Are you considering taking SULAC as a module during your final year?

Are you a student at Staffordshire University and considering taking SULAC (Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic) as a module during your final year? Emma, a final year Law student shares how choosing the SULAC module has helped develop her confidence and enhance her skills.

I have just completed my final year on the LLB Law at Staffordshire University. During my final year, I undertook SULAC as a module. At the [start] I was very quiet and shy.  

If you are considering a career in practice, whether that be a solicitor or barrister, I would highly recommend SULAC as a module.  

As you already know, in practice you need to communicate with clients, other solicitors, colleagues, judges, barristers and – depending on your field of preference – the jury. You also need to carry out research and draft legal letters. 

During your time in the clinic, you are required to: 

  • Hold interviews with clients,
  • Interact and engage with other students, Tracey, clients and other solicitors and partner organisations. I had an amazing opportunity to work with Woman’s Aid and Lewis Rogers Solicitors.
  • Type up a three day letter and letter of advice
  • Research the area of law relevant to the matter. 

As you can see, you gain and expand upon the skills you need to work in the legal sector, all of which can be mentioned on your CV to make you stand out.  

As previously mentioned, when I first started SULAC I was shy, I hated public speaking and I had no self-[appreciation].  Five or six weeks of clinic [changed that]. Once I put my suit on I felt on top of the world; I spoke publicly, I carried out conflict of interest searches and research tasks confidently and, within a short period of time, I was speaking out in classes. I didn’t fear expressing my opinion or engaging in debates.  

I have an awful lot to thank the clinic and Tracey for. Tracey is so supportive and amazing to work with. It is scary to think that, if I hadn’t participated in clinic, I would have walked out with a degree but no confidence. The clinic will help you in your studies [as well]! I took Family Law as an option module, which is one of the areas of law that clinic helps with. There were times where I had a case for clinic regarding a family law matter and soon afterwards I had a lecture that matched my client’s request.  

As well as working with Lewis Rogers and Woman’s Aid, SULAC gave me [an experience] that I will never forget: the awards evening with the chair of Law Works and the Attorney-General.   

[In] your final year, what you do really does matter, so just remember: 

  • Stay calm
  • Deep breaths
  • The public are turning to you for help, advice and support. People are already looking up to you
  • What you do counts, you are helping the public gain access to legal advice and justice. 
  • Be yourself.
  • Congratulate yourself!
  • Reflect on yourself – I frequently compare how I was in the first year to final year. You will see a huge difference and, believe me, that never goes unnoticed by staff.  
  • Do what feels right for you. 

Finally, I just wanted to say to enjoy your final year: relax (but study) and do what is right for you and your future. A huge well done from me for making it this far.  

Good luck to Emma who is returning in September to complete the LLM in Legal Practice.

 

 

Do you really know where your food comes from and the impact it might have on our environment and UK (United Kingdom) farming?

On International Mother Earth Day, Law Course Director, Sallyann Mellor discusses the impact food marketing has on the planet and UK farming.

When undertaking your weekly shop, do you ever consider where your food comes from and the impact your purchase may have on the environment?  Are you influenced by food branding when making your purchases?

You may be surprised to read that food packaging can be misleading and influence your purchase which in turn negatively affect the environment.

Whilst shopping you may be drawn by the name of a product and the pictures in belief that you are buying a product that is British, however the small print tells you the origin of the product to be somewhere far away from the UK, but do you really know the impact your purchase makes on the environment?

Why is this a problem? It is a problem because it misleads you as a consumer but wider than that is the impact this has on our environment and our UK farmers. 

Lockdown has taught many of us the importance of buying local not only to support our local businesses and the economy but also our local farmers. It gave us the time to really consider where our food came from and the impact on the environment and animal welfare.

UK farmers adhere to strict animal welfare regulations which ensure animal welfare standards are adhered to not only how they are kept on the farm but also how they are cared for during transportation. 

