Staffs Students’ Superb Opportunity to Attend Lincoln’s Inn

Over 100 undergraduate students across the country were chosen by their respective institutions to attend Lincoln’s Inn last week.

Lincoln’s Inn is one of four Inns of Court providing students with training, careers advice and scholarships.

“I was delighted to be chosen by the Universities Academic Team to have dinner at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn” –  level 6 student, Nazeem Khan

Naseem Khan was one of the students invited to attend from Staffordshire University.

Nazeem Khan and Elizabeth Briand

   

“From the moment we arrived I was in awe, Lincoln’s Inn was like Hogwarts! We arrived outside a big wooden door. Standing on the other side were students from almost every university in the country waiting to greet us.”

Those in attendance included the University College of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

“Everyone was friendly, we each shared our individual experiences. Some of these students were certain that they wanted to pursue a career at the bar, others were simply there to enjoy the evening!

We were never made to feel small, there was a real sense of togetherness. I even made friends with a History & Politics student who has since offered to give me a tour of Oxford.”

The evening consisted of talks on the employed and self-employed bar. Followed by dinner in the Great Hall.

“The talks were informative, we really gained an insight into life at the bar and how Lincoln’s Inn will support us on our journey through training and various scholarships.”

“It was brilliant, really interesting talks and then every table was sat with a few barristers from London so we could properly talk to them about the Bar, it was really insightful” – level 6 student, Elizabeth Briand.

“Dining at the Inn was a great networking opportunity. At least one barrister was sat at every table, each within talking distance. Where else might one find themselves seated next to a QC Barrister (appointed by the Queen’s Counsel) or a former Judge of the Supreme Court!

I would like to thank Staffordshire University for the opportunity.”

Are Robot Wills The Future?

Larisa Astley (Student)

The Wills Act 1837 that governs wills in England and Wales is now more than 180 years old and has been branded “unclear and outdated”. Major improvements are being considered by The Law Commission consultation “to bring the law into the modern world”.

One of the controversial issues surrounding the debate is the need for a will to be in writing, with the emergence of and increasing reliance on digital technology this requirement signed into law almost two centuries ago may be the one of the first things to change.

A recent case caught worldwide attention in Australia, with the court allowing a will found in the unsent draft texts on the deceased’s mobile phone. Some jurisdictions give dispensing powers to courts, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and various states in the USA and Canada. There are positive signs that the laws around will-making will be modernised in some significant ways in UK too.

Another consideration is the need for a trusted advisor. In line with technological advances an increasing number of firms across the industry are taking advantage of sophisticated software to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. In fact figures show that around half of all UK law firms are already using artificial intelligence software in their businesses and another 40% of the legal service providers are planning to do the same, especially when generating and reviewing legal documents. Some firms are going a step further. With the latest technology it is now possible to make a will online without any human interaction whatsoever.

Looking more specifically, it could be argued that l so long as a will completes its four main functions (to name executors, trustees, guardians and beneficiaries) it is less important how it is generated. There has been some criticism signalling the public’s lack of trust in this new technology with clients anxious to ensure their documents are properly constructed and checked by suitable qualified humans.

Traditional will requirements would have made perfect sense in the Victorian era where the presence of a trusted adviser was important when it came to an individual’s legal affairs. However in a world where millions of people are already using virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa, and where once highly skilled jobs are now being performed by robots, robot wills could well be the answer to reducing costs and increasing accessibility.

Whilst SULAC cannot assist with the drafting of wills we can help with contentious probate matters. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

 

 

Is a Right to Rent Check in Breach of Your Human Rights?

Courtney James (Student)

The Government’s right to rent policy requires landlords in England to check the immigration status of prospective tenants.

In February, a British man and his family were made homeless after a letting agent turned them away under Right to Rent rules. Rory McCormick put a deposit down on a property in Suffolk and he, his wife Anna and their two children, were due to move in to the property. Days before their move back to the UK from Ireland, they were advised that Anna’s Irish residency card could not be accepted even though it showed she had a right to live in the UK. What she needed instead was a UK permanent residence card. Their denial of the rental property led to the family of four sleeping in one bedroom in a relative’s house.

