‘SQE: What Next’

This January, it was Staffordshire University’s turn to host the next Undergraduate-Law Providers meeting. The meetings allow Law Providers to keep up-to-date with any changes that impact the Legal profession. This meeting focused on the proposed introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. 

On the 15th of January, the Law Department hosted a day-long meeting of UK Undergraduate Law Providers. Invitations to this event were issued jointly by Ruby Hammer, Head of Law at Staffordshire, and John Koo of London South Bank University.

The last meeting, in July 2018, was hosted by London South Bank University and the University of Brighton.

January’s meeting consisted of presentations as well as open forum discussion on ‘SQE: What Next?’ and other topical matters relevant to delivery of LLB and GDL/CPE courses.

The Law Society’s website states “the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is looking to introduce a new way of qualifying into the [legal profession: the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

Pictured are John Koo (Course Director for the Law Conversion course – PG Diploma / CPE, London South Bank University), Aidan Flynn (Lecturer at Staffordshire University), Andy Unger (Head of Law Division at London South Bank University) and Rhonda Hammond-Sharlot (Lecturer at Birmingham City University)

 

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.

New BA is Already Helping Student Pursue a Career in Offender Management

We are fast approaching the end of the first semester for our students and this will be the end of the first ever semester for our new BA Criminal Justice with Offender Management degree. Kate Price discusses how the course is already helping her to pursue a career in offender management.

“I decided I wanted a career change, having been unsatisfied with work for many years; previous jobs never quite hit the spot the same way as if I was doing what I really wanted to, so I took the plunge and applied for university in summer 2018. I was overcome with joy when I got accepted on to my first course of choice – Criminal Justice with Offender Management – and now just 7 weeks down the line, I am training with SOVA as a volunteer to mentor ex-offenders; it’s rather surreal.

I first heard about this company in one of my lectures; we had a volunteer come in and talk to the class about what service they provide and the types of clients that come through their doors in search of help. Immediately I knew it was what I wanted to do, so I applied. I had received an email inviting me for a telephone interview, which really made my day, then I got offered a 2-day training course; I prepared myself!

I got up the morning the training began, I was nervous, excited and a little anxious, but I pushed through. Questions went through my head on the drive there: what will they ask me, what will I have to do? My anxiety has held me back before but I was determined to overcome it, so I walked into the room with my head up and, to my delight, there were some familiar faces which put me at ease right away; the other people there were all wonderful too, people from all walks of life – it was a real eye opener. I learnt so much whilst training about what support is in place for offenders upon release from prison, about being understanding and empathetic whilst remaining professional and firm: this was fantastic, I thought to myself.

I have been invited back to attend more training with SOVA, this time learning about homelessness. It has opened so many doors for me and is giving me a great opportunity to further my studies, but in relation to what I want to do after I graduate.

I have my second interview fast approaching [and] after this I will get to meet my own mentees. I am looking forward to helping others who are trying to settle back in to the community, those who are making positive steps with their lives and pushing through their own demons like I did. Wish me luck!”

 

 

 

How the LPC at Staffs is Helping Me Reach The Bar

“I am doing quite well thanks to Staffordshire University”

Amit Mahabir completed the Legal Practice Course at Staffordshire University and has since started his service training for the Bar in Trinidad and Tobago. 

“I would like to thank Staffordshire University for what was an interesting, uplifting experience for me. My time in the UK was indeed a memorable one.

Amit Mahabir BSc MBA LLB LPC

Thanks for everything. Thanks for listening to my concerns, responding in a quick and efficient manner on blackboard and, most of all, the dedication and commitment the tutors had to seeing everyone succeed.

My time with you was indeed a remarkable one. I contemplated long and hard to pursue the LPC at Staffordshire [and], 9 months later, having completed the programme I have no regrets.  Having a full time job and studies, I was still able to be flexible throughout the course.

 

I was successful at my exams and have started my in service training with a law firm here in Trinidad.  After completing 6 months in training I will be called to the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Congraulations to Amit, and all of our LPC graduates, and all the best for the future and Bar training. 

 

 

 

 

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.