Reforming the law on divorce

Erin Dean (Student)

Currently in order for a couple to get a divorce, they must prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. To do this they must prove one of the following five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation (with consent) or five years separation (without consent). These grounds (particularly adultery and unreasonable behaviour) have often created further conflict between the parties and damaged children by undermining the relationship further after the divorce.

Aidan Jones, OBE, has noted that the process for divorce is damaging to a child’s welfare and makes it harder for the couple to create good relationships as co-parents due to the element of having to show that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

The UK Government has since proposed reforms to the process on how to prove that the marriage has broken down by keeping the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the only ground without the need to prove the other facts. Hopefully, by not having to prove the reason for the irretrievable breakdown, the adversarial aspect of the process can be significantly reduced.  Other reforms include creating a joint application for divorce, removing the ability for a party to reject the divorce, and putting in a time frame of 6 months from the first to the final stage of divorce to avoid dragging it out.

Divorce can be a very damaging and distressing thing to go through for both the couple and any family involved and so it is important that the process is as easy and smooth as it can be. This is why it is important that the government are making these changes. These changes are due to come into force later this year.

Here at SULAC we can advise on divorce, financial affairs and children applications. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email sulac@staffs.ac.uk

Average house price hits record high of £255,000

Lauren Foster (Student)

In December 2021, house prices reached an average of £253,822 according to Nationwide. A standard sized house has increased in value by around £23,902 since January 2021. This is the largest increase of house prices since 2006.

Despite this, it has been predicted that the market will slow over 2022 due to the stamp duty holiday ending and because of the Covid-19 variants

Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner said

“The Omicron variant could reinforce the slowdown if it leads to a weaker labour market,”

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how people live which has impacted the housing market. It has influenced buyers to substitute their homes in large cities, to live in suburban and rural areas. London has appeared to be the prime city affected by this.

The increase in interest rates will also affect the housing market.

The Bank of England increased their borrowing interest rates from 0.1% to 0.25% at the beginning of December 2021, in an effort to tackle the rise of inflation. The consequence of this meant less people can join the property ladder. The correlation of increased interest rates, and people being prevented from work due to the pandemic, will mean that people may be discouraged from buying homes. House prices have also risen yet the growth of income has slowed.

The data statistics below represent the average increase of house prices across the UK, this was collated from 1973-December 2021.

  • Northern Ireland: Up 12.1% to £167,479
  • South West: Up 11.5% to £294,845
  • Outer South East: Up 11.3% to £329,869
  • North West: Up 11.2% to £196,806
  • Yorkshire and Humberside: Up 10.8% to £190,855
  • East Anglia: Up 10.4% to £268,146
  • East Midlands: Up 10.4% to £221,813
  • Scotland: Up 10.1% to £172,605
  • West Midlands: Up 9.4% to £227,031
  • Outer metropolitan area of London: Up 8.8% to £410,992
  • North: Up 7.7% to £148,105
  • London: Up 4.2% to £507,230

Here at SULAC we can help with any property related issues. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

The famous ‘Belmarsh case’ – twenty years since the detention of ‘A and others’, in breach of their human rights

On Human Rights Day (10th of December), Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in Law, recollects the famous ‘Belmarsh case’ on the twentieth anniversary of the detentions that led to the case.

Following the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in the USA in September 2001, the UK Parliament swiftly passed the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.  In exercise of his power under section 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998, David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, made the Human Rights Act 1998 (Designated Derogation) Order 2001.  The derogation related to article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Article 5 of the Convention is concerned with the “right to liberty and security of person.”

The appellants in the ‘Belmarsh case’ were certified by the Home Secretary under section 21 of the 2001 Act.  This led to their detention under section 23 of the Act.  Eight of the nine appellants were detained on the 19th of December 2001.  They were held in high security conditions at Belmarsh prison.  They challenged the lawfulness of their detention, and the case reached the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, which was the highest court in the land until replaced in 2009 by the Supreme Court of the UK.

Giving the leading judgment, Lord Bingham described the circumstances in which the appellants found themselves in December 2001, “the appellants share certain common characteristics which are central to their appeals.  All are foreign (non-UK) nationals.  None has been the subject of any criminal charge.  In none of their cases is a criminal trial in prospect”

In the Appellate Committee, the case was heard by a panel of nine Law Lords rather than the usual panel size of five.  It had to decide two main issues.  Firstly, were the conditions for derogating from Article 5 met.  Secondly, if they were met and the Derogation Order was lawful, were the provisions of the 2001 Act relating to powers of indefinite executive detention without trial “strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.”  These words are from Article 15 (‘Derogation in time of emergency’) of the Convention, paragraph one of which reads as follows “In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law.”