A challenge has recently been brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCQI). They claim that the scheme causes “race discrimination against those who are perfectly entitled to rent”.

The High Court have ruled that the scheme is incompatible with human rights laws. Mr Justice Spencer said that the policy was unlawful because it caused landlords to discriminate against British citizens from minority ethnic backgrounds and against foreign nationals who have a legal right to rent. It was also reported that the government has failed to show that the scheme has had any effect on encouraging illegal immigrants to leave the country, the original aim of the scheme.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can provide legal advice on housing matters, to book an appointment please call 01782 294800.

Mental Health and Social Media Usage: a Call for Policy and Practice Change

Scarlet Hunt, a final year student, has been undertaking a final year research project around the impacts of social media with young people. She has particularly been looking into the mental impacts of utilising social media. 

New proposals and guidance from the British government for legislation concerning social media usage are welcomed as a mechanism to protect Children and young people, especially concerning protecting young people from on-line bullying and grooming.  However, there are some social media behaviours that impact upon mental health that are not about the illegal; policies and legislation won’t change the situation, but education and support can elevate social stress and reduce immature and anti-social behaviours.

Scarlet Hunt, one of our undergraduate students, recently undertook her final year project by connecting with the Lead Commisioner for Mental Health at Stoke Public Health and local charitable organisation, Mind, to design a research project that could be used for service development and improvement concerning young people’s mental health and social media usage.

” It was evident that young people were using social media all the time.” – Scarlet Hunt conducted research about social media usage and mental health for her final-year research project.

Who did you conduct the research with?

“In order to look into the topic, I conducted focus group interviews within a high school setting. Four interviews, with four separate focus groups of students:  Boys from year 8, girls from year 8, boys from 10, girls from year 10. [So] 26 students at the same school.”

Scarlet was encouraged to connect with local organisations to ensure her research would make a difference.

Who did you connect with in terms of local organisations?

“So, first of all I met with the Lead commissioner for Mental Health at Stoke Public Health, just to talk about the nature of my project and what it would involve and look at. She was really supportive of the project. She really liked it and she also wanted me to include a little bit about self-harming in relation to social media [and] how much sleep young people were getting, and the impact social media could be having on this.

I then spoke to the director of local charity, Mind, who was happy to take referrals from young people who felt they needed extra support after taking part in the research.”

What impact did that have on you going in to schools to conduct the research?

“First of all, it made me feel a lot more confident knowing that the findings from the research project were going to go towards improving local strategy, towards helping the mental wellbeing of young people and improving this. I also felt that the project would give local organisations a bit more knowledge on social media and how this could be affecting young people’s mental health. So it made me feel a lot more confident.”

Scarlet’s research findings point to the negative impact that posting only the best bits of people lives on social media can have upon young and impressionable minds. The impact on young people was particularly an issue when celebrities do this. You can’t put a law out that tells people they can’t only post nice things about themselves, but have to post about the challenges of life too. You can’t prevent people from using filters and edits on pictures to make them look better, but you can teach people about social responsibility in relation to the issues that only posting the best bits of life has and trying to ensure that there is more transparency about life’s challenges. When celebrities keep it real about the challenges of life it helps take the pressure off people feeling they have to strive for perfection. For example, Prince Harry speaking out about his mental health.

Scarlet found that young people wanted guidance on how to navigate the challenges of social media and to look after their mental health. However, they did not want this wisdom to come from teachers, who in their opinion, did not use social media in the same ways as they did. Teachers were perceived as out of date with youth culture. Youth workers have previously been additional ‘neutral’ educators to children and young people and perceived as more socially relevant to the youth of today. However, youth services have had drastic cuts.  

What were the suggestions that young people came up with about how they might improve their mental wellbeing with social media usage?

