Welcome to the School of Law, Policing and Forensics

Featured

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

Family Lawyers Welcome ‘no-fault’ Divorce – Latest Development

Elisha Poole (Student)

After two previous false starts, the long-awaited reform of divorce swiftly returns to end ‘the blame game’. The legislation reform will make an appearance in the next session of parliament. The ​ Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill, first introduced in June 2018, came to a stand-still twice after the general election but has finally made its reappearance. The bill intends to introduce ‘no-fault’ divorce into legislation.

The current grounds for divorce require on one of the five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce), or five years’ separation (no consent required). The new bill, if passed, does not require these allegations to be proved, thuis permitting a “no fault” divorce. To be granted a no-fault divorce, one spouse must simply state that the marriage as irretrievably broken down.

Family lawyers welcome the latest development of the bill after Justice secretary Robert Buckland said: “The institution of marriage will always be vitally important, but we must never allow a situation where our laws exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing. By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can move on with their lives.”

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice on all family matters to members of the public. SULAC is currently offering appointments at Stoke County Court and various locations around Stafford including Signpost Centre and House of Bread. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: ​ SULAC@staffs.ac.uk​ or call on 01782 294800.

Call for a Specialist Housing Court

Fiona Cursons  (Student) 

In November 2018 The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government  requested feedback from court users, the legal profession and the public about whether there was a need for a court specialising in housing issues.  

It is said that court, solely dealing with housing matters would reduce delays, make the process easier and make it quicker to get justice in such disputes. The request for this seems to be coming from private landlords, not social lenders or mortgage lenders. Private landlords only make up a small amount of possession cases that get to court so is there a need?

The Burns report commissioned by the ministry for housing stated that there were many factors and issues identified by tenants, as well as landlords, when dealing with possession proceedings. however, it did not advocate the need for a new specialist court.  

In addition, the civil justice council responded saying that the creation of a specialist housing court would involve a large commitment of resources which could be better applied to the current process to ensure a satisfactory level of service to all users.  

The Court system is already struggling to cope with all areas. Directing resources to one particular area, would obviously involve a diversion of resources from another area. It is difficult to find a valid reason for this when more resources are required across the board. Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC offers free legal advice on housing matters to members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments at Stoke and Stafford. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800 

 

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic

At the start of every academic year in September, final year students of LLB Law at Staffordshire University embark on training to become the latest additions to the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC). Local solicitors’ firms come to the university to educate the students on matters including family law, domestic violence and mediation services. This is a term time service that offers confidential and free legal advice.

SULAC began this year at the Combined Court Centre in Hanley on Monday 7th October. Clients are interviewed by a team of two students under the supervision of a senior lecturer who is also a qualified solicitor. Once the interview is completed the students are tasked with researching the relevant areas of law and providing a letter of advice to the client within 14 days. SULAC can offer advice on most areas of civil law including: family, consumer, personal injury and housing. The service is unable to advise on criminal or immigration matters and does not offer debt counselling. Where SULAC cannot provide assistance, the students have the ability to refer the client to another organisation or agency that may help. Clinics are being held this year at the Combined Court Centre in Hanley, Signposts and House of Bread in Stafford; and until the dissolution of Parliament, Jeremy Lefroy’s office. The students will also be holding appointments at HMP Stafford, County Hospital, YMCA Hanley, a military base and the Royal Stoke University Hospital.

The clinic is aimed at providing students with a real-world application of the law they have been studying over the course of the three-year degree. In addition to this the service provides an opportunity for the university to give back to the local community, offering free advice services to members of the public who feel that they have no alternative but to seek support and guidance in matters that are affecting them.

The SULAC students have also enrolled on the LawWorks ‘Law School Challenge 2019-20’. Universities across the country have registered to hold charity events to raise funds in support of legal aid and pro-bono services. The LawWorks and Advocate Law School Challenge is a fundraising initiative designed to raise money for both charities as well as awareness of their work. LawWorks encourages the widespread involvement of law schools and their students in pro bono activity.