On the first issue the Appellate Committee decided that the question involved a political judgment with which it should not interfere.  Lord Bingham said “I would accept that great weight should be given to the judgment of the Home Secretary, his colleagues and Parliament on this question, because they were called on to exercise a pre-eminently political judgment.”  However, Lord Hoffmann dissented, taking the view that the events of ‘9/11’ did not constitute a public emergency threatening the life of the British nation.  He commented that “whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda.”

On the second issue, the decision of the Appellate Committee has been summarised by Lord Bingham in his well-known book ‘The Rule of Law.’  The provisions of the 2001 Act were “incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the Convention ………… the measure did not rationally address the threat to security, was not a proportionate response, was not strictly required by the exigencies of the situation and unjustifiably discriminated against foreign nationals on grounds of their nationality.”   The 2001 Act was discriminatory because it differentiated between non-UK citizens and UK citizens.  UK citizens could not be detained in the same way under the terms of the Act.  This was one of the strong arguments advanced by the appellants which led the Appellate Committee to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeal.  The Committee issued a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the Human Rights Act.  Section 23 of the 2001 Act was incompatible with Articles 5 and 14 (‘Prohibition of discrimination’) of the European Convention.

In his recently published book, Sir Jack Beatson identifies the ‘Belmarsh case’ and Ghaidan, from the same year, as examples of the principle of non-discrimination.  This principle is a requirement of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Most provisions of the Convention were given effect in UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998 which came into force on the 2nd of October 2000.

 

 

 

 

Domestic Abuse Victims Facing Homelessness

Aryan Sharma (Student)

According to the Guardian, domestic abuse has caused nearly 1 in 6 new homelessness cases, from April to June of 2021.

Data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities further suggests that even as the overall amount of homeless people is decreasing, the amount of domestic abuse cases are only going up. According to research, in 2021, out of approximately 34,830 households that were considered homeless, about 5,590 of them were caused by domestic abuse.

Representatives from Women’s Aid believe that it is absolutely unfair for victims to have to make the choice between living with an abuser or facing homelessness. Further research by Women’s Aid in 2020, reported that most women living with an abuser, had said that the abuse had gotten worse during the pandemic. According to estimations, it would take an annual investment of at least £409m, in order to support victims and organise domestic abuse services across the country.

A spokesperson from the Local Government Association stated that the recent domestic abuse bill was more focused on accommodation, rather than any community-based support services. These support services are vital as victims need more support than just accommodation. They would need accepting communities, valuable job opportunities, and safe places to grow from.

A change in the new domestic abuse bill could allow victims to leave their homes, while also having a reliable place to go to, without the risk of domestic abuse.

It is no secret that homeless people have had to suffer over the years, due to poor weather conditions or ineffective government policies, or even a lack of support from local authorities and organizations. With the COVID-19 pandemic only increasing domestic abuse cases, homeless people and domestic abuse victims need support now, more than ever.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) provides free legal advice on matters regarding domestic abuse, or housing issues. We are working remotely during the pandemic and interviews are conducted via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to make an appointment, please call us at 01782 294800 or email us at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

Are Employers Perpetuating the Gender Pay Gap by Asking About Salary History?

Lauren Foster (Student)

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. They are asking employers to stop asking prospective employees about their salary history.

The Fawcett Society stated that asking about previous pay in interviews can contribute to keeping women on lower wages.

They presented a survey of 2,200 working adults and found 47% of people had been asked about past salaries. Also, 61% of women said the questions asked had an effected their confidence to negotiate better pay.

Jemima Olchawski, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society told the BBC that unless more is done, the gender pay gap will not be closed until at least 2050.

The survey of the Fawcett Society also found that 77% of people felt their salaries should reflect the value of the quality of work they do. The reality is that 58% of women and 54% of men felt salary history questions meant they were offered a lower wage than they might otherwise have been paid. 

Only a quarter of people that have participated in the survey felt that pay should be based on past salaries, in contrast to 80% of respondents who felt that their pay should be based on their ability to carry out their job role regarding skills and responsibilities.

The campaign group found 77% of people felt their salaries should reflect the quality of the work they do.