“Young people said that they would appreciate having sessions on social media and perhaps teaching them ways to use social media in a more healthy way, but they also acknowledged that they would prefer someone a little bit younger to deliver these sessions. They stated that if teachers delivered these sessions that it wouldn’t be as beneficial because teachers don’t use social media in the same way that they do. They stated that to have someone a little bit younger come in who uses social media in the same way they do would be a lot more beneficial than a teacher delivering the session.”

So they almost wanted someone that was a step ahead of them, but that they could connect with socially, to be able to give them information on how to use social media in a positive way for their mental wellbeing?’

“Yes, definitely.”

Scarlet’s research found that young people were having less sleep due to social media and they struggled putting their own boundaries in place due to fear of missing out.  They suggested that social media platforms could stop people using for long periods of time to help address this.  Restrictions to social media platforms could be a potential feature to be included in national policy.  As a parent, I would argue that parents also have a role to play in supporting their children to implement healthy personal boundaries to social media usage.

Mental health issues in young people across the UK are perceived to be at an all-time high. There are lots of contributing factors to this and social media usage is one element of the issue.  Social media can also be used as a tool for good in helping young people get support and information. 

What did you find, in terms of the findings, from the young people you talked with?

“The first thing that was really evident is that young people are using social media all the time. It was the first thing they checked when they woke up and the last thing they check when they go to sleep.

A lot of the participants stated that this was having an impact on how much sleep they were getting, because they were using social media for a prolonged time before they were going to sleep.

In relation to self-harming behaviour, participants felt that social media didn’t really have an impact upon this, but young people would use social media to perhaps upload stories on Instagram and Snapchat, just sort of saying how they were feeling, in order to seek attention from peers and seek support.” 

It is really important that in any new policy direction the voices of young people are heard in order to ensure that the UK policy directive enhances social media application, rather than dictating access to a digital community that can be used to enhance education and knowledge. Young people in Scarlet’s study saw social media as positive, despite the issues they raised.  New policy needs to ensure that it does not demonise social media, or the users of it, including young people. 

In terms of your next steps, you need to report these findings back to the stakeholders you connected with at the beginning?

“Yes, so I am currently putting together a report of the key findings from all of the interviews that I conducted and this will go back to Public Health and Mind, in order to inform them of the findings and recommendations of what we could do in the future to help young people use social media more healthily.”

In terms of you as a student conducting a piece of research in a very professional way, what impact do you think this will have on you in the future?

“I think by linking with local organisations, it will make me feel more confident when I go to job interviews – I will be able to say that I worked with local organisations on this research project and it sounds a little bit better knowing the findings have gone towards something useful, you know, and it wasn’t just purely for my own self-interest.”

Congratulations on the piece of research and we wish you all the best on writing up the report.

~Sarah Page

Sarah Page left (Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology) and Scarlet Hunt (final year student conducting research around social media usage and the impact on young people.

You can watch the full intereview between Sarah Page (Senior Lecturer in Sociology & Criminology) and Scarlet Hunt on YouTube here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if England voted to leave the EU in a second referendum but the rest of the UK wanted to stay?

“At the referendum, only two of the four component parts of the UK – England and Wales – voted to leave the EU. This was enough to swing an overall UK-wide majority in favour of leave, but it went against the will of the Scottish and Northern Irish electorate…

It is relatively safe to assume that majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland would vote to remain, were it an option on the ballot [for a second referendum]. And despite its original vote, a recent opinion poll, suggests Wales would now also vote to remain. But there is far less certainty about England.”

Gareth Evans, Lecturer in Law, discusses on The Conversation.

Is Prison the New Pension Plan?

By Shannon-Annie Moore -Student

It has been reported that there has been a steady increase of elderly people in Japan committing crimes, as pensioner’s turn to crime with the aim of prosecution as a way of escaping loneliness and poverty.

The report suggests that Japanese pensioners are turning to crime with the hope of long stays in Japanese jails.

The BBC interviewed 69-year-old Toshio Takata who, explained that he had reached pension age and then ran out of money. As he was struggling, he turned to crime as he thought he could live for free in jail. His first crime was committed at 62 years old. He took a bicycle and walked all the way to the Police Station where he told the Police he had stolen the bike. In Japan petty theft is treated very seriously so they sentenced him to one-year in jail. After he was released, he threatened a woman with a knife. Toshio said he had no intention of harming anyone he just hoped they would contact the police so he would get arrested – which he did.

Obviously when in prison the prisoners get free accommodation. Their pension does not stop meaning it is easier for them to live once released. Once a law-abiding society, there is growing number of crimes being carried out in Japan by the over 65s. 21 years ago the age group accounted for 1/20 convictions. Today, the figure has grown to more than 1/5.

Traditionally, the older generation would be looked after by their children but with the economic opportunity, children are moving away leaving their parents to find work. The pensioners are torn between not wanting to burden their children, yet unable to live on the State pension.

The Japanese Government have expanded prison capacity, installing hand rails and special toilets and recruited extra female prison guards to support the number of elderly female criminals which is dramatically increasing. Pensioners are struggling across the world. Whilst crime is not the answer, neither is leaving these vulnerable people alone, without the ability to pay for rising living costs, fuel costs and food bills. Society has a responsibility to look after the older generation and crime should not be the answer. 

SULAC provides free legal advice to the most vulnerable in our society. Please call 01782 294800 for an appointment.

 

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.

New Laws to Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

Arieta Batirerega- Student

Since 2010, the Government has prioritised domestic abuse issues. The draft domestic abuse bill, published on the 21st January 2019, is intended to support victims and their families. It comes as it is revealed domestic abuse issues cost the country £66 billion a year and approximately 2 million adults experienced domestic abuse in 2018.

To help tackle the crime, new legislation will:

  • introduce the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse to specifically include economic abuse and controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse. This will enable everyone, including victims themselves, to understand what constitutes abuse and will, hopefully, encourage more victims to come forward;
  • seek to appoint a domestic abuse commissioner to drive the response to domestic abuse issues;
  • introduce new domestic abuse protection notices and orders to protect victims and to attempt to rehabilitate offenders;
  • prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts. As it stands, victims have had to come face-to-face with their ex-partners in some cases;
  • provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Domestic abuse destroys lives and warrants some of the strongest measures at our disposal to deter offenders and protect victims.

By pursuing every option available, to better support victims and bring more offenders to justice, we are driving the change necessary to ensure families never have to endure the pain of domestic abuse in silence.”

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can help deal with family matters. Please call 01782 294800 to make an appointment.

 

Staffs Uni Wins ‘Best Collaboration between a University and Employer’ Award with Staffs Police

Friday evening at the National Undergraduate Employability Awards (NUE),in collaboration with Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire University won the award for ‘Best Collaboration between a University and Employer’ for the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership

Dr John Wheeler, The Associate Dean of Students for the School of Law, Policing and Forensics, said “this is a fantastic achievement and a great recognition of the innovative and excellent work that is undertaken between Staffordshire University and its partners.  Everyone who has played a part in the partnership should rightly be very proud of their achievements.”

The Forensic Parternship goes back to 2009 when John Beckwith, Head of Forensics at Staffordshire Police, and Andrew Jackson, then Head of Forensic and Crime Science at the University came up with the plan. The partnership was formally launched in 2016 and this year sees the third anniversary of this.

“Since then, many students, both in traditional and digital forensics have undertaken placements and project work, numerous research questions have been explored and answered, and a phenomenal relationship has developed between our two organisations. Many people have made significant and telling contributions to the Partnership over the years and have made it into the award winning success it is today.”

“I would like to express my personal thanks and gratitude to everyone who has been involved in the Partnership over the years, including colleagues at Staffordshire Police who have been incredibly innovative in their thinking and receptive to breaking down barriers in forensics and policing.  I am extremely proud to have played my part in the Partnership, but it has been, and continues to be, a huge team effort and it is a privilege to work with you all.”

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.