted to Volunteer Coordinator for SWM CRC – Covering Probation Offices Birmingham Centre City and Wolverhampton Lever Street & Community Mentoring for both areas.

October 2018 – Present – Volunteer Independent Visitor for Black Country Independent Visitors (Children in the Care System)

In April 2016, I decided I needed to get some experience in the Criminal Justice System as I was studying a Law Degree at Staffordshire University. I investigated what would be the best opportunity for me and came across Sova/CGL. Going through recruitment I was nervous yet excited. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would deal with this line of work. After the second interview I was hoping and praying I would get the opportunity, and I did. I was over the moon!

Little did I know at the time it would be the best decision I ever made.

I became fully recruited in October 2016 and this is where my journey began. I started off volunteering in Stoke on Trent on the SWM CRC project doing community mentoring supporting service users of all different backgrounds and with all different support needs. I then got involved with Breach Court support at Birmingham Magistrates every Wednesday morning on my day off from university. This was an amazing experience and the support I could give to the individuals been given sentences was incredible. We would sign them up and give them that little glimpse of hope.

Alongside this I was then given the opportunity to mentor in HMYOI Brinsford. I took the opportunity with both hands and again enjoyed every minute. Supporting an individual in custody is daunting to begin with but then I soon realised it was the perfect opportunity to give that person a sense of hope, determination and courage for their release giving them all the vital tools to develop and grow in the community.
It is safe to say that as a volunteer the co-ordinators gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. Not only that but did they make me the person I am today from the beginning. They believed in me, they supported me and they enabled me to grow and develop with continuous training and guidance.

I loved volunteering with Sova/CGL that much I applied for a job with Sova/CGL as the Volunteer Support Officer 4 weeks after graduating in July 2017. Then an even bigger shock and an even better opportunity. I GOT THE JOB!!

I had the most rewarding job of recruiting volunteers and giving them the opportunity that I was given. I go to work happy and come home happy knowing I can do this for others. My work is more than just a job. I also still get to mentor the service users and I will quite happily make that time up! My colleagues are brilliant and I have made some great friendships along the way.

July 2019 came, a promotion opportunity came up. By chance I went for it thinking “what do I have to lose”. It was nerve-wracking but exciting. This is what I had longed for. Going through university thinking it would take years to get into a full time job that I was happy in and what I had studied so long for. I was successful for the post and I have now began my journey based in Probation supporting not only volunteers but assisting service users on license in there day to day struggles. Now that’s rewarding!
I also volunteer one Sunday every month on the Black Country Independent Visitor project where I get to make a difference to a young person’s life in the care system. Again, the most amazing opportunity to make a difference to somebody’s life and enjoy it at the same time.

The opportunities are endless and the volunteers we have are the bread and butter of what we do. I am proud of how far I have come as a volunteer now staff member, but most of all I am extremely proud of the volunteers I get to recruit. I get to watch them flourish into amazing mentors and to give them that rewarding experience is indescribable.

I am proud to be part of this organisation both as a volunteer and staff member and as I will say every day I am extremely proud and value all our amazing mentors on all the projects that we have and the journey I have been on since graduating!

Human Rights Law as a Control on the Exercise of Power in the UK

Naseem Khan, who graduated in July with an LLB (Hons) in Law, submitted his essay on Human Rights to E-International Relations and it has been published. 

The site states that it is ‘an open access website for students and scholars of international politics’.

Naz wrote the essay following the final-year module on Human Rights with Dr Damian Etone and Senior Lecturer Aidan Flynn. 

“The existence of human rights legislation is only as effective as the judicial institution that applies and interprets it.[6]  In the context of the ECHR, then, section 2 HRA 1998 sets out the obligation of the UK courts, requiring that they ‘take into account’ the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) when considering issues pertaining to ECHR rights.  Under section 3 HRA 1998, the courts must also ensure that domestic legislation is interpreted to ensure its compatibility with the ECHR, and may make a declaration of incompatibility if compatibility with the ECHR is not possible.  The core purpose of sections 2 and 3 HRA 1998 is to ensure that Parliament does not pass legislation that contravenes ECHR rights, and could, on this basis, be said to significantly strengthen the discretion of the courts when interpreting law.  However, there is no positive obligation imposed upon the courts to actually apply or follow ECtHR jurisprudence.[7]  They are instead expected to ‘ordinarily follow’ ECtHR decisions.[8] ” 

Congratulations Naz! You can access the full essay on the website here

Lawyering in a Digital Age

Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in Law, was a speaker at the recent ‘Lawyering in a Digital Age’ conference.

This conference took place at the Ambleside campus of the University of Cumbria on the 27th and 28th of June. The focus of this event was for attenders to come together to discuss and understand some of the changes brought about by technologically mediated practices and to discuss the necessary knowledge, skills and attributes for legal practice in the future.

Presentations addressed how technology can be used to enhance the design and delivery of the law curriculum, such as through virtual law clinics, and also the need for the curriculum to be developed to prepare students for the use of technology in the work environment (with a focus on legal practice).

Simon Gardiner and Jenni Taylor (Leeds Beckett University) with Aidan Flynn

Graduate Exhibition: GradEX2019

This week is Graduation Week, where we officially celebrate all of the achievements and hard work of our students during their time here at Staffordshire University. To mark the celebrations, here is some of the work our soon-to-be graduates produced for their final year project, and presented at GradEX, in June. 

GradEX is the annual showcase of final year student work – a graduate exhibition. It involves students presenting their research in a poster and explaining their work to judges, who are professionals within the subject fields. Students are then awarded prizes for first, second and third place within their subject areas.

Sociology, Criminology and Terrorism

Nat Campbell – Deviant Desires: What is the Root Cause of Sex Trafficking

 

Charlotte Rigby – Politically Imperfect: A Critical Discussion Regarding Female Representation, Participation and Experiences in Ccontemporary British Politics

 

“Participating in Gradex was definitely a worthwhile experience. Presenting my final dissertation research project was such a proud moment and being able to network and chat with professionals about my research was great. The next step for me is to go onto further study and complete a Masters degree in September, then hopefully go onto a career in research!”

– Scarlet Hunt

 

Scarlet Hunt – “100 Likes or 100 Insecurities?” A research Project Looking into Social Media and its Impact Upon Young People’s Mental Well-Being

 

Rosie Brindle-Wilkinson – “Could Be a Damn Sight Better”: How Can People with a History of Substance Use Be Better Supported into Employment?

 

Is the current UK Government Doing Enough to Tackle Youth Crime in England and Wales?

 

Sarah Johnson – My Community Matters: Drug ‘Epidemic’ or Media Mayhem?

 

First Place: Danielle Langford

Second Place: Scarlet Hunt

Third Place: Sarah Johnson

 

Policing and Criminal Investigation and Law

 

Brang Aung  – Legal Aid: Access to Justice

 

Leilani Davies – Understanding the Scale of Sexual Assault and Rape on University Campuses

 

Steven Simon – What Factors or Circumstances Influence a Victim of Assault Not to Proceed with Their Case within Staffordshire and do Victim Personal Statements Influence Their Decision?

 

Jess Thompson – The Public Perceptions of the Police Use of Force During Stop and Search

 

Rebecca Thomas – Does DIAL Recognise Stalking Behaviour and is it Appropriate for Police Use?

 

“I feel that GradEX was an invaluable experience that has allowed me to articulate my dissertation research project and has granted me the opportunity to reflect with professionals about the learning processes that took place. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the networking opportunity and the ability to explore the great work of my peers. Turning 10,000 words into a poster was a difficult task but allowed me to sum up the research simply for easy explanation, that I can then also use in a workplace situation when applying for relevant jobs.”

