Just what would a local lockdown mean for Wolverhampton?

Before a second lockdown was enforced around Birmingham and Wolverhampton, Lecturer in Law, Aidan Flynn was consulted on the topic for an article in the Express Star.

‘Aidan Flynn, a senior lecturer in Law at Staffordshire University and an expert in Government powers around coronavirus, believes Wolverhampton would most likely follow other towns which have brought in restrictions.

He said: “The two main issues would be the number of people gathering together in one area and restrictions on how certain businesses might operate in relation to times of opening. Broadly speaking, that’s what’s going on in Bolton at the moment.

There could be restrictions on food outlets. If there was to be a decision to tighten things in Wolverhampton in a similar way to Bolton then we could be looking at that situation of restricting opening hours.” 

He added: “There is the chance of the law being discredited if it is not properly enforced. You would probably have the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner thinking about how they can get more out of their special constables.” ‘

You can read the full article here

Law Graduate Secures Training Contract with Law Firm

Law graduate, Jessica Latham has secured a Training Contract with Peninsula Law firm in Manchester. She shares her experiences of studying, both undergraduate and postgraduate, at Staffordshire University and her experience finding a Training Contract.

I had always wanted to pursue a career in Law, but it never felt like the right time to take that initial step. I was living in Thailand at the time, with nothing but a backpack with a few necessities in and an uncertain future. One day, I found myself using a communal PC, scrolling through courses in Law and routes to qualify as a solicitor. The next day I was on UCAS applying to do a degree in Law.

I applied for the foundation degree, as well as the three-year degree, at Staffordshire University; I had been out of education for some time and didn’t have the required UCAS points to qualify for entry requirements. To my surprise, I secured a place on the three-year LLB law degree. I packed my bag and got on a plane back to England to start my new venture at Staffordshire University.

Throughout my Law degree, I gained an array of knowledge of the different areas of Law. In the final year, I was able to choose practical electives, such as Mooting and Legal Advice Clinic. When I started the LLB, I didn’t know whether I wanted to be a Solicitor or Barrister. However, now my ultimate goal is to become a Solicitor Advocate.

Whilst in the last year of my law degree, I was chosen to be part of the team for the International Criminal Court Moot (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands. This was an excellent experience as we battled through rounds in front of judges and professionals from all over the world.

Staffordshire University’s Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) is an invaluable experience for a student and gave me a plethora of skills that I believe moulded me from a student into a trainee solicitor. SULAC is a fantastic edition to Staffordshire University’s Law department, allowing students to give legal advice to the public under supervision. I gained confidence, communication skills, problem solving, attention to detail and resilience, to name a few. The transferable skills that I gained enabled me to confidently start work in my first role as a Paralegal, fresh out of university, interviewing a client by myself on my first day.

I then decided to stay on at Staffordshire University to do my Legal Practice Course (LPC) with a Masters (LLM in Legal Practice). This was more practical than the LLB and prepares you for practice. The LPC is very intense, but the lecturers are so supportive and want to see you succeed.

My journey has not been plain-sailing and I have had setbacks throughout my studies. In the last year of the LLB, I was under mental health hospital care due to past trauma. Staffordshire University was my safe place for a long time, turning up to lessons as if nothing was wrong. In 2020, during my LPC, I was under mental health hospital care once again; the Law department and Well-Being team could not have been anymore supportive. I managed to complete my studies and these setbacks were all to become part of my success.

Now, as my time comes to an end with Staffordshire University and I hand in my dissertation (my last ever submission), I leave with fond memories and have secured a Training Contract as an in-house, Trainee Solicitor with an international firm. The interview involved questions on current case law, which I had studied on the LPC and had access to sources – such as Practical Law and Law Works – to maintain my commercial awareness.

Without the knowledge and experience gained throughout my time at Staffs and the support of lecturers, I very much doubt I would be living the life that I am today. It seemed a million miles away for someone who was once a mental health hospital patient, from a deprived area and low income family (that would be the first to go to university).

I started Staffordshire University with nothing but bad A-levels and no future prospect [other than] a dream to be a Solicitor one day. I leave Staffordshire University no longer a dreamer; I leave as a goal setter, with a first-class Law degree, an LLM in Legal Practice and a secured role as a Trainee Solicitor.

I no longer dream ‘one day’. Today I said, ‘it’s day one’.

My goal is to have my own law firm one day, offering students work experience placements to help future generations from all backgrounds to achieve their dreams too.

#ProudToBeStaffs

Law Alumni Wins Judicial Review in High Court

I am Michael Connor, proud to be an alumni of Staffordshire University. I studied for the two-year, accelerated LLB (Hons) at Staffordshire University from 2015 to 2017. I graduated with a first class honours Law Degree. I also achieved a Scholarship from Law Society to study the LPC at Nottingham Trent University.

My time at Staffordshire University was very rewarding. I found the Law School to be a nurturing, supportive and encouraging environment. Even though I am a mature student, both students and staff welcomed me with open arms. A law degree is challenging and requires dedication to achieve[, but] I will always have the best memories of my time at Staffordshire University. Before attending university I was in the Welfare Rights profession for twenty years.

I have put my law qualifications to work  for the benefit of our most vulnerable citizens [and made] legal history. I successfully applied for a judicial review in the High Court. This is now case law: (I think this is OSCOLA compliment!)

R (CONNOR) V SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WORK AND PENSIONS [2020] EWHC 1999 (Admin)

After hundreds of hours looking at case law on Westlaw and Lexis, my own case is on there! I progressed this claim as a litigant in person. I had learned valuable in-court advocacy skills from taking part in extra curricular mooting sessions facilitated by Staffordshire University. I also learned about judicial review in the Administrative Law classes.

My judicial review is allowed. Mr Justice Swift in the High Court has declared that it is unlawful for the Department for Work and Pensions (“DWP”) to require Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (“ESA”) claimants to have a mandatory reconsideration by the DWP, before they can appeal adverse benefit decisions to a first tier tribunal.

This is because it is disproportionate that such claimants can access an appeal pending rate of ESA when an appeal is lodged, but cannot when a mandatory reconsideration is requested. This is incompatible with the fair trial and right to tribunal provision of Article 6 of European Convention on Human Rights. It is therefore unlawful per section 6 of Human Rights Act 1998.

BACKGROUND

This case arose after the DWP took 18 weeks to reconsider my personal ESA claim, after they incorrectly refused entitlement. During this time I had no right of appeal to the independent first tier tribunal. As I am a carer for my mother, who is severely affected by Parkinson’s Disease, I was able to claim Carers’ Allowance. However, for most ESA claimants there are no alternative benefits that can be claimed. This causes severe financial hardship and destitution for ESA claimants. Only when the DWP finally complete their internal review can an appeal be lodged. An appeal pending rate of ESA can be paid until the appeal is heard. This creates a disproportionate anomaly that makes the mandatory reconsideration requirement incompatible with the fair trial and tribunal right contained in article 6 of European Convention on Human Rights.

I conducted this judicial review claim as a litigant in person. I did all the court claims and submissions myself. I also presented my case in person at Birmingham High Court on 19 March 2020. I was supported by a  successful crowdfunder campaign. Ms Lauren Bicknell, also a Staffordshire University alumni , assisted as Mckenzie’s Friend.

Although not officially a barrister I do have a recent first class honours Law degree, a Master of Laws with distinction and achieved a legal practice certificate. I have also had a twenty-year career as a Welfare Rights professional. Presenting  as an LIP gave me a unique opportunity to have High Court advocacy experience.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

I am a confident and effective advocate through years of representing at Social Security Tribunals. Legal research is also something I enjoy and am very effective at. I also very much like to think outside convention to find new approaches to old problems. I was therefore confident that I could progress this judicial review as a litigant in person.  Good understanding of the civil procedure rules really helped. I submitted a “N244” application for a court order for a judicial review cost capping order of zero costs to be claimed from me as the claimant. Had I not done so I could not have afforded to proceed. Thanks very generous donations to a crowdfunder campaign, raising over £7,000, I was able to raise the money for court fees and my own costs.

