Lack of Duty Solicitors Will Mean Innocent People Found Guilty

Lauren Pritchard- Law Student

The Law Society has warned a substantial lack of new duty solicitors may lead to a lack of adequate legal advice and representation.

Richard Miller, head of justice at the Law Society described the legal system as “creaking at the seams”. Approximately half of duty solicitors in England and Wales are over 50. Of the 6,104 duty solicitors in England and Wales only 11% are aged under 35.

Solicitors dealing with this area of work have not seen a pay increase since 1998.

The duty solicitor fee has seen no increase since 1998 and was cut by 8.75% in 2014

In some areas the rate is as low as £172 per job. This could involve many hours work.

One solicitor, claimed people are already being questioned at police stations without representation – even though they have the right to free legal advice – due to shortages of duty solicitors.

Staffordshire University operates a legal advice clinic (“SULAC”) to provide free legal advice to people in the local community as well as to certain specific sectors.

SULAC was launched on 1st October 2018. It is a clinic manned, primarily, by active law students; supervised and supported by lecturers, in house qualified solicitors and local Solicitors and Barristers.

In light of the significant reduction in legal aid, access to justice is being eroded. Many people find themselves in situations where they need legal advice but simply cannot access that advice, usually due to cost. Clinics like SULAC are, therefore, essential to bridge the gap.

SULAC provides free legal advice (term time only) to:

  • The general public in Stoke and Stafford
  • Officers and staff of HMP Stafford
  • Patients, visitors and staff at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital
  • Constituents of Gareth Snell MP
  • Patients and relatives referred from Macmillan Cancer Support

SULAC covers the below areas of law:

  •  Employment
  • Consumer issues
  • Housing
  • Personal Injury
  • Family law

SULAC does not deal with criminal or immigration matters or provide debt counselling.

Organisations such as SULAC are vital in ensuring that people from all socio-economic backgrounds are able to access free legal advice and ensure they have access to justice. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

Discrimination – 100 years on

Shannon-Annie Moore

On November 21st, 1918 a law was introduced which gave women the right to become Members of Parliament. The first female MP to take up her seat was Nancy Astor, after winning a by-election in December 1919. Since this Act there have been 491 female MP’s. This seems like a significant number until you realise 4,503 male MP’s have been elected during the same period. Obviously since then there have been two female Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 was a one-page piece of legislation, that simply sets out that “women should not be disqualified by sex or marriage from being elected to or sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament”. This Act was specific to MPs, however other legislation has been passed to prevent discrimination in employment generally.

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination, not only in the workplace but in wider society too. Under the Equality Act people are protected from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation on grounds of: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, marriage, civil partnerships and even as a result of being pregnant

Although there are laws preventing discrimination from occurring unfortunately it does still occur but should not be tolerated. Society is changing, and stereotypical gender specific roles are no longer the norm. We are seeing more male nurses, “house-husbands” and “breadwinner mothers”, which at one time would have been unlikely. Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. Equal pay is still an issue and women are still not on an equal footing with their male counterparts.

We wonder what the next 100 years will bring. Hopefully the promotion of equality will eventually result in equal numbers of each gender in Parliament and elsewhere.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can advise on employment and discrimination matters. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

Uber Drivers Are Employees

Simon Mitchell

The employment appeal for ride sharing app Uber started on 6th November. The Supreme Court need to decide if users of the app are in fact employees, rather than self-employed. If they are employees then they would be entitled to sick pay, holiday pay and minimum wage. Until 2016 drivers, or partners as Uber call them, operated on a self-employed basis and paid commission to the technology giant. In most cases drivers can pay up to 25% from each ride. Some drivers claim that this leaves them with less than minimum wage. Uber deny this and claim that most drivers earn above £10 per hour.

In 2016 Uber lost their case against two drivers who claimed their pay was as little as £5.03 per hour. They also stated that Uber control these drivers and therefore they should be treated as employees. The Employment Tribunal found in favour of the employees. Uber appealed the decision immediately.

