Progressive Plastics

A sustainable future for plastics is within our grasp. But it will require chemical scientists, policy makers, those in industry, and those from a range of disciplines to work together.

In collaboration with The Royal Society of Chemistry, Professor Claire Gwinnett joins other experts on microplastics to explore the important issues and difficult questions about microplastics. Find out more here.

‘Adolf Island’: The Nazi Occupation of Alderney

A new book, which tells the stories of thousands of labourers caught up in the Nazi occupation of Alderney in World War 2, has been published.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is adolph-islandforweb.xfc5288fb.jpg

‘The book [‘Adolf Isand’: The Nazi Occupation of Alderney] is the culmination of ten years’ research carried out by Staffordshire University forensic archaeologists Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls and Associate Professor Kevin Colls. Their investigations on the island have also been the subject of a TV documentary which was screened on the Smithsonian Channel in 2019. Find out more here.

Law students join in welcome for newly enrolled students at APIIT Sri Lanka

On Friday the 8th of April, some first year LLB (Hons) Law students joined Aidan Flynn, Academic Link Tutor (Law), to participate online in giving a warm welcome to students embarking on the university’s LLB course at APIIT Sri Lanka.  For over twenty years, APIIT Sri Lanka and Staffordshire University have each been enriched by their positive partnership relationship.

Aidan Flynn (far left) with current Law students at Staffordshire University

Losalini Boteanakadava, a first-year student at Staffordshire, said “It was a privilege to participate in the welcome given to new LLB students during their induction at APIIT Sri Lanka.  We enjoyed this interaction with our peers in Colombo and Kandy.”

Finding the missing and unknown: Novel educational approaches to warming up cold cases

Professor Caroline Sturdy-Colls, Associate Professor Jo Turner, Associate Professor Rachel Bolton-King, Dr Sam Spence and Emma Tilley have co-authored an article with Karsten Bettels (Police Academy Lower Saxony), Dave Grimstead (Locate International), Cheryl Allsop (University of South Wales), Anna Chaussée (University of Winchester), Brendan Chapman (Murdoch University), David Keatley (Murdoch University) and Annette Marquardt (State Attorney Department Verden) on cold cases.

“In recent years, students in police academies and higher education institutions around the world have worked together to analyse cold cases including long-term missing persons cases in collaboration with investigators and prosecutors. In 2020, three European organisations, the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP), AMBER Alert Europe and Locate International, succeeded in connecting these educational organisations enabling them to work collectively on cases and conduct cold case analyses (CCA) across international borders.”

You can read the article, ‘Finding the missing and unknown: Novel educational approaches to warming up cold cases’ on Science Direct here.

Students Invited to Lincoln’s Inn Event for Aspiring Barristers

On 23rd February, a few of our Law students were invited to Lincoln’s Inn, London. Mary Carstairs, a current Law student, has written about the experience.

On February 23rd I had the opportunity to attend the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in London, at an event for students of law who are interested in becoming barristers.

The event began with a tea and coffee reception followed by a most informative presentation by members of Lincoln’s Inn covering history, ethics, practice points, etiquette, and job opportunities. There was a wine reception with the opportunity to engage with other students and members of the Inn, judges and barristers. We were then invited to enter the Great Dining Hall where we enjoyed a very formal and elegant dinner. The seating arrangement ensured that there was a barrister or judge near enough to engage in conversations during the meal.

Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London, and its founding is thought to be in 1310. The library of the Inn holds the black books, as they are known, which document minutes of the governing council dating back to the 1400s. A notable installation in the Dining Hall, is a tapestry which dates to the 1600s and looks more like a painting than a tapestry. One of the women I was seated near during the meal is an employee of the Inn and she explained that while some repairs and restoration was being done, the tapestry was torn; of course, it was repaired in short order.

As a mature international student from a country with relatively new legal traditions (dating back only 250 years, not 600 years like Lincoln’s Inn), I was in awe of the grandeur and the history of Lincoln’s Inn. It was an opportunity and an honour to have been able to experience some of the aged traditions of Lincoln’s Inn; as well as having the opportunity to engage with many esteemed practitioners.

I would like to give thanks to the faculty for allowing me this amazing opportunity. I am sure I speak for all of us who attended from Staffordshire University when I say, ‘Proud to be Staffs’.

Historical Bore or Prison Lesson?

On Tuesday 15th March, our first year Law students went on an educational trip to Shrewsbury Prison. Duncan Carson, a Law student, has written about the experience

Prisons. We’ve all seen them on the telly. From Ronnie Barker’s prisoners’ view in “Porridge,” (incidentally, the only ever sit-com with no opening music) to C4’s more recent officers’ view in “Screw.” Well now you can go and walk on the wing without committing a crime. HMP Shrewsbury has been transformed and is open to the public for visitors. It’s cold, forbidding, authentic, cold, grim, unpleasant and cold. Yes, it really is that cold, on a chilly March morning, it was a relief to step outside into the wind for some warmth. It has cells made-up to show how they have changed since the 50’s – one which represents riot conditions – and they will lock you in one until you answer some riddles to “escape.” You can even visit the long disused execution room.

A cell set up to represent riot confiditions

It’s all very real and if you visit and walk around yourself, it can be very dull.

But…

Take the tour with real ex-prison officers Graham and Mick and it all comes to life. Not in a television melodrama way, but through the eyes of those who have lived it. Graham is a natural performer who will describe what happens upon arrival, where “normal” inmates and “protected” prisoners (sex offenders, convicted policemen and the odd lawyer etc) are segregated. He’ll tell you about the swift and violent retribution for not repaying a prison debt, and he’ll tell you about his  regret of watching inmates kick their drug addiction only to see them return three months after release, because they have nowhere to go expect back to the same bad crowds and same bad habits that got them banged up in the first place. Mick loves to tell a “war story.” Some are amusingly disgusting involving slop out buckets and some make you despair as inmates come to harm because of managerial penny-pinching and corner-cutting in the name of efficiency.

Throughout the tour, these guys, with decades of experience, will tell you how it really was in HMP Shrewsbury; and you can feel their pride in what they felt was a good prison, where officers could build relationships with the men and they felt they could do something to help make sure that, at least some of them, never returned. The feeling that they disapprove of newer, bigger, “more efficient” prisons is palpable and you can tell they believe a 5% budget saving today means a 10% increase in returning customers.

These are not bleeding heart liberals, but professionals who have figured out that dehumanising treatment and a “lock ‘em up and forget ‘em” attitude does not magically transform criminals into well rounded, law-abiding members of society. They talk with excitement about “listeners;” prisoner volunteers who sit and talk with suicide risk inmates and then advise the officers how often they need to be checked on. They proudly mention that many prisoners said HMP Shrewsbury had the best food in the country. They state that tobacco never drove anyone to violence (except as prison currency), but the ban on smoking created a gap which hard drugs filled as inmates look for something to de-stress. This led to an escalation of danger on the wings. They appreciate prison is a punishment, but without rehabilitation there is little point in release dates.

So please, go to Shrewsbury Prison. Take the tour and see if you can honestly say you came away without having at least a more nuanced approach to crime and punishment.

Oh, and wrap up warm. It’s really cold

The Pending Poverty Catastrophe in Stoke-on-Trent: How Benefit Cuts and the Cost-of-Living Crisis Impacts on the Poor

In this co-authored report, Dr Luke Telford, Professor David Etherington, Vice Chancellor & Chief Executive, Professor Martin Jones and Citizens Advice Stoke-on-Trent, address the ‘pending poverty catastrophe in Stoke-on-Trent and how benefit cuts and the cost-of-living crisis impact upon the area, particularly the poor’.

Read the full report here.

Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

Rabab Ali (Student)

The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force on 6 April 2022. The Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2020 aims to introduce significant changes to divorce law and move towards a “no fault divorce”.

The new act allows either party to allege  an irreversible breakdown of the marriage without establishing a fault or separation fact. By eliminating the need for one party to “blame” the other, the court might determine that it would be unreasonable to expect the parties to continue married.

Because a declaration of irretrievable breakdown is irrefutable proof that the marriage has ended, the court must now grant a divorce. This is significant as it puts a stop to one spouse contesting a divorce even when the other wants it. It also allows spouses to divorce even if they cannot provide a reason why.

 Former Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP has said: ‘These new laws will stop separating couples having to make needless allegations against one another, and instead help them focus on resolving their issues amicably.’

Importantly, the new law permits some separated spouses to file a joint divorce petition. Joint divorce petitions are already permitted in other jurisdictions but not in England & Wales.

The new law also extends the time it takes for a Conditional Divorce Order (formerly known as Decree Nisi) to be granted to 20 weeks, giving spouses more time to make practical arrangements. While this is a major expansion of the present six week and one day term, many divorces do not end in that time owing to ongoing financial issues.

Amongst many other things, the language used is set to change, with Decree Nisi becoming “Conditional Divorce Order” and Decree Absolute becoming “Final Divorce Order”. By using more user-friendly terminology, it is hoped that people would better understand the two stages of divorce proceedings, and that the removal of the ‘fault’ facts will encourage amicable proceedings.

Here at SULAC we offer free legal advice on all family matters including divorce and financial affairs. If you would like an appointment, please call 01782294458 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

Law Students Qualify for Client Interviewing Competition Finals

Congratulations to two of our Law students, Duncan Carson and Susan Guest, who have made it to the finals of the Client Interviewing Competition! Susan kindly shares her experience of the regional competition. 

Bringing together an unlikely pair to represent Staffordshire University in the Client Interviewing Competition was the beginning of our journey just over a month ago. As a level 6 student, I had the benefit of almost three years legal studies to draw on to help us analyse the legal problem we were faced with. Duncan, a Level 4 student, complimented my knowledge with his impressive interviewing skills and ability to draw out the information from the client.

Our practice began under the close supervision of Tracey Horton, a qualified Solicitor who guided and advised us throughout our practice interviews. Bringing a range of scenarios and characters into play allowed us to encounter challenging characters, situations and provide advise in both a legal and non legal context.

Having Tracey as our coach gave us invaluable feedback on our performance, enhanced our interviewing techniques and most of all developed us as a team. Identifying where our strengths lay and how best we used those to complement each other’s skill set, provided us with the best possible opportunity to not only obtain the information from the client but how to analyse the information to give the client the most appropriate advice, allowing them to make an informed choice based on their circumstances.

 “Duncan and Susan did amazingly well and put in a lot of work, rehearsing beforehand. Despite technical difficulties on the day, they showed their resilience by remaining calm and professional”

– Tracey Horton


Although we experienced some technical difficulties on the day of the competition, Tracey had prepared us for any eventuality that could arise. Continuing the interview while the technical issues were resolved ensured minimal impact on the client interview on the day.

Both myself and Duncan now look to the semi finals on the 12th March 2022, and through practice and preparation hope to bring Staffordshire University Law department success in the competition. #Proudtobestaffs

Good luck in the finals, Duncan and Susan!

Legal Clinics Move into Hospitals

Jack Marshall (Student)

The need for free legal advice centers is continually growing, especially in light of cuts in legal aid. Many people cannot afford to instruct a solicitor, so these centers are often a lifeline for the general public. They give specialist advice to members of their community on issues such as debt, housing, family law, employment and education. These clinics use their knowledge to help people to save their homes, keep their jobs and protect their families. This is classed as Social Welfare Law.

In 2019 the Minister of Justice committed to pilot early legal advice as part of its Legal Support Action Plan in hospitals. The Justice Minister Lord Wolfson of Tredegar confirmed that the preparation work for this has commenced, such as registration for early legal advice for debt, housing and welfare benefits which will commence later this year. The pilot will be launched in Manchester and Middlesbrough.

When questioned on why there is a need for a pilot Lord Bird Lord Wolfson responded by saying “you need a test to ensure that what you are doing is the most useful thing you can do, we are looking at putting legal advice in Hospitals as we know that people who have legal problems often have other social welfare problems as well”. He also went on to say that “it is often the case that you cannot resolve all your problems through the law you need a holistic approach”. He also said that we need to see hard evidence about this and that the pilot will help in this area. Getting clinics into the NHS will not be easy as in April 2017 the Department of Health issued a ban on personal injury firms advertising in hospitals . The Chief Executive of NHS England  quoted that the Health Service wanted “Lawyers out of Hospitals and Doctors out of court”.

Also in the debate there was cause for the Government to restore Legal Aid funding as Labour’s Lord Watts said that “the Government got it really badly wrong when they cut millions of pounds from this area” he also expanded further by saying “would it not be better to restore these cuts and then do a proper review and make sure that, this time, it covers people and gives them some rights?”. Lord Wilson commented that he has no intention of going back to the pre Legal Aid cuts  position.

SULAC saw the need for clinics in hospitals when it first launched its service in 2019. Before the pandemic SULAC provided clinics at Shrewsbury hospital, Stafford and Royal Stoke. These clinics were very successful. Following the pandemic SULAC now operates online, and we interview clients on Microsoft Teams. If you have any issues on housing, debt, employment or family and would like an appointment please call 01782 294458 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk