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

 

Domestic abuse rises sharply as cause of homelessness in England

Lauren Foster (Student)

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, in England the number of households left with no home because of domestic abuse has risen by more than 1/3. The following statistics illustrate the vast vulnerability of homelessness households, causes by domestic violence. 

6,310 households were acknowledged as homeless according to the local council due to domestic abuse between July and September 2021. In comparison in July and September 2020, there was 5,550 homeless households reported. This was a clear increase of 13.7% Domestic abuse victims accounted for 17.3% of the households that were made homeless during this period.

There was a total of 9,730 homeless families with children. This was 26.7% of the overall homeless households. Again, there was a 15.1% increase from 2020, and an increase of 8.6% from 2019. It has been stated by the chief executive of Shelter that they urgently require the support of the public, so that they can provide free, and expert help to the people in need.

These figures are likely to increase in the future especially with the cost of living increasing and previous protection from eviction introduced during the pandemic having been removed.

All councils have a responsibility to try and prevent people becoming homeless in the first place. Families with children should be housed by the councils if it is found to be the best way to help.

Being homeless is a terrifying time for anyone, more increasingly so if there are children involved. If they did not already have a history of mental health problems, then they would most likely acquire mental health conditions. This would be caused from the desperation, stress, and uncertainty. From the 67,820 homeless or at risk of homelessness households, 51.1% had at least one extra support need. It was found a quarter of the homelessness statistics had a history of mental health problems. 16.5% had a support need relating to physical health or disability, and 21.1% had experienced or were at risk of domestic abuse.

Here at SULAC we can help with housing needs. If you would like an appointment please telephone 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

What archaeology can tell us about the lives of children in England 1,500 years ago

“Following the collapse of the Roman Empire in the early fifth century, groups from northwest Europe made their way to British shores. Germanic peoples settled in what is now England between the fifth and seventh centuries AD.

The traditions around death and burial they brought with them provide us with a snapshot of the lives and deaths of people in these communities. Burials can also offer information about a frequently overlooked group: children.” 

 

 

 

Read Associate Professor Kirsty Squires‘ article ‘What archaeology can tell us about the lives of children in England 1,500 years ago’-  on The Conversation here

Woman’s Distress After Landlord Admits Harassment

Jorjoh Touray (Student)

A tenant in County Down, Northern Ireland has been harassed by her landlord to such an extent that criminal proceedings were brought.

Zyndzie Akimodo rented a property from Matthew Betty in Bangor, County Down.

On 24 February, Betty, 41, pleaded guilty to harassment under the 1978 NI Rent Order and was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years.

Ms Akimodo said on one occasion men, allegedly posing as paramilitaries, were sent to the house to intimidate her and her daughter. Whilst it could not be proved that Mr Batty was directly involved it was found that he facilitated the visit.

On another occasion a representative from NI Water turned up at the property to disconnect the water supply. He told Ms Akimodo that the landlord told him that the property was vacant.

Ms Akimodo said “Our homes are meant to be a safe and secure place and because of the actions of the landlord, she had no peace at home.”

In England it is illegal for your landlord to harass you or try to force you out of a property without using the proper procedures. You could claim damages through the courts if they try and do so.

What constitutes as harassment?

This can be anything a landlord does or fails to do that would make you feel unsafe in the property or forces you to leave. This can include stopping services like electricity, refusing to carry out repairs, anti-social behaviour by a landlord’s agent or the landlord directly.

Your landlord also cannot evict you without a court order and he/ she would be guilty of illegal eviction if they did so. Even if your landlord’s property is repossessed by their mortgage lender, the lender must give you notice so you can find other accommodation.

What can I do?

If you think you’re being harassed or threatened with illegal eviction, or the property you rent is being repossessed, talk to your local council. It may have someone specialising in tenant harassment issues.

Local councils can also start legal proceedings if they think there’s enough evidence of harassment or illegal eviction.

You could also contact a legal adviser, a Citizens Advice office or Shelter’s housing advice helpline. Your local area may also have other housing or legal advice organisations – your local council or library should have details.