Currently drivers operate from the App. They can start their shift at any time, take time off when they like and even take another job. This can help drivers to be more flexible. Drivers then get time to spend with their families, make and keep appointments and decide their working hours. This is a business model for many UK companies including Amazon and MyHermes. Staff that work with these firms enjoy the flexibility that this includes.

What is the future?

If the decision goes against Uber this could result in many companies changing their business model. It would also have financial implications for these companies. They would need to comply with employment law as we know it. This includes paying the national minimum wage, which is currently £7.83, but will rise to £8.21 in April 2019, paying sick pay, holiday pay, maternity pay, pension contributions and they would be obliged to provide an employment contract to their staff. This could also have implications for their hours which could then remove the flexibility most partners enjoy.

What could this mean for the consumer?

If this appeal is lost, we could see an increase in our fares for trips to the airport, shops or work.  Many drivers could lose their jobs and small taxi firms could go out of business.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can offer free legal advice on all employment issues. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

Record fall in number of workers from eastern Europe in UK

Sukhjeet Sodhi

Figures have shown that in the countdown to Brexit, the UK has seen its first sharp fall in European workers since records began over two decades ago. Figures show a drop in 132,000 workers in the last year from eight European countries, which was unforeseen despite global employment increasing by 34,000. National employment grew by 23,000 between June and September from 4% to 4.1%.

This comes after the flash referendum which saw a 52% majority vote for Britain to leave the European Union (EU). This demonstrates the shockwaves that have struck the nation since plans were announced to leave the EU within the two-year window. This comes as no surprise due to the repercussions on the possible restriction of the free movement of people, goods and workers.

Employers are warning that there will now be a shortage of skilled workers which will have a significant negative effect on the economy. This is also putting an upward pressure on wages which can only be bad for UK businesses.

It is likely that the effects of leaving the EU will continue to surface for many years. It is essential for an adequate deal to be reached to reduce this negative impact upon UK businesses and for the economy.

If you are experiencing any employment issues and have nowhere else to turn, please contact the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) on 01782 294800. We can advise on employment issues or refer you to other organisations who may be able to assist.

Matt Hancock MP pledges zero tolerance of abuse of NHS Staff.

Ashley Reakes

In a speech to the Royal College of Nurses, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock laid out his reduction strategy for NHS staff violence. There has already been plans put in place to reduce this violence with the Assaults on Emergency Workers Act. The legislation imposes tougher sentences on people assaulting those working for the emergency services and the NHS. This legislation was supported by the Royal College of Nurses.

Mr Hancock hopes to form partnerships between the NHS, police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Social Partnership Forum and the Royal College of Nurses, whereby incidents will be easily reportable, and all incidents will be taken seriously and investigated fully.

This data will then be used to identify high-risk jobs and areas. This will help to tailor the solutions to specific areas as a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not necessarily be useful.

Mr Hancock pointed out that paramedics face the greatest danger from drunk young men late at night on Fridays or Saturdays, whereas a mental health nurse may see incidents occur between 10 and 11 in the morning. For those patients with dementia, brain injuries or other mental health issues, prosecution might not always be appropriate. However, with better availability of data staff training and support can be improved.

In closing, Matt Hancock outlined his top three priorities for the future of the NHS: ensuring adequate time for rest and recovery; ensuring that there is somewhere to go or someone to talk to for help if needed and ensuring that the NHS has the most up-to-date technology available to cut workloads and make lives easier.

SULAC is providing free legal advice to staff members at Shrewsbury hospital. SULAC acknowledges the difficult issues face by the NHS. They often work long unsociable hours and can be on a low salary. Lack of access to justice is a problem faced by all our society and public sector workers also need our help. If you would like to make an appointment at one of our clinics, please call 01782 294800.

The Gender Pay Divide

Courtney James  

Under new regulations that came into force in April 2017, all employers with over 250 employees are required to report their gender pay gap data. The data has shown that more than three out of four UK companies pay their male staff more on average than their female staff and more than half gave a higher bonus to their male staff. The regulations have meant that Britain gender pay gap has fallen from 21.5% to 12.5%.


Gender pay gap in the media

Due to the new legislation, many companies that are in the public eye have come under scrutiny due to the pay gaps present. A publication of the BBC’s highest-earning presenters in July 2017 highlighted an imbalance between the number of the men and women at the top of the list. However, the differences did not end there, the top male presenter was Chris Evans whose salary fell somewhere between £2.2 and £2.25 million whereas the top female presenter was Claudia Winkleman who earnt a sum of between £450,000 and £500,000 in comparison. However, the BBC director Tony Hall has announced since that the BBC’s gender pay gap is one of the lowest in the media in the UK and has come down 20% since last year.

 What is the Government doing to help close the gender pay gap?

On the 1st August 2018 The Government Equalities Office published a new ‘What works’ guidance for companies which aims to help improve recruitment processes and the progression of women which in turn would help to close the gender pay gap internally.

 Its recommendations included assessing candidates based on the actual tasks that they would be expected to perform in their roles and encouraging salary negotiations by showing salary ranges. This was as a result of evidence that women are less likely to negotiate their pay than men.

 Staffordshire University has employment law experts. The legal advice clinic run by its law students can advise on all areas of employment law.

Is Marriage or a Civil Partnership Right for Me?

Martha Elliott-Smith


Following the recent Supreme Court ruling, heterosexual couples will now be able to enter into a civil partnership. Although the Government is yet to make a change to the legislation, it will grant many couples more rights than those who are cohabiting. For many couples, the thought of marriage does not bring about equality due to the traditional gender roles and religious vows. This change therefore allows greater freedom for those who do not want to participate in a ceremony and exchange vows, although they can do so if they wish.

So, what is the difference between a marriage and a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is created by the signing of a document which includes the signatures of both parents of the couple and the couple are then known as civil partners, but they cannot say they are married for legal reasons. A marriage requires a formal ceremony to take place with vows, whereas a civil partnership only requires that a document is signed. In terms of legal rights, a civil partnership affords a very similar position to marriage, for example, the rights are the same for inheritance, tax and pensions. However, it could be argued that globally, marriage is recognised in a whole host of countries and civil partnerships are only recognised in a few.

It appears that Scotland is also looking into this.

Here at the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic, we can advise on family related issues.

Staffordshire University Legal Clinic Launch

Last night was the official launch of the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC).

The event opened with refreshments at 5pm before an Official Welcome was given by Professor Ieuan Ellis, Pro Vice Chancellor.

Head of Law, Ruby Hammer, introduced the SULAC presentation, which was given by Tracey Horton – Law Clinic Manager – and Law Clinic students.

You can also read the coverage of the launch in the Stoke Sentinel here and Signal 1 Radio here

Tracey Horton explains that the “aim [of the Law Clinic] is to provide much needed support to vulnerable communities in Stoke on Trent and the region. As such, it represents a commitment to our strategy linked to Connected Communities and is representative of our values in being “Brilliant and Friendly” and “Proud to be Staffs”.

The Law Clinic has been launched at a time when the professional bodies are also gearing up to recognising time spent in placements/law clinics as counting towards the qualifying work experience required to become a solicitor. It therefore offers a unique opportunity to gain such experience and to practice lawyering and advice skills whilst at University. It directly enhances the employability and reputation of our law graduates.”

The legal advice is free and thirty-five students have been trained to work in the clinic; thirty three people have already signed up to the service.

The Legal Advice Clinic operates during term time at:

  • The Dudson Centre, Hanley, every Monday
  • Signpost, Stafford, every Tuesday
  • HMP Stafford, the first Friday of the month
  • Shrewsbury Hospital, the second Friday of the month

To book an appointment, call: 01782 294800