Family must demolish home because it is 75cm too tall

Danyaal Farooq- Student

A family in Stoke-On-Trent could possibly have their home demolished because the house is 75cm too high. To avoid this, Asif Naseem may have to pay around £200,000 to replace the roof of his new home in Lightwood. The Council issued an enforcement notice after local neighbours complained that there were dormer windows in the eaves and that the roof was too tall.  

Stoke-On-Trent City Council’s planning committee have given the owner a stay of execution of 3 months to permit discussions over the property’s future.

A breach of planning control is defined in section 171A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as the carrying out of development without the required planning permission or failing to comply with any condition or limitation of the planning order. If there is a breach enforcement action may be taken. Local planning authorities have responsibility for taking whatever enforcement action may be necessary in their administrative areas. It should be noted that local authorities have a range of enforcement powers that extend beyond planning, as do the police in certain instances.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice to the general public. SULAC can assist with numerous problems including housing issues; eviction, property rights and homelessness. We currently have a few outreach locations; Dudson Centre, Sign Posts Stafford, Shrewsbury Hospital and HMP Stafford. Please call the SULAC office on 01782 294800 today to book your appointment.

Forced Marriage – 4 Years Later

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Arieta Batirerega- Student

What is Forced Marriage?

Forced marriage is when you face physical pressure to marry (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (e.g. if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family if you refuse).

What  does the Law say?

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland to force someone to marry.

This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place);
  • marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not).

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

The Current position

Since 2014, there have been four convictions relating to this across the UK. While legislation has seen a rise in people reporting concerns, many are unaware it is a crime and, therefore do not seek help. .

A government spokesman said its forced marriage campaign was “raising awareness amongst the public and potential victims”. The government is encouraging people affected by this to contact its helpline.

Here at Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic we can advise on family related issues. If we cannot help, we will be able to refer you to another organisation who may be able to assist. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

 

 

The cost of cancer

Martha Elliott-Smith (Student)

The cost of cancer in the UK is now estimated to be £15.8 billion, a study by Oxford University suggests. The total apportions around £7.6 billion in economic costs and £2.6 billion for unpaid care, with one researcher commenting that; ‘time off work and unpaid care by friends and family account for 64% of all cancer costs’.

These figures highlight not only the impact on professional healthcare providers but the potential loss of earnings for patients and to those close to them who give up work in order to provide care.

New data released by Cancer Research UK now estimates that one in two people will develop cancer at some stage in their lifetime.

These figures can be highlighted locally in the September 2018 report published by Cancer Research UK on data collected from NHS North Staffordshire and NHS Stoke-on-Trent. This shows that there are around 1,300 cancer cases per year in the Staffordshire region.

Talking about your cancer diagnosis may be difficult, especially to your employer. Many people fear they will be dismissed if they ask for help and support during their treatment. 

What rights do I have as an employee?

Richard Pugh, head of services for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said that with more people receiving a cancer diagnosis, ‘returning to work is not a luxury but a basic necessity’ for people.

Cancer patients may be protected by the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure that the employee is not at a disadvantage in their employment for a reason related to their disability (in this case their cancer). Reasonable adjustments could include allowing the employee time off work, which would allow them to attend hospital appointments for treatment. It could also include flexible working arrangements which would allow some employees to work from home. Much will depend upon the nature and size of the employer’s business.

Many terminally ill people find themselves in situations where access to justice has been greatly reduced due to the affordability of advice. Therefore, clinics like SULAC are essential.

Staffordshire University operates a legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offering free legal advice to the public. At SULAC we can advise you on various matters, including employment, family and consumer protection.

SULAC does not provide advice on criminal or immigration matters or provide debt counselling.

We currently operate free clinics at the Dudson Centre on Mondays and Signpost Stafford on a Tuesday. We also offer a priority service to cancer patients via Macmillan Cancer Support.

If you would like any further information or would like to book an appointment, please call: 01782 294800.

 

Improved Air Travel for Disabled Passengers

Jess Latham Final year Law student at Staffordshire University.
 
Ministers say air travel could become easier for disabled passengers if a new charter for airlines and airports is adopted.

Disabled flyers have long complained of difficulties with access on planes and in airports. They have called for better trained airline staff and baggage handlers.
The charter aims to allow people to take their own wheelchairs into aircraft cabins.
It is clear that change is needed. More than 57% of passengers with a disability say that they find the airport process distressing and difficult, according to a survey by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Chris Wood, from Campaign Group Flying Disabled expressed that this is a step in the right direction. He went on to say:
 
‘’My aspiration is to have people flying in their own wheelchairs to a destination within two years and it looks as if the UK could lead the way in making this happen’’.
 
Last year saw shocking scenes of a paraplegic athlete dragging himself along the floor of Luton Airport after his wheelchair was left behind on a flight.
 
The changes will be welcomed by disabled people, however, the issue of how the government will work around the Montreal Convention is questionable. One difficulty that the government face is how much disabled passengers will be reimbursed for lost or broken wheelchairs.
 