~ Sarah Johnson

 

Emma Hodgkinson – Understanding Coercive Control: The Public’s Perceptive

 

Megan Clarke – Victim Satisfaction: Influencing Change Within Staffordshire Police

 

Benjamin Rowley – Research to Review the Effectiveness of UK Policy and Policing Procedure to Identify and Protect Victims of Modern Slavery Working in the Hand Car Wash Industry

 

Adam Thorley – Protecting Those That Protect Us: A Review of the Psychological Impact of Being a Police Officer and the Support System Available to Them

 

Jordan Dulson – To Explore the Media’s Portrayal of Characteristics Involved in Knife Crime

 

Oliver Watson – How Does the Use of Stop and Search Powers Influence the Levels of knife Crime in Staffordshire

 

Lucy Hardaker – Research to Identify the Cause of Knife Crime in West Yorkshire and the Effectiveness of Their Policing Response

 

Paige Topham – What is Being Done in the UK to Reduce and Deter Online Grooming Through Education?

 

Oliver Taylor – How Existing Technology and Future Advancements Will Affect Staffordshire Police Demand

 

Will Sephton – An Exploratory Study into the Factors Surrounding ‘Public Space Violence’

 

Alexandra Mozley – The reality Versus the Public Perception of the Role of a Police Community Support Officer

 

Policing and Criminal Investigation

First Place: Megan Clarke

Second Place: Steven Simon

Third Place: Oliver Watson

 

Forensic Investigation and Forensic Science

 

Lucy Cheshire – An Investigation into the Relationship Between Body Mass Index and Blood Alcohol Concentration

 

Verity Neale – The Effect Different Weapons Have on Bloodstains at Crime Scenes

 

Michaela Reeves – An Interpretation of the Chemical Changes in Soil During the Decomposition Process to Devise a Strategy to Determine the Post Mortem Interval

 

Sarah Felton – Quantifying Crime Scene Blood Spillage: A Proof of Concept Evaluation of Relationships Between Volume, Area and Surface Absorption

 

Kirstin Gent – The Effect of Submersion on Textile Damage Upon Various Fabric Types within Different Water Environments

 

Mollie Barker – The Creation of an Assessment Tool for Heat Damage to Textiles

 

“Entering GradEX was the penultimate part of my student experience. For about 18 months I had worked on ‘Deviant Desires’ and it was the best opportunity to exhibit my work. Having developed a passion for researching about sexual exploitation and violence and current legislations, this project enabled me to put my own analysis on what the root cause of sex trafficking is.

I would encourage any student to enter GradEX , not only is it an opportunity to meet with experts in the field, it is the perfect opportunity to show the world how proud you are of this one piece of work that has overtaken your life. It is your moment to shine. Definitely a #ProudToBeStaffs moment.” –  Nat Campbell  

 

Kirsty Chevannes – Evaluation of Methods used within Forensic Anthropology in Comparison to Digital Methods

 

The Effect on the Angle of Impact From the Addition of Substances to Blood

 

Jade Neal – The Use of Accelerants and Their Effects in the Burn Patterns Produced on Carpet

 

Lucy Colley – The Use of Non-Destructive Methods to Detect and Measure GSR Spread for the Estimation of Firing Distance at Close Range

 

Katie Evers – A Prediction of Textile Damage from Acid Attacks to Aid in the Reconstruction of Events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Abbey Sullivan – The Impact of Different Fabric Types and Composition on Bloodstains Both Prior and Post Laundering

 

Aimee Girdham – Designing and Performing Verification Study in Fingermark Development and Recovery for Staffordshire Police ISO Accreditation

 

Rodgers Nyika – The Effects of Temperature ont he Development of Fingermarks

 

Rebecca Johnston – The Migration of Volatile Organic Compounds through Various Polymer Membranes in Relation to Analysis of Arson Related Materials

 

Mauricio Chase – The Development and Evaluation of Fingermarks on Firearms From Areas Frequently Handled

 

Jessica Woodman – An Investigation into Whether the Partial Drying of Blood Drops can Aid in the Determination of Sequence of Events of a Crime

 

Stacey White – Tertiary Transfer and Persistence of Seminal Evidence in Child Sexual Abuse

 

Matthew Ballam-Davies – The Determination of Pedestrian Throw Types Using Small-Scale Reconstruction

 

Harriet Rushton – An Improved Procedure for Trace Evidence Recovery from Wounds

 