I know from experience that when in court it is best not to be rigid with one’s submission and to know your material inside out. This allows one to be flexible in court. If the judge is just not accepting a line of argument or submission, try another until one bites. Also keep the Judge happy. If she or he is hinting pursuing a line or to stop, go with it. I had a very inquisitorial Judge, Mr Justice Swift. It was a challenging time in court. For me though the harder the better, I can think on my feet. I also was very fluent with my law, case law and facts of the case. Not so for the two DWP barristers who had a very hard time in court. However, unlike me they have to go with their client’s instructions. And their lead Barrister, Ms Apps, was very helpful in preparing the court bundles and drafting agreed court orders. Always make bridges and connection with the opposition lawyers. They are only doing as instructed, it is not personal that they oppose you in court.

Judicial review is unusual as there is a requirement to reach agreement and the court has to seek the least intrusive method of addressing any government unlawfulness or illegality. Therefore I was very happy with the final order, a declaration of unlawfulness for the mandatory reconsideration rules for ESA claimants.

LAW NOTES

The mandatory reconsideration regulation is 3ZA of Social Security and Child Support (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 1999

Article 6 of European Convention on Human Rights states that,

 “in determination of his civil rights and obligations everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing, within a reasonable time, by an independent tribunal established by law.”

Section 6 of Human Rights Act 1998 states:

“it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way that is incompatible with a convention right.”

Swift J applied the proportionality test in Bank Mellat v HM Treasury (No.2) [2014] AC 700:

could the objective have been pursued by a less intrusive measure without compromising its achievement; and having regard for the objective pursued and the severity of the consequences of the measure enacted, has a fair balance been struck between the interests of those affected and the general public  interest?”

Swift J therefore concluded;

“It is anomalous that the payment pending appeal arrangements for ESA under regulation 30(3) of the ESA Regulations do not extend to ESA claimants who are required by regulation 3ZA to request the Secretary of State to revise a decision and await her decision on that request before initiating an appeal.

 My conclusion is that regulation 3ZA of the Decisions and Appeals Regulations is a disproportionate interference with the right of access to court, so far as it applies to claimants to ESA who, once an appeal is initiated, meet the conditions for payment pending appeal under regulation 30(3) of the ESA Regulations.

In my submission I also relied on Golder v United Kingdom (1979) 1 EHRR 524 and Ashingdane v United Kingdom ECHR case 8225/78 to support my proposition. Namely, that disproportionate hindrance to potential appellants to tribunals and courts is incompatible with Article 6 ECHR

MICHAEL CONNOR  

Staffordshire University Alumni

Individual Rights Day

August 29th is Individual Rights Day, which is the birth date of John Locke, a philosopher who first prominently argued for the rights of each single human being. These individual rights include:

  • the right to an adequate standard of living
  • the right to the highest possible standard of physical and mental health
  • the right to education
  • the right to work and to decent work conditions
  • the right to social security.

Whilst these rights are intrinsic within a civilised society, ensuring that these rights are upheld can sometimes be difficult without legal support. The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who need and no longer have access to legal advice are ordinary people dealing with everyday issues that could affect any of us.

These include parents denied access to their children because they don’t know the court process, vulnerable people facing eviction, victims of domestic abuse too afraid to leave.

Budget cuts to the pro bono advice sector and the significant reduction of legal aid has meant that access to justice can be difficult for many people. Organisations like LawWorks and Advocate support and develop pro bono activity across England and Wales attempting to ensure that the pro bono efforts are targeted where they can be most effective and have the greatest impact. A significant number of their registered clinics are run by Universities.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (“SULAC”) was launched in 2018.  Since inception we have helped in excess of 400 clients. The breakdown of the categories of work can be seen in the table at Appendix 1. Most of the issues related to family law and housing. In the vast majority of cases, legal aid is not available meaning that if the complainants cannot afford to pay for a solicitor, they may struggle to enforce their rights.

SULAC attempts to empower these people by providing guidance, support and assistance to enable them to navigate the justice system on their own. The service is run by final year law students, supervised by qualified solicitors. Whist we do not run cases, we provide a detailed letter of advice, court forms and, if possible, signpost and refer to other organisations who may be able to help.