Current Regulations –there are few regulations that specifically state what can and cannot be used as branding images. This means that manufacturers can use misleading branding that influences the consumer to believe that products are from the UK where animal welfare standards are high, when in fact the products origin depicts a different reality.

Environmental Impact-How do we define the word environment and what that means, for some it may mean how we live, the world around us, for others it goes far deeper and encompasses the natural world which is affected by human activity.

Where our food comes from affects the environment in many ways, carbon footprint, climate change, animal welfare and our farming community. If you buy local, you reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact and support our British farmers and our economy.

Carbon Footprints-some products are manufactured in different countries.  We measure carbon footprint by assessing how much carbon is used in the production and transportation of a product. The lower the carbon footprint the better for the environment.

Reducing Food Miles- consider the distance where your item is produced to where it is sold. Where an item is produced may be different to where it is packaged and then sold. For example, strawberries may be produced in Egypt, transported to the UK to be packaged and then transported to supermarket depots for distribution. When taking this into consideration, miles are added to the journey of an item of food, increasing pollution. 

How Does Farming Support the Environment? –It is no surprise that our climate in the UK is most suited to growing grass, in fact 65% of farmland in the UK is best suited to growing grass rather than crops. Farmers are looking at other methods to become more sustainable as a nation but if we did not use the grassland, we would be wasting a natural resource in feeding livestock, which in turn provides us with nutrient rich meat that has not been transported across the world to feed us. Land is protected and cared for by the farmers to support their business but in doing so also supports the habitats of many animals.

Contrary to what you may have read, British beef and lamb is among the most sustainable in the world due to extensive, grass-based systems. Emissions from beef production in the UK are about half the global average, according to the Governments Committee on Climate Change

Emissions are lower than you would think, see the below infographic in part due to sustainable farming solutions.

What can you do? When shopping, closely read the food labels and look beyond the packaging to find the place of origin.  Buying British products will lower carbon footprint and support climate change and our British farming. Look out for the Red Tractor symbol on all products not just the British flag as a product could be packaged in the UK and state it is a UK product when its place of origin is not the UK.

The Red Tractor symbol certifies that high standards have been adhered to and provides traceability from the farm to the plate. You can be sure that when you are buying a product with this symbol that food standards, food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection are protected.

Think about buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and buying from local farmers markets which are increasing in the UK.

Small changes made by us all can make all the difference.

Snooker Stars and the Law

Ahead of the World Snooker Championships, Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in the Law Department, recollects a few instances where noted characters in the world of professional snooker had well publicised interactions with the law.

The World Snooker Championship takes place at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from the 17th of April to the 3rd of May.  The tournament is part of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), one of the events hosting audiences as part of the government’s plan to get big crowds back this summer.

By barfisch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17390498 

Alex Higgins (1949 – 2010), world champion in 1972 and 1982, found himself the defendant in a Magistrates’ Court on a few occasions.  At the 1986 UK Championship, in Preston Guild Hall, tournament director Paul Hatherall was headbutted by Higgins.  The case came before Preston Magistrates’ Court in January 1987 where the incident was described as a “completely unprovoked attack.”  Higgins pleaded guilty and was fined £250 (£200 for assault and £50 for criminal damage to a door).  A decade later he again found himself charged in relation to an assault and in June 1996 was given a conditional discharge at Stockport Magistrates’ Court.  As well as these assault cases, Higgins also appeared at Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court in December 1985.  This related to charges arising from an incident where he threw a television through the glass in a window at his home, Delveron House in Mottram St Andrew, Cheshire.

One of Alex Higgins’ managers was Howard Kruger, a well-known figure in sports management who also worked with 1986 world champion Joe Johnson and Tony Knowles.  Kruger was the subject of proceedings at Brighton County Court in October 1991.  He was disqualified for five years from holding any company directorship.

In 2015 referee Michaela Tabb was involved in a dispute with World Snooker, the body that runs the professional tour.  Tabb brought a case against World Snooker at an employment tribunal in Bristol.  The case was a claim for sex discrimination, unfair dismissal, and breach of contract.  There was an out-of-court settlement and World Snooker issued a statement which stated that “Michaela McInnes (Tabb) and World Snooker Limited have come to a confidential accommodation regarding the claims.”