Lauren Bird – The Evaluation of Different Photogrammetry Software, Based on The Accuracy of Visual Representation; When Used for Crime Scene Documentation

 

Shivani Padhiar – The Effects of Corrosive Chemicals Commonly Used Within Acid Attacks on Blood and Identifying if the Contaminated Blood is Still Detectable Using the KM and LMG Test

 

Suzy Hladik – The Best Practice of Visualising Fingerprints on Eggs and Eggshells Regarding Wildlife Crime

 

Forensic Science

First Place: Rebecca Johnston

Second Place: Mauricio Chase

Third Place: Stacey White

 

Forensic Investigation

First Place: Katie Evers

Second Place: Lucy Cheshire

Third Place: Sarah Felton

 

 

Congratulations to all students who took part and to all 2019 Graduands!  

Law Student Secures £10k Scholarship to Help Fund Masters

Final-year Staffordshire Law student Naz Khan has secured a Major Scholarship worth more than £10,000 to help fund a post-graduate Masters of Law (LL.M.) at Durham University.

“I realised it is best to be myself, demonstrate why I am suitable for the scholarship and most importantly what I can bring to the table” ~ Naz Khan

 

The Masters Scholarship, which covers the full cost of tuition fees, was awarded to Naz by the Aziz Foundation.  This is a charitable foundation that supports British Muslims with unique leadership qualities to achieve their potential and make a positive contribution to society.  Only 50 of these scholarships are made available.  Naz Khan is the first student from the West-Midlands region, first Staffordshire University Alumni to receive such a scholarship and the foundation’s first legal scholar.

“I am delighted to have broken new ground, there is something special about being the first person to achieve something unprecedented.  I may be the first, but I won’t be the last, I hope it will serve as an inspiration, paving the way for future students”.

The Aziz Foundation assesses scholarship applications against four key criteria: academic ability; motivation to help communities; potential as a leader; and personal qualities such as self-reliance, independence, integrity and reliability.

“My time here has enabled me to grow as a person and develop many key skills.  I will always be a Staffordshire Alumni; I’d like to return in some capacity and share the knowledge I have gained with other students.”

Naz was interviewed in London by a panel comprising of three officers.  The 20-minute interview included questions on his motivation for pursuing a career in law, his experiences of helping communities and his plans on how to finance his Masters.  He said: “The interview questions were mostly personal, a way of getting to know me. They asked what areas of law I wanted to go into. I had written on my application form that I have considered becoming a legal advocate upon completion of my Masters and wish to pursue a doctorate in the future.”

Despite being caught off-guard by a question asking what he would change about the law and why, Naz drew confidence from his experiences at Staffordshire University of delivering presentations in Constitutional Law and Human Rights Law, and from his active participation in seminars.  Naz believes these experiences helped develop his public speaking style and skills, and on the day of his interview, helped control his nerves: “I realised it is best to be myself, demonstrate why I am suitable for the scholarship and most importantly what I can bring to the table”.

Naz’s interest in law is driven by his compassion for the adversity communities face and desire to help individuals who are unable to afford legal representation.  “All people, rich or poor should be entitled to legal representation of the highest quality. I am very grateful to be awarded a scholarship by an organisation that shares my vision.”

Reflecting on his experiences, Naz encourages all students to take initiative and apply for scholarships.  “Scholarships like these are about more than just funding, they demonstrate to employers that you are an individual of good character and capable of proving your worth”.

Naz will begin a Masters course at Durham University in September.  However, he one day hopes to return to Staffordshire University. “My time here has enabled me to grow as a person and develop many key skills.  I will always be a Staffordshire Alumni; I’d like to return in some capacity and share the knowledge I have gained with other students.”

The EU Parliament: a forum for democratic improvements across Europe

Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in Law, looks at the European Parliament, one of the seven European Union organs recognised, in the primary legislation of the EU, as ‘institutions’ of the EU.  

It seems likely that future generations of UK citizens will be left without an opportunity to exert influence and achieve clout in an assembly that is a key forum for democratic improvements across Europe.  The Dutch Prime Minister, amongst others, has reflected “sadly” on how a UK exit from the European Union “will leave a big hole.”  

This year is the fortieth anniversary of the first direct elections to the European ParliamentSix years earlier the UK had acceded to the then European Economic Community (EEC).  From 1973 to 1979 our representatives in the Parliament were a selection of people who were appointed, rather than elected, from the pool of national parliamentarians at Westminster.

The introduction, in 1979, of direct elections to the Parliament was a very positive development.  Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected for a term of five years.  Article 14(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), often referred to as the ‘Maastricht Treaty’, states that “the members of the European Parliament shall be elected for a term of five years by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot.”  The TEU is, like all the treaties that have been ratified over the years, part of the primary legislation of the European Union.  These treaties are as important in the EU legal system as Acts of Parliament are in the UK legal system. 

Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament.  The current President of the Parliament is Antonio Tajani, an Italian politician who has been an MEP since 2014.  The President is elected by the members of the Parliament.  Henry Plumb, an MEP from the UK, was President of the Parliament from 1987 to 1989.

 

Privileges

Article 8 of the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union provides that MEPs may not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties.  This is a necessary and important privilege.  The Parliament can waive an MEP’s immunity.  An example of a scenario where it did so led to the case Bruno Gollnisch v Parliament, which concerned an MEP in respect of whom the French authorities had opened a judicial inquiry for incitement to racial hatred.  The General Court (previously known as the ‘Court of First Instance’, it is attached to the EU’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg), was supportive of the Parliament’s decision.  Morano-Foadi and Neller have commented on the significance of this judgment “this case affirmed the capacity of the European Parliament to waive the immunity of an MEP who faces prosecution for the expression of an opinion that is not directly and obviously connected to the performance of their parliamentary duties.”

 

European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999

The purpose of this Act (of the UK Parliament) was to “alter the method used in Great Britain for electing Members of the European Parliament.”  The Labour Party manifesto at the 1997 General Election stated that “we have long supported a proportional voting system for election to the European Parliament.”  The new method of voting was in force in time for the 1999 European Parliament elections.

In England, Scotland and Wales the voting system is the d’Hondt system of proportional representation – regional closed list.  There are electoral regions (constituencies), for example ‘West Midlands’ (of England) and MEPs are elected by a regional list system.  Seats are allocated to parties in proportion to their share of the vote.  In Northern Ireland the system of proportional representation used is ‘Single Transferable Vote’.

The votes of voters in Gibraltar are counted as votes in the region / constituency of ‘South West England’.  In Spain v UK, a case decided by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice, the court permitted the extension of voting rights in European Parliament elections beyond the EU citizens resident in Gibraltar to third-country Commonwealth nationals also lawfully resident there.  The court chose not to focus on the fact that these people did not have EU citizenship, instead it placed emphasis on the nature of the close links of these residents with Gibraltar.

 

Committees

There are twenty-two committees in the European Parliament.  These include Legal Affairs; International Trade; Employment and Social Affairs; Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Membership of one of these committees affords an MEP the opportunity to exercise influence, build a reputation and gain valuable experience.  For example, Neil Parish MP (Tiverton and Honiton) was previously an MEP for South West England and he sat on the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.  Now an MP in the UK Parliament, he is the current Chair of the House of Commons’ Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

 

Making European Union Law

One of the European Parliament’s three big powers is its role in making European Union Law.  Proposals for new EU law emanate from the European Commission.   The legislation is then created by two other institutions acting together, the Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Originally the Parliament did not have this legislative role and the law making function was confined exclusively to the Council.  At that time the Parliament was often criticised as being merely a talking shop.  However, the Parliament’s powers were increased by the Single European Act, in the 1980s, and subsequently by the treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon.  In light of how its role has evolved, Conway comments that “it makes sense to think of the EU as having a bicameral legislature consisting of the Council and the European Parliament as the two chambers.”  The enhancement of the Parliament’s powers is illustrated by the extent to which MEPs are now subject to substantial lobbying by corporations and various other interest groups.