The Fawcett Society stressed that more needed to be done by both the government and employers to tackle issues like discrimination within the workplace.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds of the following:

  • Age,
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage or civil partnership,
  • Pregnancy and maternity,
  • Race,
  • Religion/belief,
  • Gender,
  • Sexual orientation

Here at SULAC we offer free advice on all matters relating to employment and discrimination. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294458 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

Land Registry announces first mandatory digital process

Jack Marshall (Student)

The digital age is now upon us. Previously if conveyancers wanted to make changes to an existing title it would have been sufficient for them to provide a scanned copy of the form

From November 2022 it is compulsory to use the digital registration process. This is significant as it is the first time the Land Registry have made a digital channel mandatory.

Currently, fewer than 10% of the population make application changes to titles through an online registration service.

Simon Hayes who is the Chief executive and Chief Land Registrar has been quoted as saying “this is a game changemaker”. He also went on to say that “doing an application process based on data rather than the traditional paper based method is fundamental to transforming the way we register and will pay a vital role in improving the end-to-end conveyancing journey”

Statistics show that doing an application through an online registry service cuts down errors by 25% and the amount of time it takes to process applications is halved.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic offers free legal advice on all land registration issues. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294458 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

Law Book Club

The first session of this year’s LLB Book Club was held on the afternoon of Wednesday the 6th of October

The book club is part of a range of activities the Law department are implementing for our students outside of teaching.

Students are reading and talking about Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies, which was published in 2020. 

They are enjoying the opportunity to converse in a very convivial setting about the range of issues that the author explores, issues that deserve the attention of not just law students but everyone.

G7 Speakers’ Conference in Lancashire

G7 Speakers recently met face-to-face at their annual conference which was held in Chorley in Lancashire. Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in Law, reflects on the role of Speaker of the House of Commons.

The G7 Speakers’ Conference took place in Lancashire from the 17th to the 19th of September.  It was hosted by Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the theme was ‘Secure versus Open Parliaments?’  Sir Lindsay welcomed Speakers and Presiding Officers representing Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA and the European Parliament. 

The Speaker of the House of Commons chairs debates in the Commons Chamber.  The holder of this office is an MP who is elected to be Speaker by other Members of Parliament.  Baroness Boothroyd, the first female speaker (1992 to 2000), referred to the office as “the top insider’s job in the Mother of Parliaments”

Sir Lindsay’s immediate predecessor has stated that the role involves “a duty to stand up for MPs individually, to champion Parliament institutionally and to try to make Parliament look more like the country we are charged to represent”  In the words of other former speakers, the holder of the office “should be the servant of the House and not of the executive” and must “exercise a firm hand and throw out the people who break the rules.”

Richard Onslow, speaker from 1527/8 to 1571, is buried in Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire.  The Onslow Monument is inside Shrewsbury Abbey, a Parish Church in the Church of England Diocese of Lichfield.

 

The UK Parliament on the International Day of Parliamentarism

The 30th June is the International Day of Parlimentarism. Established by the United Nations and celebrated on this day every year, the day ‘is a time to review the progress that parliaments have made in achieving some key goals to be more representative and move with the times, including carrying out self-assessments, working to include more women and young MPs, and adapting to new technologies (un.org).’ In relation to this, Dr John McGarry, Senior Law Lecturer, discusses the UK Parliament.

On International Day of Parliamentarism it is appropriate to recognise the central and preeminent role that the UK Parliament plays in the legal and political landscape of the country. Parliament comprises three bodies: the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Monarch. It is sometimes, more formally known as the Queen in Parliament. The House of Commons is made up of 650 directly elected MPs. The House of Lords consists of 700-800 peers which include appointed Life Peers, up to 92 hereditary peers and up to 26 Bishops of the Church of England.

Parliament has a number of roles. First and foremost, it is the UK’s primary legislature which means that it legislates, it creates law. Its powers here are unusual (though not unique) in that it is sovereign which means, in this context, that it may make any law whatsoever. That is, there are no restraints on the legislative power of Parliament. If an Act of Parliament is enacted in the correct way then, regardless of how improper, immoral or unconstitutional it is considered to be, the courts cannot overrule it or strike it out. As I say, this is unusual. In many countries, the law-making competence of the legislature is constrained by the constitution. For instance, in the US, an Act of Congress (roughly the equivalent of an Act of Parliament) may be struck down by the courts if it breaches the Constitution.