No date has been set to see these measures implemented, however some airlines are already trying to make things easier. Gatwick has implemented changes to improve the experience of disabled flyers. One airport lounge has specifically been designed for passengers with a variety of disabilities. Staff have also been given specialist training.
 
The government says that the policy will be finalised next year. Much needed changes will be welcomed so that everyone has an equal opportunity to fly.
 
SULAC can assist with problems relating to discrimination. Appointment can be made in Stoke and Stafford.
If SULAC can be of any assistance to you or you would like further information, please contact: 01782 294800
 
 
 
 

Discrimination Against Vegans

By Abid Shaukat (Student)

A vegan has recently been dismissed by his employer. Mr Jordi Casamitjana claims that he was sacked by his work place after he had disclosed information that they were investing pension funds into firms which were involved in animal testing.

Mr Casamitjana claims that he has been discriminated against. The tribunal will now decide if veganism should be protected under discrimination legislation.

The League Against Cruel Sports, where Mr Casamitjana was employed, say that he was dismissed due to gross misconduct and deny sacking him for his veganism.

Mr Casamitjana claims that veganism is his belief and affects every aspect of his life.

Mr Casamitjana told other employees about the companies investments and was sacked as a result of this.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination in the workplace and within the wider society. “religion or belief” is currently a protected characteristic. The Tribunal will have to decide whether veganism is a “philosophical belief”. More and more people are choosing a vegetarian/vegan diet- should the law be changed to protect this choice?

Here at Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (“SULAC”) we can advise on discrimination claims and employment cases, alongside many other aspects of law such as consumer issues, family law, personal injury and housing.

Please feel free to contact us for more information and/or book an appointment via telephone on 01782 294800 or via email at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

 

Patient Sues GP Surgery for Mental Trauma-Vicarious Liability

Brang Aung (Student)

Sally Brayshaw, a mother of six, was recovering from bowel surgery and had chronic back pain, depression and other mental health problems. In August 2012, she went to see her doctors at the Apsley Surgery in Stoke-On-Trent for treatment and to discuss her severe depression.

It is alleged that the GP, Dr Thomas O’Brien, offered her an “alternative healing method”. Mrs Brayshaw stated that she presumed that it would be something like acupuncture. Instead Dr O’brien, who followed a Pentecostal form of Christianity, allegedly tried to indoctrinate her with his religious beliefs. Mrs Brayshaw claimed that he spoke to her in tongues and told her she was possessed by demons.

Mrs Brayshaw alleges that Dr Obrien gave her religious gifts and invited her a religious meeting where a preacher told a nightmarish tale involving witch doctors and owls. She was later asked to come to the front of the room by the preacher and to hold her hands out.  Dr O’brien blew on her and commanded the demons to leave her body.

Mrs Brayshaw was awarded damages in the region of £12500. She sued the GP surgery for ‘deliberate infliction of harm, negligence and harassment’. The barrister, Justin Levinson, acting on behalf of Mrs Brayshaw, claimed that the surgery was ‘vicariously liable’ for Dr O’Brien’s actions and alleged that the ‘manipulation’ of Mrs Brayshaw occurred within the context of Dr O’Brien’s duties as a GP. The Surgery’s partners denied that he breached his duty as a doctor and alleged that Mrs Brayshaw’s symptoms may not be connected to the incidents. They also said that even if there was a breach, they were not liable to pay damages caused by Dr O’Brien as he was not an employee of the surgery and was an ‘independent contractor’, hence the surgery was not responsible for his actions.

The Judge found against the surgery.

What is vicarious liability?

Vicarious liability is where an employer is liable for a wrong committed by its employee while acting in ‘the course of his employment.’

There are three factors that must be satisfied in order to find an employer vicariously liable:

  1. There must be an employer-employee relationship which must be distinguished from an employer’s relationship with an independent contractor;
  2. The employee must have committed a tort; and
  3. The tort must have been committed while the employee is acting in the course of his/her employment.

If the above matters are satisfied, then the employer will be liable for the actions of its employees.

Here at Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic, we have a number of employment law experts. The legal advice clinic run by its law students can advise on all areas of employment law. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

Uber Fined £385,000 for Data Breach

Danyaal Farooq (Student)

In 2016 Uber was subjected to a cyber-attack. The attackers obtained access to records of around 35 million users. They also obtained access to details of around 3.7 million drivers. Uber failed to advise the users about their data being hacked. Nearly 3 million users from the UK were affected by this. The records included the users full name, phone number, email address and even the location where they had signed up.

The company was fined £385,000 for data breach.

As the breach was dealt with under the old Data Protection Act 1998, this meant the maximum penalty was £500,000. Now under the new DPA 2018 act, the potential fine would be up to 4% of Ubers global revenue.