 

Budget of the European Union

Another of the Parliament’s three main powers is related to its involvement in the EU budget.  The Parliament is provided with certain powers in relation to the budget by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.  Article 314(4) of the TFEU provides that the European Parliament may amend any part of the draft budget (drafted by the European Commission).  The Parliament has rejected the budget as a whole on two occasions (in December 1979 and in December 1984).

 

Influence on the European Commission

The third main power that the Parliament possesses is its power of supervision of the Commission.  Under Article 230 of the TFEU, Commissioners have a duty to respond to questions put to them by the European Parliament or its members.  Commissioners know that is important for them to have positive engagement with the European Parliament.  Chris Patten, the European Commissioner for External Relations from 1999 to 2004, recalls that “you had to manage your relationships with colleagues in the Commission, the ministers and ambassadors of member states, and the European Parliament.”

Under Article 17(7) of the TEU a new Commission is subject to a vote of consent by the European Parliament.  In 2004, the Parliament opposed the appointment of Rocco Buttiglione, from Italy.  The Parliament cannot block the appointment of an individual member of the Commission-elect, its power is to block the appointment of the Commission as a whole.  Morano-Foadi and Neller tell us that “the Parliament felt so strongly about Buttiglione’s appointment that it became clear they would vote against the appointment of the proposed Commissioners en bloc.”  The Commission elect was withdrawn and Franco Frattini took the place of Rocco Buttiglione.

Parliament also has the right to dismiss the Commission en bloc (under Article 17(8) TEU and Article 234 TFEU).  In 1999 the Commissioners resigned when Parliament threatened to use its power to dismiss.

 

Heads of state or government

The heads of state or government are members of a European Union institution called the European Council. That status and also various other circumstances provide opportunities for making speeches at the European Parliament.  These engagements give the leader of a Member State a chance to try and exert influence on any given issue(s) that he / she regards as being important.  For example, former Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the Parliament in June 2005. Seldon recounts how his speech “was greeted by rapt applause and a standing ovation at the end,” adding “six weeks into his third term, it was the first significant success he had achieved.”  In July 2018, MEPs heard a speech from the youngest of the twenty-eight heads of state or government, Sebastian Kurz, the Federal Chancellor of Austria.

 

Political Groups 

MEPs from each Member State do not sit together as the group of MEPs from their specific state.  The way that the European Parliament operates is that MEPs generally become affiliated with one of the eight political groups that exist at a European level.  For example, the UK Labour Party’s MEPs sit with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, which is the second biggest political group in the Parliament.  The biggest political group is the European People’s Party (EPP).  Following this month’s election, it is envisaged that the ‘La Republique en marche’ party of French President Emmanuel Macron will become affiliated with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.  There have been suggestions in the past that voters in a European Parliament election can be heavily influenced by the activities of a non-EU state.  Seldon and Snowdon, reflecting on the 2014 election, comment that “the EPPs unexpected victory is thought to be because the voters in Central and Eastern Europe swung to the right after the Russian intervention in Ukraine.” 

The UK Conservative Party was affiliated to the European People’s Party until 2009.  The former Prime Minister, and Conservative Party leader, David Cameron made a switch from the EPP to a new group called the European Conservatives and Reformists.  The then French President Nicholas Sarkozy was unimpressed by this switch, reportedly pleading with Mr Cameron, on four occasions, to refrain from making it.  Ashcroft and Oakeshott recall the immediate aftermath of one meeting between the two men, “after the meeting, when the Tory leader was safely out of earshot, the French President turned to his aides and sighed: ‘We’re going to have problems with this guy’.”  These were undoubtedly prophetic words.  The ‘guy’ went on to leave the UK, and others, with a huge problem, taking his country into what a recent leading article in the Financial Times called “a new and deeply uncertain future.”  Whilst holding the office of Prime Minister he took the decision to hold the 2016 referendum.  That decision has been aptly described as an “irresponsible gamble” by the current ‘father of the house’ in the Westminster Parliament.  An outcome of that gamble seems likely to be that young UK citizens will now be deprived of the opportunity to be aspirant MEPs.  Or will they? 

Will there be some more dramatic turns in the road during the long journey, in the direction of a UK exit, that began almost three years ago?