It is to be hoped that stories for which the 2021 World Championship will be remembered will relate solely to high quality contests in the arena at the Crucible. 

Law Student Becomes Youngest Divisional Equality Forum Representative for Usdaw

Law student Bradley Allmark is the youngest Divisional Equality Forum representative and one of the youngest Tesco Shop Steward Representatives for Usdaw. Bradley explains what the role entails, why he chose to study at Staffordshire University and how this opportunity has given him the ‘drive to work in Employment and Equality Law’.

USDAW Trade Union  

I am the youngest Divisional Equality Forum Representative and one of the youngest Tesco Shop Steward Representatives for Usdaw. I am [also] currently studying the LLB (Hons) Law Degree at Staffordshire University.

NW Divisional Equality Forum Representative/ Tesco Shop Steward Representative

Usdaw is determined to promote equality for all sections of society, both at work and in the community. 

As a Representative, my job is to take instructions and represent members in investigations, disciplinary meetings and other workplace issues. I have now been doing this for eighteen months, after building a strong reputation as a Rep. I put myself forward for the Equality role in August 2020, where I was elected to sit on the Divisional Equality Forum. My extra duties are to run workshops on issues like disability discrimination, women’s health and tackling racism at work. I will be helping to organise local get-togethers and workplace visits to support and encourage activity among the under-involved groups of members. I will also be supporting local events like Pride. [I feel that] being the youngest Representative is one of my biggest achievements.

The reason why I sit on the forum is because I want to help people who are being discriminated against and empower people to be who they are without the fear of being judged. Usdaw is always supporting its members to find new ways to reach out to these groups of members. 

Studying Law  

I grew up in Biddulph, Stoke-on-Trent where I attended Stoke Sixth Form College to study BTEC Business and BTEC Law. Whilst at college, I got a part time job working in a Tesco Extra to help me pay for driving lessons and start saving money for university. I have always had an interest in Law and, from leaving high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Law. 

I went around different universities but I wanted to remain local due to personal circumstances at home, so I chose to study at Staffordshire University. During my Open Day, I had a 1-1 tour with one of the lecturers, Louis Martin, and I had a really positive experience.

I liked the fact that the university had a more practical approach to education, and it was one of the top for employability. During my time, I did practical exercises like mooting and giving legal advice with the Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SUALC).

However, I really struggled settling into the degree and my first year at the university I even contemplated leaving and changing courses. My lecturers on the other hand did not want me to leave and believed in me, so they supported me the best way they could. 

During my second year at university, one of the Usdaw Reps at Tesco, where I worked, had a conversation with me and liked what I was doing in my law degree. [She] thought that I would be a great asset to the team, so she helped me to secure a role as a Tesco Trade Union Representative with Usdaw.

Part way through my training, we went into the coronavirus pandemic pushing everything online. However, the opportunities that arose from the pandemic gave me the practical experience I needed to progress. This increased my confidence massively and gave me the motivation and determination to continue the degree, especially under strained circumstances. I am now looking at graduating with a first class Hons. 

Working with the union has given me the passion and drive to work in Employment and Equality Law. My next step is to study the LLM LPC at the University of Law in Birmingham, which I am really excited to study. I am also looking forward to developing my role as a Trade Union Representative and the opportunities and experience that this may bring.  

 

 

 

New Law to Protect Domestic Abuse Victims

Syed Zainul Abedeen Shah (Student)

Domestic Abuse Bill

Several new amendments have been made to the Domestic Abuse Bill which will hopefully provide victims of domestic abuse with more protection and increase punishment for the offenders.

What important changes are being added to the bill?