SULAC students travelled to the Law Society in London for the award ceremony

The 4th to 8th November 2019 was the 18th annual Pro Bono Week run by LawWorks to encourage and support lawyers and law students to volunteer to give legal help to those in need. Staffordshire University was shortlisted for ‘Best New Pro Bono Activity’ and ‘Best Contribution by a Pro Bono Clinic’ at the LawWorks Pro Bono Awards 2019. A selection of the SULAC students  travelled to the Law Society in London for the award ceremony which was attended by Lady Hale.

~Hannah Lewis, LLB (Hons) student.

SULAC didn’t win ‘Best New Pro Bono Activity’ and ‘Best Contribution by a Pro Bono Clinic, but it was a fantastic and well deserved achievement to be nominated.

Congratulations all for your hard work!

Supporting victims of domestic abuse this Christmas

Supporting victims of domestic abuse this Christmas – Adam Greenslade, Lecturer in Policing

Adam Greenslade – Lecturer in Policing

Tragically, over the course of 20 years operational policing experience I have learned that whilst the festive season is a time of good cheer, celebration and family unity for many, behind even the most brightly decorated front doors you can find the darker side of Christmas – Domestic Abuse.

Christmas is a season that brings with it increases in alcohol consumption and added financial strain, it can heighten existing family tensions or feelings of isolation for the elderly or perhaps those coping with a young family alone.

Sadly, all too often, these pressures can escalate, and we see a rise in domestic incidents over the holiday season.

There is no stereotypical victim of domestic abuse, it can affect anyone, regardless of wealth, gender, age, sexuality or ethnicity. It can occur between partners, it can occur between siblings, it can occur between parents and children or other family members, regardless of age. It takes many forms, emotional abuse, controlling behaviour, verbal insults, threats even outright physical violence or sexual assault.

Domestic abuse is a crime. Whatever guise it takes, it’s unacceptable at any time of the year but it’s important to recognise the festive season as well as bringing that rise in frequency, can also intensify the impact of these offences – not only for the victim concerned but also on others in that environment who perhaps witness or are in proximity to that behaviour.

I’m proud to be able to share my extensive professional experience of tackling domestic abuse as we train the police constables of the future here at Staffordshire University so that they can work to protect us, our community and those who need it most.

Whilst this training is important, sometimes the police need their communities, us, to alert them to abusive situations. We all have a role to play in stopping domestic abuse.

The holiday season is a time for celebration, but I feel it’s important to reflect for a moment and remind people who are either themselves the victim of domestic abuse or have a friend, neighbour, relative or loved one who may be affected that they do not have to suffer alone or stand by and watch others suffer in silence.

You can find an extensive list of national support services online at citizensadvice.org.uk. You can contact your local police in a non-emergency by calling 101, online via their website, or by visiting a police station in person.
But remember, if you are in danger, need help in an emergency, or you witness an incident that’s ongoing, call the police on 999.

Nobody deserves to be a victim. Let’s stop abuse in our community, together, and make 2020 the start of a better future.

UK Home Office found in breach of the Human Right of Liberty regarding detention practice of asylum seekers

On International Human Rights Day I want to briefly highlight a Human Right violation that has occurred in the UK for asylum seekers regarding the Right to Liberty ~ Sarah Page, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology

You might have seen recent press reports in the Guardian and Independent about the Home Office being found guilty of inappropriate detention of asylum seekers by the Supreme Court. 

Inappropriate detention of asylum seekers occurred between 1st January 2014 and 15th March 2017 due to ineffective policy implementation of Dublin III and those detained in this time frame are entitled to compensation. 

Here in the UK we typically use detention or imprisonment when there has been a crime, or the person is a significant security threat to the public, or briefer periods of detention when a case is being investigated.  

In my own research on asylum seekers in Stoke-on-Trent I found that many asylum seekers are in fear of being detained.  Professionals talked to me about how asylum seekers can be detained for administrative reasons, rather than due to them having committed a crime, or being a significant security threat to the public. 

Asylum seekers are typically nervous about complaining because they fear that complaining might impact upon their application to remain in the UK.  However, some brave asylum seekers have spoken out about their detention experiences and you can listen to an account of a woman detained on the BBC website. A locally based asylum seeker also talked about her experience to the Sentinel newspaper and describes detention as “inhumane”. 