Another important role of Parliament is holding the Government to account – obliging the Government to explain and defend its actions and respond appropriately to any criticisms. It is worth emphasising here that Parliament and the Government are two distinct bodies exercising distinct functions. This fact is sometimes lost because it is a rule of the UK constitution that all Ministers – the main political actors of Government – must be a member of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Moreover, the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Commons (rather than the House of Lords) and is the person who commands – and must maintain – the majority of support in the House of Commons.

This requirement – that the Government is formed from Parliament and must maintain the confidence (the majority of support) of the Commons – is why the UK system of government is parliamentary in nature. It may be contrasted with a presidential system where the head of government is directly elected by voters.

The importance of Parliament’s role in holding the Government to account is demonstrated by it being one of the bases of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2019 that the Government’s attempt to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful. The Court held that parliamentary accountability – Parliament holding the Government to account –is a fundamental constitutional principle and that this principle would be frustrated by such a lengthy prorogation. So, unless there was a reasonable justification for the five week prorogation, it was unlawful.

The accountability of Government to Parliament occurs in many ways. Undoubtedly, the most well known is Prime Minister’s Question time when the Prime Minister answers questions from MPs about the Government’s actions and decisions. This accountability is facilitated by a number of non-legal rules governing how members of the Government ought to behave. One of the most important is that Ministers must be honest with Parliament. The Ministerial Code – which sets basic standards of ministerial behaviour – states: ‘It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity’. Without this obligation of honesty, Parliament would be seriously hampered in its ability to hold the Government to account.

This, though, raises questions which I will state but not answer. As I have indicated, many of the most important obligations under the UK constitution are non-legal in nature. As such, they rely on those in power knowing, and adhering to, the rules of the game. This is sometimes known as the ‘Good Chaps’ theory of Government – that those in power will act like good chaps (or chapesses) and comply with the non-legal rules. Yet, what happens when those in power no longer feel obliged to comply with these rules? Can Parliament exercise its function of holding the Government to account if the Government no longer feels obliged to, for instance, give accurate and truthful information to Parliament? As I say, this is not a question which I will attempt to answer here. It is, however, an important question and it is one that my colleague Donna Graham, Staffordshire University lecturer, is currently looking at as part of her PhD.

GradEx21

GradEx is the annual graduate exhibition showcasing all of the fantastic work of our final year students to industry experts. This usually takes place on campus, but has taken place online the past two years, due to the pandemic. 

You can view all GradEx entries here, but below are the entries for subjects across the School of Law, Policing and Forensics.

Forensic Investigation and Forensic Science

An evaluation and comparison of LED torches for the use in scene examination

Kathryn Davis’ research evaluated ‘the PIT-LED torch using questionnaires completed by Forensic Investigators at Staffordshire Police and [compared them] with alternative torches focusing on the illumination of fingermarks on various reflective surfaces’.

Assessing the Policies and Processes for Sexual Offences at HEIs

Elliot Parkin’s project assessed ‘the policies and processes for sexual offences at HEIs; recommendations were made to improve these from staff and student responses to questionnaires, interviews and focus groups’.

Can we tell if wildlife have been shot with air weapons or .22 long rifles?

Eva Booth ‘worked with the Zoological Society of London researching methods to determine if birds had been shot with a 22 long rifle or air rifle by examining feathers’ and using a ‘Scanning Electron Microscope with energy dispersive X-ray analysis combined with image analysis to examine areas of damage, and quantity and distribution of areas of heavy elements.’

 

Do 3D-printed firearms pose a threat to the UK and Globally?

Ben Gordon researched ‘revolving 3-Dimensional printed firearms and the threats that may come with them.’ Ben said ‘It is important to conduct this research to bring attention to 3-D printed firearms and how they may be a breach of security. The current knowledge most people have on these 3D guns are either minimal or none, which allows this research to teach people of these uncommon hazards.’

Establishing Pro Forma for the Identification of Migrating Syrian Refugees

Jourdaine Das-Gupta’s ‘research involved creating a specified DVI pro forma for the identification of Syrian refugees, in light of the 6.5 million displaced persons since the Syrian Civil War in 2011. A number of specifying details were identified, and further research ideas were explored.’

Q-TOF LCMS Identification of Decomposition Chemicals in Aquatic Environment

Natalia Ciesielska’s ‘experiment successfully demonstrated that Q-TOF LCMS used for untargeted analysis to identify chemicals of interest released by mouse decomposition in aqueous environments is a powerful detection technique. The untargeted searchers identified complex chemical mixtures, containing 31 chemicals of interest in samples of the mice cadavers submerged in water.’

Reporting of Sexual offences in the Asian Community.

Aiyra Zahid’s project ‘looked at the reasons for under reporting of sexual offences in the Asian community and the stigma surrounding this topic . It utilised the knowledge of those in the community to create strategies of ways in which reporting rates can be increased in the community.’

The effect of menorrhea on persistence of semen in sexual offence victims

For their research, Wiktoria Flos used a ‘gynaecological model to simulate a female victim. Neat semen and mix bodily fluids of neat semen and menorrhea were deposited inside the model and left for 2 and 20 hours.  . The results revealed a statistical difference between the persistence of spermatozoa in neat semen and mix bodily fluids whereas, there was no statistical difference between the two-time frames used within this research.’

The perceptions of the current use of trace evidence, UK.

Lucy Watson’s project is ‘based around gathering the current perceptions (and opinions) of the use of trace evidence, from current practitioners and students, within the UK. This was done with the use of a survey, constructed in Qualtrics, and disseminated through LinkedIn, Twitter, and our own schools Blackboard.’

 

 

 

History and International Studies

How the Trauma of the Irish Famine led to support for the Revolutionary IRB

Helen Lee’s research ‘establish[ed] that the Irish Famine of 1845-52 led to social disruption and emotional trauma on a collective scale, [nurturing] significant working-class support for the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood and their fight for Irish independence’. 

Partners or Property – War interpreters and International Organisations

Aida Haughton said, ‘as a former UN war interpreter in Bosnia, I wanted to explore if what I have been through is anything like the experiences of my colleagues and this paper reveals some shocking details. Invisibility, sexual harassment, and traumatic experiences are some of the topics covered.’

The Genocide of the Kurds, the Halabja Massacre and the Anfal Operations

Nayaz Mohammed’s project looked at the suffering and genocide of the Kurs from 1987-1988: ‘It is well established that the Anfal & Halabja massacre was a series of military operations which were authorized by Saddam Hussein from 1987-1988 during the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War.The goal of these operations was to fully exterminate the Kurds.’

 

 

 

Law

A Critical Analysis of the Crime of Genocide within International Law

Harry Gabell’s project was ‘an analysis of the main legal issues which are faced when considering the crime of genocide, and with international entities such as States or tribunals which are seeking to prevent and prosecute genocidal crimes, using scholarly articles, the Genocide Convention and ICTY and ICTR jurisprudence.’

 
Fairness in Family court should not require equal rights

Salma Hussein’s project aimed to highlight flaws in family court decisions where ‘parental equality rights are given to all fathers regardless of past parenting involvement [and are] designed to perpetuate the traditional concept of a family unit, despite the far-reaching problems caused to separated families.’

 

Policing

Why Children Between the Ages of 13-18 Go Missing from Home

 

Isobel Dove’s project analysed ‘why children between the ages of 13-18 may go missing from home and identified child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation as possible reasons.’

 

 

 

Sociology, Crime and Terrorism

Can bold and self-assured women succeed in Pakistan?

Nafeesa Mirza’s project aim was to ‘present to a wider audience the struggles that women in Pakistan continue to face, [by] analysing the patriarchal society and the Islamic interpretations of how women should be treated [and] exploring case studies of significant individuals’. 

 

Content Analysis of Gender Stereotypes and Gender Roles in LGBTQ+ Films

‘By utilising a qualitative content analysis [Ellie-May Newton] investigated LGBTQ+ films for their use of  gender stereotypes and analyse[d] how those stereotypes can impact the image of the LGBTQ+ community.’

 

 

 

Eurasia’s pivot towards Cyber Attacks, Psy-Ops and Electronic warfare

 

Christian Etheridge’s research paper focused themes of Eurasian unconventional warfare, exploring examples f Cyber Attacks on Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), Information warfare (Psy-Ops) and Electromagnetic Spectrum manipulation within the context of conflict. 

 

 

 

Mentoring Adults in the Criminal Justice System – What are the Benefits?

Katie Price’s project highlights the benefits of mentoring adults who have experienced the criminal system. Katie concludes that ‘mentors aid with the rehabilitation process by supporting ex-offenders to integrate back in to the community following a custodial sentence.’