The Data Protection Act 2018 regulates how people deal with the publics data. This is known as GDPR. Everyone using or collecting personal details of the public must follow strict rules known as the data protection principles. They must ensure the details are used fairly, lawfully and transparently. You have the right to know what information the companies store about you. This includes the right to be informed about how your data is being used, access personal data and have incorrect data updated or amended.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice to the general public. SULAC ensures that your data is kept safe. Students participating in SULAC are fully trained on GDPR and are fully aware of the importance of data protection. SULAC uses a bespoke case management system which allows us to operate a paperless service. At SULAC we can advise you on matters, including employment, along with a range of other matters from family to consumer protection. We currently have a few outreach locations: Dudson Centre, Sign Posts Stafford. We also provide clinics to staff members of Shrewsbury Hospital and HMP Stafford. If you would like an appointment, please call 01782 294800

Transgender prison population forms toxic debate

Jessica Latham- Student

Transgender prisoners are currently the subject of a high-profile debate.

Transgender people identify with a gender that is different to the one that they were assigned at birth. The Government published new guidelines on the treatment of transgender prisoners in England and Wales in 2016. To get that gender legally recognised, a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) must be obtained. This process is complex and can take five years or more.

The crucial question is, should a prisoner be allowed to go to a prison housing people of their original gender or their reassigned gender?

Current practice is that transgender prisoners will have a case conference which is a meeting of senior management and other officials to decide how to accommodate the transgender person within the prison. Firstly, the person must live for two years in their preferred gender, and secondly, they would need to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a psychiatrist. Once this is satisfied, they can apply to a gender recognition panel which is made up of legal and medical experts who then decide whether to issue a GRC.

However, case conferences should be looking for evidence that the offender’s decision to transition is not related to their sentence length or a way of gaining access to future victims.

If a transgender woman has a GRC, then the National Offender Management Service says they should be housed in a women’s prison.

The Governments LGBT action plan entails that it will ‘’ensure that transgender prisoners are treated fairly, decently, lawfully with their rights respected.’’

The legal process of changing gender is currently under review, and if the prison system is changed it could make it easier for potentially dangerous prisoners to self-identify as transgender women and be moved to a women’s prison. It could be argued however, that the transgender inmate population are among the most vulnerable, let down by the current prison system, having detrimental implications for their mental well-being.

 

 

How many transgender prisoners are there?

In England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) conducts an annual report of prisoners.

Between March and April 2017, it counted 125 transgender prisoners in England and Wales.

Although it is difficult to know exactly how many transgender prisoners there are, these are the best available figures. The MOJ has said that it is difficult to give a reliable reflection of figures as numbers may change due to prisoners constantly entering and leaving the system.

The MOJ cannot count inmates who have not expressed that they are transgender, nor does it count prisoners who already have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

The MOJ Freedom of Information said that 60 of the 125 transgender inmates in England and Wales were serving time for a sexual offence. Worryingly, this is roughly half of the trans prison population. However, those on shorter sentences are less likely to be in for sexual offences and are not included in the survey. This means that these statistics are not necessarily reflective of the actual position and figures are likely to be much higher.

 

The campaign group Fair Play for Women, believes that promoting transgender rights could be harmful for women.

Fair Play for Women examined individual prison inspection reports and concluded that 41% of transgender women in prison are convicted sex offenders. However, some dispute how the campaign group reached its conclusion.

A leading prison reformer, Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, has expressed that inmates claiming to be transgender who have committed violent offences against women should not be able to transfer to a women’s prison if they have not legally changed their gender. This was following a recent incident of a transgender inmate sexually assaulting fellow prisoners after transferring to a women’s prison.

Karen White was on remand for multiple rapes and other sexual offences against women when she transferred to New Hall Prison, near Wakefield. It emerged that after transferring to the female prison, she was accused of four sexual assaults against other inmates, before being moved to a male prison.

The MOJ has apologised in White’s case as previous offending history was not taken into account in this case.

Frances Crook, said ‘’In my view, any man who has committed a serious sexual or violent offence against women, who then wants to transfer but has not gone through the whole process, still has male hormones, should not be put into a women’s prison. There may be a case for having separate provision; that is a debate to be had.’’

To summarise, it is clear that the system needs to safeguard female prisoners. Whilst the transgender prisoner’s views and feelings, and vulnerability need to be taken into account, if they have previously been convicted of a sexual offence then they should not be transferred to a female prison.

As for separation, separating the transgender prisoners from distinct female and male prisons may save controversy, but also create a barrier of diversity and equality rights not only in regard to LGBT, but human rights also.

The concern is that current practice exposes female prisoners to the risk of abuse and intimidation. Clearly a very in-depth balancing act is required, between protecting two vulnerable groups of people-women and transgender people. We must also not rule out the danger to transgender women in male prisons.

Perhaps allocated accommodation for transgender prisoners is a possible solution to this highly controversial debate, in the interest of both women and transgender people within the prison system.

SULAC currently gives free legal advice at Stafford Prison to all staff and to the general public in Stoke and Stafford.

If SULAC can be of any assistance to you or you would like further information, please contact: 01782 294800

 

 

 

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.