  • It introduces a new offence of non-fatal-strangulation punishable by up to 5-years in prison. The offence involves an abuser strangling or intentionally affecting the victims breathing. The reason for the new offence is because it is often difficult for a person to be convicted of offences such as actual bodily harm (ABH) as in most cases there is no visible injury (i.e. bruises). 
  • The legislation around ‘controlling or coercive behaviour (CBB) will be strengthened as it no longer requires the victims and abusers to be living together. The amendment acknowledges that people who leave their abusive ex-partners, can still be subjected to controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation. The amendment will also widen the scope of the definition of “personally connected” in a CBB offence, meaning that the offence may apply to former partners and family members who do not live together. 
  • ‘Revenge Porn’ laws were initially introduced in 2015 by the government- but now this piece of legislation will be widened to include threats to disclose private images, with the intention to cause distress.

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on any domestic abuse related matters. If you would like to book an appointment with us call 01782 294 800 or you can also email us at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

Renters: Eviction ban in England extended until end of March

Anitha Anton Motham (Student)

It has been stated by housing secretary Robert Jenrick that renters will be protected during this difficult time.  

The eviction ban has been extended until the end of May.  

According to Robert Jenrick the government have taken unprecedented actions in order to help both tenants and landlords.  

However, many charities have also stated that the government have not done enough to support both parties. 

 The extension on the eviction ban ensures that bailiff evictions are banned until 31st May, however there are exceptions that remain in more serious circumstances.  

These include: 

  • Illegal occupation
  • False statements provided by the tenant
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Arrears of 6 months’ rent or more
  • Breach of Immigration rules. 

 Landlords have also been required to give 6 months’ notice period to tenants before any proceedings are started unless the above exceptions apply. There is additional help for renters as the government will distribute Discretionary Housing Payments to councils.  

 If there are any issues between tenants and landlords, then the government has launched a free mediation platform to support both parties and resolve any disputes before it escalates. This will benefit tenants when there are in the early stages of the possession process and may prevent them becoming homeless and find another accommodation. 

Only 548 repossessions were recorded between April and December 2020 compared to 22,444 in the same period in 2019. 

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic offers free legal advice on all housing issues. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294458 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

Unfair Dismissal

Ayesha Zabir (Student)

 Employment Tribunal numbers are increasing yearly. A report by the Ministry of Justice shows that Employment Tribunal claims increase 26% year on year:

  • There were 27,916 claims between April 2017 to March 2018.
  • There were 35,429 claims between April 2018 to March 2019.

Unfair dismissal claims have increased by 19.97%

Before the Industrial Relations Act 1971, there was no statutory right to protection against unfair dismissal and an employer could dismiss an individual for any reason. The only protections available were established in contract and enforced through the common law. Unfair dismissal is governed by the Employment Rights Act 1996, within this act section 94(1) states ‘An employee has the right not to be unfairly dismissed by his employer.’ The Employment Rights Act sets out strict criteria which individuals must satisfy for protection under the Act.

If the criteria are not satisfied, then the individual will not be protected under the Act and their only claim will be contractual. The criteria are:

  1. The individual must have ‘employee’ status

The ‘employee status’ means the individual is an employee and/or a worker and is not self-employed. Only employees have the right to claim unfair dismissal.

  1. They must have two years continuous employment

An employee can challenge an unfair dismissal if they have  worked for the employer for two years or more.

  1. They must have been dismissed

 For a successful unfair dismissal claim, the employee has a duty to demonstrate they have been dismissed. The employee has been dismissed if the employer has done any of the following:

  • Ended the contract of employment (with or without notice)
  • Refused to renew a fixed-term contract
  • Made the employee redundant
  • Stopped the employee from returning to work after maternity leave

Evidence of the dismissal will be required, such as official termination letter, emails and text messages from the employer. The employee has not been dismissed if they are suspended or resigned by choice (unless they are claiming constructive dismissal).

  1. The Employer has not acted reasonably procedurally

This could include following a disciplinary procedure, providing the employee with warnings, rights of appeal etc.

The claim must be made within 3 months of the effective date of termination

An extension in some cases may be granted if the tribunal decides it was not reasonably practicable for the claim to be submitted and the delay was reasonable however these matters are determined on the facts of the case.