If physical violence is involved, contact the police.

For further advice, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has a detailed guide for tenants facing harassment and illegal eviction.

Here at SULAC we can offer advice on all housing issues. If you would like an appointment, please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

 

 

Applying for unfair dismissal within the right amount of time

Erin Dean (Student)

When claiming for unfair dismissal, a claim must be brought in the Employment Tribunal within 3 months of the date of dismissal. If the claim is made after this, then the Employment tribunal wont hear the claim and the chances of the employee receiving any compensation is very low. The fact that the employee did not know about this time limit will not be any defence.

This happened to Miss S Dillon who was a solicitor claiming unfair dismissal against the Crown Prosecution Service. She applied five months after the date of the dismissal but was told her claim was too late. The law on unfair dismissal comes from section 94 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Miss Dillon’s argument for the late claim was that it was not reasonably practicable for her to present her claim any sooner and she also thought that she had 3 years to bring the claim which is the limitation period for personal injury.

The judge dismissed her application as he stated given her experience and contacts as a solicitor, she should have checked the time limit. Judge Woffenden decided that Dillon was not trying to avoid litigation by looking into different remedies but had just not even considered going to court. The facts were that she had brought her claim too late and that it was dismissed.

It is important that in unfair dismissal claims, the judge uses and applies employment law correctly so that neither the employee nor employer are wrongfully accused. A lot of the information on unfair dismissal and grievance process can be found on the ACAS website.

Here at SULAC we can advise on all aspects of employment law. If you would like an appointment please telephone 01782 294800 or email Sulac@staffs.ac.uk

Reforming the law on divorce

Erin Dean (Student)

Currently in order for a couple to get a divorce, they must prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. To do this they must prove one of the following five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation (with consent) or five years separation (without consent). These grounds (particularly adultery and unreasonable behaviour) have often created further conflict between the parties and damaged children by undermining the relationship further after the divorce.

Aidan Jones, OBE, has noted that the process for divorce is damaging to a child’s welfare and makes it harder for the couple to create good relationships as co-parents due to the element of having to show that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

The UK Government has since proposed reforms to the process on how to prove that the marriage has broken down by keeping the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the only ground without the need to prove the other facts. Hopefully, by not having to prove the reason for the irretrievable breakdown, the adversarial aspect of the process can be significantly reduced.  Other reforms include creating a joint application for divorce, removing the ability for a party to reject the divorce, and putting in a time frame of 6 months from the first to the final stage of divorce to avoid dragging it out.

Divorce can be a very damaging and distressing thing to go through for both the couple and any family involved and so it is important that the process is as easy and smooth as it can be. This is why it is important that the government are making these changes. These changes are due to come into force later this year.

Here at SULAC we can advise on divorce, financial affairs and children applications. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email sulac@staffs.ac.uk

Average house price hits record high of £255,000

Lauren Foster (Student)

In December 2021, house prices reached an average of £253,822 according to Nationwide. A standard sized house has increased in value by around £23,902 since January 2021. This is the largest increase of house prices since 2006.

Despite this, it has been predicted that the market will slow over 2022 due to the stamp duty holiday ending and because of the Covid-19 variants

Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner said

“The Omicron variant could reinforce the slowdown if it leads to a weaker labour market,”

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how people live which has impacted the housing market. It has influenced buyers to substitute their homes in large cities, to live in suburban and rural areas. London has appeared to be the prime city affected by this.

The increase in interest rates will also affect the housing market.

The Bank of England increased their borrowing interest rates from 0.1% to 0.25% at the beginning of December 2021, in an effort to tackle the rise of inflation. The consequence of this meant less people can join the property ladder. The correlation of increased interest rates, and people being prevented from work due to the pandemic, will mean that people may be discouraged from buying homes. House prices have also risen yet the growth of income has slowed.

The data statistics below represent the average increase of house prices across the UK, this was collated from 1973-December 2021.

  • Northern Ireland: Up 12.1% to £167,479
  • South West: Up 11.5% to £294,845
  • Outer South East: Up 11.3% to £329,869
  • North West: Up 11.2% to £196,806
  • Yorkshire and Humberside: Up 10.8% to £190,855
  • East Anglia: Up 10.4% to £268,146
  • East Midlands: Up 10.4% to £221,813
  • Scotland: Up 10.1% to £172,605
  • West Midlands: Up 9.4% to £227,031
  • Outer metropolitan area of London: Up 8.8% to £410,992
  • North: Up 7.7% to £148,105
  • London: Up 4.2% to £507,230

Here at SULAC we can help with any property related issues. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

Firearms Global Perspectives on Consequences, Crime and Control

Dr Helen Poole, Executive Dean of the School of Justice, Security and Sustainability, has co-edited Firearms: Global Perspectives on Consequences, Crime and Control with Dr Simon Sneddon (University of Northampton). The book explores the illicit use of firearms across the globe, including legal, social science, technical and research perspectives on the issue.

Read more here.

The famous ‘Belmarsh case’ – twenty years since the detention of ‘A and others’, in breach of their human rights

On Human Rights Day (10th of December), Aidan Flynn, Senior Lecturer in Law, recollects the famous ‘Belmarsh case’ on the twentieth anniversary of the detentions that led to the case.

Following the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in the USA in September 2001, the UK Parliament swiftly passed the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.  In exercise of his power under section 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998, David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, made the Human Rights Act 1998 (Designated Derogation) Order 2001.  The derogation related to article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Article 5 of the Convention is concerned with the “right to liberty and security of person.”

The appellants in the ‘Belmarsh case’ were certified by the Home Secretary under section 21 of the 2001 Act.  This led to their detention under section 23 of the Act.  Eight of the nine appellants were detained on the 19th of December 2001.  They were held in high security conditions at Belmarsh prison.  They challenged the lawfulness of their detention, and the case reached the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, which was the highest court in the land until replaced in 2009 by the Supreme Court of the UK.

Giving the leading judgment, Lord Bingham described the circumstances in which the appellants found themselves in December 2001, “the appellants share certain common characteristics which are central to their appeals.  All are foreign (non-UK) nationals.  None has been the subject of any criminal charge.  In none of their cases is a criminal trial in prospect”

In the Appellate Committee, the case was heard by a panel of nine Law Lords rather than the usual panel size of five.  It had to decide two main issues.  Firstly, were the conditions for derogating from Article 5 met.  Secondly, if they were met and the Derogation Order was lawful, were the provisions of the 2001 Act relating to powers of indefinite executive detention without trial “strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.”  These words are from Article 15 (‘Derogation in time of emergency’) of the Convention, paragraph one of which reads as follows “In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law.”

On the first issue the Appellate Committee decided that the question involved a political judgment with which it should not interfere.  Lord Bingham said “I would accept that great weight should be given to the judgment of the Home Secretary, his colleagues and Parliament on this question, because they were called on to exercise a pre-eminently political judgment.”  However, Lord Hoffmann dissented, taking the view that the events of ‘9/11’ did not constitute a public emergency threatening the life of the British nation.  He commented that “whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda.”

On the second issue, the decision of the Appellate Committee has been summarised by Lord Bingham in his well-known book ‘The Rule of Law.’  The provisions of the 2001 Act were “incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the Convention ………… the measure did not rationally address the threat to security, was not a proportionate response, was not strictly required by the exigencies of the situation and unjustifiably discriminated against foreign nationals on grounds of their nationality.”   The 2001 Act was discriminatory because it differentiated between non-UK citizens and UK citizens.  UK citizens could not be detained in the same way under the terms of the Act.  This was one of the strong arguments advanced by the appellants which led the Appellate Committee to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeal.  The Committee issued a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the Human Rights Act.  Section 23 of the 2001 Act was incompatible with Articles 5 and 14 (‘Prohibition of discrimination’) of the European Convention.

In his recently published book, Sir Jack Beatson identifies the ‘Belmarsh case’ and Ghaidan, from the same year, as examples of the principle of non-discrimination.  This principle is a requirement of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Most provisions of the Convention were given effect in UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998 which came into force on the 2nd of October 2000.