Detention can cause significant deterioration of mental and physical well-being.  When you consider that many asylum seekers have mental health issues from the trauma of what led them to flee their country and the journey they have been on to escape.  Others have been victim to trafficking and exploitation.  It is inappropriate to incarcerate such people.    

Academics across the UK have highlighted that Asylum seeker policies in the UK are restrictive and lack compassion.  Despite media portrayal of the UK flooded with asylum seekers we host less than most European counterparts per population head. Those seeking asylum in the UK only get basic needs met, if that.  Often asylum seekers get insufficient resources to live off – significantly less than a UK citizen on benefits.  Such poverty issues raise Public Health concern.  Especially when asylum seekers become destitute and homeless when their applications are rejected, and they are appealing the process.  Professionals that I interviewed inferred that decision-making process and quality in the UK is poor.   

On this International Day of Human Rights I want to highlight the importance of the right to liberty and also the importance of a compassionate response to asylum seekers.  Asylum seeker policy in the UK needs to be reviewed and revised to ensure that Public Health and Human Rights concerns are addressed.

The research that I conducted was in association with students studying on our degree programmes.  I would like to say a thank you to Michael Dean, Sarah Carter, Val Ngock, Jack Whalley, Oliver Turner, Dana Wade and Sarah Johnson for your work on this project and also to Penny Vincent who was a staff member at the University and involved in the inception of the project. Our findings were shared with the Home Office to help inform future changes to policy and practice.  The research undertaken forms part of the Staffordshire University Crime and Society Research Group portfolio. 

No Extra Help From Human Rights Law For Eccentrically Named Armed Bank Robber

Every year, on the 10th of December, we observe Human Rights Day. Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in Law, reflects on a 2019 Court of Appeal judgment in relation to the significance of the day. 

On the 11th of September, the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal gave its judgment in Lord Shane Romell v The Secretary of State for Justice [2019] EWCA Civ 1629. Romell’s effort to deploy provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 in his application was always doomed to fail. It demonstrated, at best, a considerable degree of undue optimism.

Lord Shane Romell was previously Mr Shane Perry. He now chooses to be known as Lord Shane Romell and has a “long history of offending” with the offences including several robberies at banks and post offices. In 2015 he was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment. This followed convictions after trial, at the Central Criminal Court, of an indictment charging robbery, possession of a firearm when committing an offence, and possession of ammunition.

Romell’s initial application for a writ of habeas corpus was heard in the High Court. He was represented in court by a McKenzie friend. The High Court judge refused Romell’s application as “totally without merit.” In an interesting aside, Mr Justice Supperstone observed that “the McKenzie friend did not appear to have any knowledge of matters relating to the present application.” Lord Romell needs to be more careful in his choice of “friends”. There has been a growth in the use of McKenzie friends in recent years. Their use is becoming a somewhat controversial issue and there have been calls this month for them to be banned.

Romell subsequently brought his renewed application for a writ of habeas corpus to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) and the matter was dealt with there by Lord Justice Green and Lord Justice Floyd. Romell served a document entitled “Skeleton Argument.” Lord Justice Green surmised that it appeared to allege that “the judgment of Mr Justice Supperstone reflects breaches of Sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998.” This Act, which came into force in 2000, incorporates most of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Section 6 of the Act is the best known of the sections to which Romell referred. Section 6(1) expressly provides that it is unlawful for a ‘public authority’ to act incompatibly with a Convention Right.

The “Skeleton Argument” document also referred to Magna Carta 1215 and the Fraud Act 2006. Romell appeared in the Court of Appeal in person (via videolink) and he “argued that the Central Criminal Court was not a proper court. It is a private corporation governed by contract and he, the applicant, is not a party to the contract.” As he continued, he scraped the bottom of the barrel (pardon the pun) by arguing that he was “sovereign flesh and blood” and as such he “could not be subject to the arbitrary power of a commercial body … no agent of the State or other person can deprive any person of liberty.”

Lord Justice Green had little difficulty in concluding that “this application lacks any semblance of merit” and noted that “the judges who sit at the Central Criminal Court are Crown Court and High Court judges who are authorised and empowered in law to conduct trials, such as that of the applicant.” Lord Justice Floyd agreed.

Romell has had his day in court but can hardly be surprised that his application here was unsuccessful. The case may have been moderately amusing for one Mr Nathan Roberts who acted for the Secretary of State for Justice. Mr Roberts will seldom have such an easily earned day’s pay as he had on Wednesday the 11th of September.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal is here.

Law Alumni Called to the Bar

Jake Edwards, who graduated from Staffordshire University with LLB (Hons) in 2018, has been Called to the Bar. Jake Edwards won a scholarship to complete the Bar Professional Training Course at Nottingham Trent University. Being called to the Bar means Jake now has the right to speak on behalf of someone in higher court, as he is now a qualified Barrister.

Jake Edwards – Called to the Bar

“I was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple on the 28th November 2019 as part of the Michaelmas Call Ceremony. To be eligible for call you must have completed the Bar Professional Training Course with at least a competent grade. In addition to this, you must complete 12 qualifying sessions before your call date. These sessions are hosted throughout the year and include activities such as advocacy weekends, dining sessions and lectures. Once you meet the requirements necessary to be called to the bar, you must pay a call fee to your Inn of Court.

You now need to book your gown and wig for the ceremony as it is a requirement that all callees must attend in full court dress. This includes your suit, tunic shirt, collar studs, windsor winged collar, bands, gown and wig. All can be bought in advance of your call date or hired from Ede & Ravenscroft for £36 and can be collected from the Treasury Building on the day.

Typically you can expect to bring 2 guests although there is an option to purchase extra tickets closer to the day depending on availability. On the day of call you will first head to the Middle Temple to collect your hired gown and wig and take any photographs with the professional photographers.

Once it is time for the ceremony to start, you proceed to Middle Temple Hall where the callees are filtered into a side room whilst all of the guests take their seats. You are then briefed on how the ceremony will be conducted to prevent any mishaps during the ceremony. Finally, the callees are moved into the hall to stand along the side of the room where you will be called to the bar in order of seniority with the Inn.

One by one, callees are presented to the Master Treasurer by Master Reader. As you are being presented, you approach the Master Treasurer and bow before he calls you to the degree of the utter bar. You then walk over to the table allegedly made from Sir Frances Drakes ship The Golden Hind to sign the Roll of Barristers. As you filter out of the hall, you are presented with your call certificate. Once all those in attendance have been called, this concludes the ceremony and you will have taken your place alongside the generations of barristers who preceded you, your Inn of Court is now your professional home and will remain as such throughout your career.”

Congratulations Jake!

Legal Aid and Discrimination in the Workplace

Caitlyn Martin (student)

In 2018, more than a quarter of British employees said that at some point they had experienced discrimination in the workplace. The equality watchdog has warned that the current legal aid system is enabling employers to get away with discrimination. The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that more needs to be done to protect employees.

As access to legal advice and lawyers has been cut by £950m a year due to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013, the commission has said that places of employment that continue to discriminate on grounds of sex, religion and race effectively still go unpunished as people are forced to represent themselves. This act is responsible for introducing a mandatory telephone gateway service for legal aid and removed employment tribunal representation from its scope.

David Isaac, the commission’s chairman, said: “Legal aid was specifically set up to ensure that those who have been wronged, but cannot afford their own legal representation, can access justice. The threat of legal action is a powerful deterrent for perpetrators and makes it clear that society will not tolerate injustice. Challenging such complex issues as discrimination should never be a David vs Goliath battle, and the system is failing if individuals are left to fight cases themselves at an employment tribunal or in court”.

The average worker does not earn enough to pay privately for a solicitor but is deemed to earn too much to qualify for legal aid.

At the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC), students offer free legal advice on employment matters to members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments at Stoke and Stafford. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800.

Lawyers urge that mental health should be prioritised in family law children’s cases

Curtis Dunkley (Student) 

 

Legal aid is rarely available for family law cases, meaning that most people now have to represent themselves in Court. Solicitor’s argue that significant changes are required to the way these cases are dealt with, so that mental health can be prioritised in the family courts Lawyers are urging for more focus to be on Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) like mediation, to help parents and children avoid the stress of court. 

Family lawyers at Irwin Mitchell (a leading national firm) say that these changes are essential to ensure that the experience has a positive effect rather than a detrimental one on the wellbeing and mental health of anyone who requires the assistance of the family court.  

The former CEO of Cafcass Anthony Douglas was quoted in an interim report on the Child Arrangement Programme (CAP) as saying “court has become the default option for too many unhappy separators”. This suggests that mediation is not being used effectively. 

Since the withdrawal of legal aid, the amount of litigants-in-person has risen substantially: during the 2017/18 financial year the number of parties in private law cases with private representation was 36%, compared to the 2012/13 financial year where the number was 58%. Legal experts say this has increased the pressure on the courts, the professionals and, most importantly all the parties involved. 

The Rt Hon. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, recently urged all those who work in the family courts to concentrate on wellbeing with other professionals pointing out that the current system is unsustainable. 

Irwin Mitchell say that the overall focus should be the mental health and wellbeing of people going through the process. 

Experts argue that the best approach to move forwards is to consider solutions that resolve matters outside of court, whether it is mediation, arbitration, conciliation, or another route. This would help ease the stress of the process for the parties involved and most importantly, the children. 

At the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC), students offer free legal advice on family matters and a number of other issues to members of the public. SULAC is currently open and offers appointments at Stoke and Stafford. For more information, or to book an appointment please contact: SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800 

 

First Year Student Gains Experience through Work and Research at HMP Stafford

Sinead Bowles is a first year student on the BA(Hons) Criminal justice with Offender Management degree. She is already gaining experience working for the deputy governor in HMP Stafford with level five and six students, and has written about her experiences.

Sinead Bowles is a first year student on the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree

The original building for HMP Stafford was built in 1793, and this was further expanded on as the population grew. The category C prison now holds around 750 offenders, who have committed sexual offences. Due to the origins of the buildings the site is astounding and fortunately me and two of my peers had the privilege of a guided tour with the deputy governor Claud Lofters, which was distinctly dissimilar to what would have been expected from such a prison.

NEW PARAGRAPH. NEW PARAGRAPH. NEW PARAGRAPH. NEW PARAGRAPH. NEW PARAGRAPH.

Claud was keen to explore why his employee’s appeared to be disconnected from the importance of their role, both in rehabilitation and support of those offenders kept in the prison.This is something which we will be conducting further research on. We intend to hold focus groups with staff, to highlight the amazing work they do every day and see what suggestions they may have which could create higher motivation and engagement. From this we aim to create a job description with a more holistic view of the role of a prison officer to help create a rehabilitative culture.

Our tour began, by being shown around one of the blocks. The number of doors, the landings, and the halls where overwhelming. One inmate kindly offered to show us his cell, which he shared with one other person, the rooms were well sized, had shower rooms and this inmate in particular had a TV and other bits such as speakers, suggesting he was a higher status based on behaviour. As we were talking to this gentleman, he started to explain how HMP Stafford has helped him and that in comparison to other institutions this was the best in terms of facilities and support.

Our tour then moved onto seeing the prisons goats and chickens. These are kept to help the inmates feel that they had the responsibility to help care for these animals, on this day families were coming to visit and as this was the school holidays it has been requested that the goats were taken up to the visitation room to meet some of the children. Me, Natalie, Molly and Claud were asked to help take the goats up. From personal experience I can confirm that getting the leads onto goats and getting them upstairs is not easy! But it was very warming to see the children excited and to see the inmates getting time with their families. It was also delightful to see the efforts which the prison officers, and staff will go to in order to help the inmates.

“Our tour then moved onto seeing the prisons goats and chickens”.

We were very lucky to be able to go into the senior area where the older prisoners can go in the day, some of the inmates were working on a project. This project involves making flowers out of different coloured papers which then go into a handmade box, and other inmates can purchase these at a low cost to gift to their visitors. Younger prisoners are able to learn different skills at HMP Stafford, the end of our tour was being shown these, which involve painting and decorating, the skills needed to be a barber, brick laying, and even a course which allows inmates to go onto work on train tracks which lasts ten weeks but outside of prison could take a few years, Claud explained they wish to offer inmates skills which could allow them to be self-employed due to their criminal background.

Our day at HMP Stafford was very informative and eye opening, our research team was very grateful for the opportunity to be shown around and are very excited for our ongoing work with the prison.