SULAC’s manager, Tracey Horton, recognised that lack of access to justice affects a significant number of people within Staffordshire, not just the most vulnerable and unemployed. In the circumstances, in addition to offering the service to local community hubs, we also offered a service to many public sector organisations including, HMP Stafford, two local hospitals, a military base and local MP’s. The aim was to connect to as much of the local community as possible. In addition to this we also offered a service to YMCA and during the next academic year we will be extending this service to Women’s Aid.

In light of Covid19, the service will be operated remotely, rather than face to face during the next academic year. It is hoped that clients will be interviewed via Microsoft Teams or, if the technology is not available, by phone.

The service will resume in October 2020. Should you require an appointment please call 01782 294458 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

Alumni Wins Scholarship to Train as Barrister

Law alumni, Curtis Dunkley has been awarded a scholarship to train as a Barrister and has written an account about the application. 

Chris Dunkley in the mock courtroom at Staffordshire University

For the process of applying for the scholarship I had to submit a personal statement and fill out a general scholarship application form. The scholarship that I applied for and was awarded was one for academic excellence.

For me, the demonstration of academic excellence was my time at Staffordshire University. I didn’t do the best at college and as such I did the law degree with foundation year. Despite my lack of A2 levels at college, I demonstrated the academic excellence by attaining a first class law degree, with my highest result being 88% in the Legal Advice Clinic module.

I worked incredibly hard to attain this degree and it is something I’m very proud of, I believe I’ve demonstrated a turnaround of academic record and my overall attitude in regards to education. I kept on top of my work at Staffs and really put the effort in to get my desired degree.

My advice to any prospective students looking to sit the BTC or any postgraduate study where they may have to apply for scholarships would be to work hard at an undergraduate level. Put the extra effort in, go above and beyond, do as much pro bono as possible! I would definitely recommend the Legal Advice Clinic module for students, this gives you a great insight into life in practice and also gives them the opportunity to put in extra shifts and go above and beyond.

I appreciate that as a first year student at undergraduate level you don’t particularly want to be doing extra curricular activities or work experience but it is essential. These will broaden your horizons, make connections within the legal community and put you in better standing when they apply for scholarships, a pupillage or a place on a postgraduate course.

Law is extremely competitive and I would advise all students to do everything they can to make themselves stand out from the rest of people who are applying. You need to put the effort in from day one, make connections, go to the careers fair, speak to
lecturers and get themselves on LinkedIn!

I have no doubt that many more staffs students are capable of attaining scholarships and would definitely recommend pursuing a career at the bar if they enjoy the advocacy side of law.


Natter Me Duck

Policing Lecturer and Mental Health Coordinator, Deborah Sproston-Bewley, talks about the ‘Natter Me Duck’ initiative she created to help out students during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Within a few days in March the measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 became immediate and were drastic. You don’t have to be at the epicentre of the pandemic for your life to be turned upside down; due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it is a scary time for students.

Our campus became quiet and our classes moved on-line, all of which impact on the students.

We have students who are still living on campus and maybe feeling sad and isolated.

I am the Mental Health Coordinator for the school, and as such I thought about what I could do while we were all in lockdown and unable to communicate with each other on a regular basis. 

I came up with Natter Me duck, which is a platform through collaborate that students can log into on a specific day and just have a natter, not just with me but with other students.  For those of you that don’t know in Stoke-on-Trent duck is a common phase used.  E.g. you OK duck?

The idea behind ‘Natter Me duck’ was for students to natter about anything.  From how I cut my fringe? how do I bake a cake? or I’m suffering with anxiety due to void 19. It is a place where students can share their experiences and support and advise one another.  

The main aim is just to have a natter and for students not to feel isolated and on their own.  

An e-mail is sent out to all 750 students in our school which informs them of the date and time of a ‘natter me duck’ session and gives them the link to join.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Some thoughts on World Day for International Justice

On World Day for International Justice (17th July), Law Lecturer, Dr John McGarry shares some thoughts on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. 

The other day, some friends mentioned that their daughter who, after years of saying she wanted to become an engineer, had decided that she now wants to study law. Part of the catalyst for her change of mind had been the death of George Floyd in the US, as well as other allegations of police brutality, heavy-handedness and injustices against black people, and other members of BAME communities, both in the US and in the UK.

I suggested that she might enjoy the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. The book had lately been on my mind because, being one of my favourites, I had recently persuaded my 12 year old son to read it. Also, as it happens, I am writing this in July 2020, the 60th anniversary of the book’s publication in July 1960.

The book’s narrator is Scout Finch who tells of events from her and her elder brother Jem’s childhood. It is set in the 1930s, Depression era America, in Maycomb, Alabama, a society rigidly and deeply divided by racial bigotry.

At the story’s heart is the false accusation of rape made against a black man, Tom Robinson, by a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. Scout and Jem’s widowed father, Atticus Finch, who is the town lawyer and a representative in the State legislature, is appointed by the local Judge to represent the defendant. He explains to Scout that, despite there being some ‘high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man’ he was morally compelled to do so because ‘if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.’ So, contrary to the sentiments of many of his neighbours, Atticus defends Tom fully and to the best of his ability. Despite this, and despite his obvious innocence, Tom is found guilty of the rape. He is later fatally shot while trying to escape from custody.

 

What shines compellingly throughout the book is the outright simple decency of Atticus Finch. Even in his questioning in court of Mayella and her father, he acts with courtesy and humanity. This is especially so with Mayella; he recognises the ignorance, poverty and brutality that blights her life. And it is clear that it causes Atticus significant anguish to reveal beyond any doubt that Mayella is lying, which humiliates Mayella and her father, but which Atticus must do to defend Tom and attempt to save his life.

Scout and Jem’s relationship with their father is also central to the book. Jem, in particular, as the older child, gradually begins to realise with dismay the inherent injustices of the society in which they live and to appreciate the remarkableness of his father. Atticus, in turn, tries to instil in his children his own values, including that they should try to understand those around them and see things from their perspective, saying to Scout ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it’ (incidentally, Barack Obama adopted this quotation in his farewell address as President).

I have always been struck by one particular vignette in the book: Atticus teaching his son about courage by making him read every afternoon to their dislikeable neighbour Mrs Dubose as punishment for Jem attacking the camellias in her front garden. We later learn that Mrs Dubose was dying, that Atticus asked Jem to read to her in order to provide a distraction while she weaned herself off the morphine to which she was addicted, and that this was because she wanted to leave the world free of her addiction. Atticus later explains to Jem:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.”

 This, of course, is also true of Atticus’s defending of Tom Robinson – that in a society like Maycomb in the 1930s, Atticus was beaten before he began in trying to defend accusations against a black man made by a white woman, but that he saw it through anyway, no matter what.

Many find To Kill a Mockingbird to be poignant and uplifting; and many lawyers were motivated to pursue their careers because of it and they continue to be inspired by the character of Atticus Finch. An illustration of this enduring influence is the erection, in 1997, of a monument to Atticus Finch by the Alabama Bar Association in Monroeville, Harper Lee’s hometown.

Yet, the book has also been subject to criticisms. It has been criticised for perpetuating a white saviour myth whereby the poor black man needs to be saved by the good, honest white man. I acknowledge the charge but think that, in depicting a particular time and place, the book probably accurately reflects the reality: that in 1930s Alabama a black person would need a white lawyer if charged with a crime as serious as rape. It has also been said that Atticus does not sufficiently challenge the bigotry of those around him, his friends and his neighbours. This criticism seems to me to have some strength; indeed, as I have already indicated, Atticus advises his children to try to rub along with those around them. But I also wonder whether it is completely valid. How many of us call out every injustice that we see or every illiberal opinion that we hear? Not many, I imagine; most of us pick our battles and try to do good where we can.

Besides, when it would have been easier to do otherwise, Atticus defends Tom Robinson to the full extent of his capabilities. And he does so even though this comes at significant emotional, and sometimes physical, cost to himself and his children – even camping outside Tom’s prison cell the night before the trial to protect him from a lynch mob.