Remedies for unfair dismissal –

When a claimant is successful in their unfair dismissal claim there are four possible outcomes, reinstatement, re-engagement, compensation and a declaration that a dismissal was unfair. In a third of these claims, compensation, is the most common outcome.

Reinstatement involves the ex-employee returning to work, with full pay, pension rights and any seniority-related increments honoured. The employee must be treated as they were never dismissed. Re-engagement also involves the ex-employee returning to work, but not necessarily into the same job or on the same terms and conditions. The precise terms of re-engagement vary depending on the case. These two outcomes are very rare in an unfair dismissal claim.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) provides free legal advice on all employment matters. We are working remotely during the pandemic and interviews are conducted via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to make an appointment, please contact us on01782 294800 or email us on SULAC@staffs.ac.uk 

Discrimination Against Pregnant Women in the Workplace

Millie Parkes (Student)

It has become a well-known fact that the United Kingdom is suffering hardship in many sectors, but the threat of job-loss and redundancy for pregnant and women with young children is widely increasing.

Joeli Brearley, founder of the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, has recently said that the pandemic has caused a surge of discrimination against pregnant women and mothers at work.

The Law

The main law which should prevent such discrimination is The Equality Act 2010.

For pregnant women specifically, the Act states that it is unlawful to be discriminated against for being pregnant or suffering a pregnancy-related illness. If you are it may mean that you can take your employer to a tribunal.

Protection from Discrimination as a Pregnant Woman (and After!)

From the time that you become pregnant until when your maternity leave ends (if eligible) or two weeks after you child was born (if not eligible), there is a protection period. This protection period protects you against discrimination within the workplace.

Even after giving birth and returning to work, if you have been treated unfavourably after this, you could still be protected against discrimination because of your sex.

Similarly, it is unlawful to discriminate against you for:

  • Being on maternity leave
  • Having been on maternity leave
  • Trying to take maternity leave, which you are entitled to.

Reversing the Progress During the Pandemic

Brearley highlighted that 15% of mothers and pregnant women (in a survey of 20,000 mothers) have been made redundant or expected to be, during the pandemic. This is said to be reversing the progress of an increase in maternal employment by 9% in the last 20 years.

Brearley’s charity ‘Pregnant Then Screwed’ also emphasised that prior to the pandemic, they would provide legal advice to around 3,000 women per year, who were experiencing pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. Since the pandemic, they have provided legal advice to over 32,000 women – an almost 1000% increase.

The Women’s Budget Group also explains their findings for women to have been discriminated against more-so throughout the pandemic compared to their spouses, by finding that ‘ Of those furloughed, mothers were more likely to be put on furlough to look after their children (27%) than fathers (23%) and One in five mothers were made redundant or lost hours because of caring responsibilities, compared to 13% of fathers.

Traditional stereotyping

Brearley added that ‘there are deeply entrenched gender stereotypes that mean women blame themselves when they get pregnant and get pushed out of their jobs.’ This basic sexism is all too clear according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, which highlighted that one in five people think women with child under school age should stay at home.

However, it is hoped that  the pandemic has brought some positive changes to families, with some fathers being able to spend more time caring for their children than before March 2020. The Fawcett Society have stated that if this became the norm, it could reduce the ‘motherhood pay penalty’ and help aid maternal and pregnancy employment within the workplace.

At Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice on Equality and Discrimination related matters. If you wish to book an appointment with us call 01782 294 800 or alternatively email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possession suspensions ‘put neighbours at risk’

Lucy Cooper (Student)

The pandemic has been very hard for many people, some of whom have lost their jobs, aren’t receiving the same income as they used to or are simply struggling with their mental health. To help people who may not be able to afford their rent the government put into place an eviction ban meaning that people could not be evicted, during the pandemic. 

Whilst this has clearly helped some people, some law firms have highlighted the problem this has caused for people who are suffering with anti-social behaviour from their neighbours. Housing Associations have reported that due to the ban on possession action they have not been able to take any action against tenants who were being anti-social, which was having a huge impact on the neighbours and other tenants. One property owner explained that he had experienced significant antisocial behaviour from a neighbour and he has now lost two tenants because of this.  

The stay on possession proceedings was lifted in September of last year, meaning that many solicitors saw the opportunity to sort the anti-social behaviour out and began to use what they called the ‘last resort’ to evict the tenants after giving them multiple warnings and chances to change their actions. 

Solicitors have stressed their concerns about the rise in anti-social behaviour during lockdown and what impact it is having on other people, in a situation which is already mentally challenging. It can have a catastrophic effect on the people who have to endure these issues ever day on top of trying to cope with a global pandemic, some people have been spat on by neighbours, during the pandemic, causing them to have a mental breakdown. 

Solicitors have stressed that there needs to be focus on this by the government as anti-social tenants can seriously impact their local community.

What can people do in the meantime? 

If you are someone who is experiencing anti-social behaviour it is initially best to try and speak to the neighbour (provided it is safe to do so). If this does not help, then keep a diary of all the issues that you have encountered so that if court proceedings are necessary you will be able to show a clearly logged diary of what has happened. 

The next step would be report the problem to the council, it may then be possible for the council or the police to meet with the person who is causing the problem and speak to them and help them come to an agreement about how they should change their behaviour. This agreement can then be put into writing. This is known as an acceptable behaviour contract.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic Offers free legal advice on all housing issues. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294458 or emails SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

Is Staying Home Protecting Everyone?

Shivam Kaushik (Student)

The government has implemented measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 since March 2020. Since then, there have been lockdowns, closures of non-essential businesses and a very strong message from government to remain at home unless absolutely essential. The advertisement for this is “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives” and this message is broadcast everywhere on government pages, posters and on several official media platforms. During such  time, having a safe place to call home is critical especially when being at home is more important and one is home more now than ever.

Support services are struggling to provide help and resources to those struggling in their households. The restrictions on leaving home result in further barriers in seeking help and reporting any abuse. Gender based violence (“GBV”)has increased. The UN defines gender based violence as as harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. There has been a sharp rise in the prevalence of such abuse in recent times and has been compounded further by lockdown measures. GBV mainly relates to interpersonal violence, domestic abuse, sexual violence and other forms of abuse. In the UK, 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse and 1 in 5 will experience sexual assault in her lifetime. GBV does not because of lockdown, nor does it stem from the stress, hardship and economic difficulties which arise from the existence of a pandemic, however, the pandemic and lockdown measures have increased the risk factors for GBV such as substance abuse, being unable to support one’s family, crowding and female isolation.

Services supporting victims of gender-based violence are reporting an unprecedented increase in demand for support and assistance. Domestic abuse charity, Refuge, have reported a 700% increase in contact compared to pre-lockdown levels. Similarly, the Respect phone line has reported a rise of 125% in web traffic and a 16.6% increase in number of calls received. Even during stable periods, GBV is under-reported in the UK. The Home Office found that 83% of victims do not report their experiences to the police. The reporting of such experiences will be further decreased during the pandemic.

 These are very concerning statistics that highlight the scale and urgency of these issues and their impact on the most vulnerable members of society. The added difficulty in reporting abuse and seeking assistance during lockdown is leading to many abusers escaping accountability and punishment. More importantly, it has further eroded the ability for victims and survivors to seek immediate protection for themselves and their children. Access to justice is one of the biggest issues faced by victims of GBV and the government measures have only compounded such difficulties. The continuation of such measures will only worsen the impact the pandemic has had on GBV victims and survivors. The government measures as a result of the pandemic have raised the question whether staying home is truly saving lives and at what cost?

If you have experienced any of these issues and require more advice at Staffordshire Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) we offer free legal advice. Students are supervised by a qualified solicitor, if you wish to book an appointment with us, then please either call us on 01782 294800 or email us at SULAC@staffs.ac.uk.