So, despite the criticisms, I see Atticus Finch as a hero and, while a work of fiction, To Kill a Mockingbird, like all fiction, reveals truth – that injustices are perpetuated by human beings, not monsters; and that people are complex, they may be thoroughly abhorrent in some ways while being noble and virtuous in many others. The book also serves as a worthwhile reminder to would-be lawyers of the good they can do in a world where justice is sometimes in short supply and where lawyers often acquire a poor reputation; indeed, it is a reminder that lawyers may sometimes be the only ones that stand between people and the injustices they face, that it may take real courage to do this when the client or the case is unpopular but that they do it anyway because it is the right, the decent, the just, thing to do.

 

Student Wins Middle Temple’s Access to the Bar Award

Chelsea Leonard, a Law student, has obtained an Access to the Bar Award from Middle Temple.

According to Middle Temple’s website, Middle Temple has established its Middle Temple Access to the Bar Award, which involves one week’s marshalling and one week’s mini-pupillage for undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them with funding for those two weeks.  University departments are invited to nominate one candidate each, with about a dozen being shortlisted for interview by the Inn.  The scheme will provide for eight placements per year in future.

Each award consists of one week’s work experience in a set of barristers’ chambers and one week’s marshalling a judge, during university vacations in summer.  

“I was fortunate to be awarded the COMBAR Access to the Bar Award funded by the Commercial Bar Association, who will arrange placements specifically for those interested in seeing commercial work. I was initially very surprised, but it was encouraging to receive confirmation that you have worked hard, and these efforts [are] being rewarded. The practical experience of the award will be invaluable. To gain experience marshalling alone is very difficult, we also get this experience for a whole week which is unheard of. The experience within the chambers for this length of time will be an amazing opportunity to make contacts and receive feedback. This experience will give my interest in the bar a great deal of credibility being able to cite.” 

 

Congratulations Chelsea! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Imports Are a Threat to Our Environment

On World Environment Day, Sallyann Mellor, Lectuer in Law, addresses the issue regarding the Agricultural Bill, brought about from leaving the EU, and what this means for our environment. 

Our UK Government had the opportunity to amend the Agricultural Bill on 13th May 2020 to ensure imported foods followed the same strict food hygiene and animal standards that our UK farmers pride their selves on. Sadly, the move to change was defeated in the House of Commons by a majority of 51 votes.

The Agricultural Bill provides a framework that will replace agricultural support schemes such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) due to the UK leaving the EU. It is due to pass through parliament by the end of summer.

English farmers will be paid to produce goods which have a positive impact on the environment or animal welfare improvements.

The Bill offers wider measures to ensure fairness in the agricultural supply chain and there have been several additions to the Bill compared with the previous Bill which stalled due to the dissolution of parliament in October 2019. These wider measures include a requirement whereby ministers will report on food security at least once every five years, set out how farming will be funded by submission of plans and the consideration of food production in England, to encourage environmental sustainability.

Bottom of Form

You might be thinking so what, surely that will mean greater choice and cheaper prices? The truth is, we should all be concerned.

If we have learnt nothing else from the COVID19 pandemic it is how important it is to support our British Farmers and buy local because they came up trumps when some products were in short supply.

Have you noticed how blue and clear the sky has been since lockdown, have you heard more bird song and noticed how green our environment is…? The defeat will undoubtedly place our repairing environment under additional threat from imports that will increase emissions and undermine the hard work of our UK farmers in ensuring animal welfare and environmental standards are met.

What are our British farmers doing to support our environment? You may not know that our farmers are trying to tackle climate change to meet the UK Government commitment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. They do this daily by allowing cows and sheep to graze. You will have read no doubt the controversy regarding cows and sheep in relation to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.  However, what you may not realise is that grazing livestock can bring many environmental benefits.

65% of UK farmland is only suitable for growing grass and grazing. Grasslands store carbon which removes carbon dioxide from the environment as the plant grows and stores its carbon in the soil. Cows and sheep feed on the grass and by eating the grass and fertilising the soil, beef and sheep manage the grass and protect the valuable carbon stores.

Emissions from UK farming is estimated to be around 5% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, this will only increase from importing foods into the UK and seeks only to undermine the efforts of our British farmers.

The impact also on animal welfare must not be ignored, sadly importing products into the UK that do not follow our standards again undermines all that we do. The Red Tractor campaign was launched in September 2019 and remains today to demonstrate that the products proudly displaying the logo are safely produced, responsibly sources and crops and animals are carefully cared for. There are 4 main key standards that all farmers must adhere to if they are given the approval to display the iconic red tractor logo on their product.

  1. Animal welfare-animals must be housed with the right space, water and food and be healthy
  2. Environmental protection-fertilisers and pesticides are only ever used as a last resort to keep crops healthy. Farmers ensure that pollution and impact to wildlife is minimal.
  3. Food safety-no hormone growth, use of any animal medicine, no chlorine washed meat or poultry.
  4. Traceability- food products can be traced from the pack to the farm.

Whilst money will be tight given the economic climate we find ourselves in, please consider your purchases. The cheaper food products will have a significant impact on our environment. Continue to support your local farmer/butcher just as you have during the pandemic.  Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables that have been brought over by boat and not air where possible to reduce carbon footprint or better still buy locally produced seasonal fruit and vegetables.

It is the small things that can really make a difference but the lack of transparency to the consumer in relation the Agricultural Bill is really very important and I hope this blog has given you food for thought… 

Some useful links

https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/agriculture/documents.html

https://www.redtractor.org.uk/press/red-tractor-launches-new-britains-biggest-farmers-market-campaign/

https://www.sustainweb.org/foodandfarmingpolicy/agriculture_bill/

https://www.nfuonline.com/news/eu-exit/eu-exit-rh-panel/the-agriculture-bill-2020-information-hub/

 

SULAC – The Year So Far

Staffordshire University’s Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) has been running for almost two years now, after the launch in October 2018. Tracey Horton, Senior Lecturer in Law with a background working as a Solicitor, is the SULAC Manager and couldn’t be more pleased with how it has been going so far.

 SULAC is run as a 30-credit module in the final year of our LLB degrees. SULAC provides free legal advice to the general public and certain sectors of the community across Staffordshire and Shropshire.

The students are supervised by qualified solicitors and academics. The service provides a letter of advice on a range of issues including housing, family, consumer and employment law and it does not currently undertake case work or provide representation, although the service may be expanded to include this work in the future.

Research shows that around 870,800 people live in Staffordshire of 309,000 households (2017) and, based on the 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation, 49 of Staffordshire’s 528 lower super output areas (LSOA’s) fall within the top 20% of the most deprived nationally. 

Around 54% of people over 65 in Staffordshire are thought to have a family long term illness. Around 11% of households are believed to be on a low income. These people are likely to have no assets and to be reliant on benefits.

There are a number of areas in Staffordshire where families and communities face multiple issues such as unemployment, poor housing and poor quality of life. With these needs comes the need for legal advice.

Tracey states that “the SULAC module allows the University to help our local community whilst providing the students with ‘real world’ experience. SULAC’s service is a direct response to the difficulties faced by the most vulnerable in our society and to the public sector. Increasingly people are struggling to get legal assistance because of legal aid cuts, court closures and expensive court fees. Many agencies have had budget cuts which makes the situation worse.”

SULAC offers clinics to the general public at various locations, which makes it unique.

“We also wanted to forge links with as many of our partners as possible so that we are able to give something back and assist with any research requirements they may have.

“We have a bespoke case management system which allows us to comply with professional conduct rules, remain paperless and GDPR complaint.”

Here are the areas this year’s clinic provide a service too

Stoke on Trent Combined Court

SULAC provided a drop-in service for the general public, every Monday (term time) at this location.

Signpost Stafford

Signpost Stafford is a grass roots community hub in the middle of a council estate in Stafford. It is a project that was set up in 2007 and is funded through the lottery. There are counsellors there, a food bank and a bank of computers for the local residents to use. In the circumstances, there is already a community presence. In addition to providing legal advice the students integrated into the local community which forged links. SULAC provided a drop in and appointment service on Tuesdays (term time) at this location.

House of Bread

House of Bread is an organisation that provides food and support for the vulnerable and homeless of Stafford. SULAC provided a drop in service once a month.

HMP Stafford

SULAC provided a clinic, once a month, to prison officers and staff at HMP Stafford. HMP Stafford holds around 750 category C prisoners convicted of sexual offences. In addition to providing the service to staff members, the prison officers also educated the students on issues such as probation, outreach and sometimes the students also sat in on prisoner adjudication hearings. The students also undertook a collaborative research project with HMP Stafford aimed at improving outcomes for the men incarcerated.

Royal Stoke and County Hospitals

SULAC provided a clinic, once a month, to staff members at these hospitals.

Military Base

SULAC provided a clinic, once a month, to a military base. We are hoping to expand and develop this clinic.

YMCA

SULAC offered a clinic once a month to residents of the YMCA. We hope to be able to develop this clinic.

Macmillan Cancer Support

SULAC offered a virtual priority link to cancer patients, within Staffordshire, via Macmillan Cancer Support. Most of the problems related to employment law, particularly returning to work after treatment. It is hoped that this service can be expanded to include street law projects.

MPs

SULAC offered a virtual priority link to Gareth Snell, MP and a physical clinic to constituents of Jeremy Lefroy MP.’s constituents. We also offered to assist with any generic research matters. Unfortunately, the dissolution of parliament hindered our progress, but we hope to be able to develop our links with MPs in the future.

Street Law

SULAC provided a street law project to lung cancer survivors on consumer law. We hope to be able to expand these projects to more members of the community in the future.

The Process

No client is seen without a supervisor and no letter of advice is sent out unless it has been approved by a supervisor.

Clients are interviewed by two students and their supervisor. The students will then research the area of law and a letter of advice will be sent to the client within 14 days. No advice is given at the first interview. Where SULAC cannot assist the students will signpost or refer to another organisation, where possible.

“In 2019/2020 SULAC assisted 178 clients (and continuing). 75 of these enquiries related to family law. With just 22 students and one clinic manager/supervisor the level of commitment and dedication of the students was exceptional.”

 

What the clients say

C:  “Thank you very much for the help you and your students do for the people in need”

P: “Excellent service from all involved. I am now clear on what I have to do. Many thanks”

M:  “I just wanted to drop you a quick email to say thank you for your help. While you weren’t able to help directly, the forms and the “idiots guide” you provided were invaluable. With that help I was able to successfully apply myself. You were a great help and I wish you all the best in the future”

T:  “Was very satisfied. Have been and seen a mediator and she thought you were brilliant and has taken your details”

J: “We used SULAC because it was a free service. We liked the idea of giving students experience in real cases. We needed to know where we stand legally before spending any more money”.

Awards

“We were delighted to be shortlisted for “Best New Probono Activity” and “Best Contribution by an Individual Law Student” in the 2019 Attorney General/Lawworks Student Probono Awards; Best Probono Activity and Best Contribution by a Law Clinic in the Lawworks Probono Awards 2019 and the Probono Award in the Lexis Nexis Legal Awards 2020.”

SULAC is a fantastic opportunity for our students and really enhances their employability. They gain real experience working in legal advice, gain complex problem solving skills, emotional intelligence, service orientation, negotiation, people management, critical thinking and much more.

Tracey said “In addition to this it helps with communication, customer awareness, time management and overall confidence. It provides the students with self-discipline and work ethic and several of our students have obtained training contracts because local employers are so impressed with the initiative.

“In addition to assisting with employability our students have also found that the module helped them with their studies, increasing their confidence in group work and helping them to overcome anxiety issues in their personal life.”

SULAC will continue to assist with helping meet the legal needs of the local community and our partners.

SULAC usually only runs in term time and was due to end in March 2020. In light of Covid19, however, we decided to continue the service remotely to assist our local community during this stressful time.

If you would like legal advice or would like to discuss other matters, please contact us:

SULAC

Staffordshire University

LW106, Ashley 2

Leek Road

Stoke on Trent

ST4 2DF

Tel: 01782 294800

Email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk