Voluntary work through UWE Bristol helps inmates in Kenya get a law degree

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Law students from Bristol Law School have helped inmates and wardens in prisons in Kenya to study for a law degree, by giving them access to course materials and providing legal tuition through a volunteer project over the summer.

Several students from UWE Bristol worked with the three biggest high-security correctional institutions in Kenya through the African Prisons Project (APP), a charity that gives inmates and prison officers the chance to study for a law degree through the University of London.

Twenty-five students (19 first years and six second and third years) first spent several months meticulously resourcing and downloading legal materials from the Westlaw and Lexis libraries, with the help of the faculty librarian.

They then sent these over to the men’s (but also some women’s) prisons to help the African students, given that most of the institutions do not have access to the internet. This provided the students with valuable reading materials they would otherwise not have been able to access, and led to them gaining higher marks in their final examinations.

Starting in July, five UWE Bristol law students then travelled to Kenya for four to 10 weeks, where they taught a foundation course for those inmates and prison officials looking to start the law degree.

Kathy Brown, who is senior lecturer in UWE Bristol’s department of law and who overseas student participation in APP, said: “Studying for a law degree has enabled the prisoners to gain a higher level of education, act as paralegals for other inmates and represent themselves in court. Many of them are given extreme sentences for relatively small crimes, such as being given death penalty for aggravated burglary, and are on remand for several years.

“Prison officers, who are badly paid, are also given the chance to learn a discipline and make a better life for themselves, as well as provide better support for the prisoners. Often this leads to them no longer seeing prison as a place of punishment but a place that must enable change for vulnerable members of society.”

In September former inmate Morris Kaberia was released from Kamiti high security prison, when his sentence was quashed after serving 13 years. Fellow inmates formed part of the legal team that prepared court documents and these helped him to defend himself successfully in court. During his second appeal, the court found that Kaberia’s rights at the original trial had been violated and ruled against both his sentence and conviction.

Although a free man, Kaberia still regularly attends Kamiti, one of the prisons UWE Bristol’s volunteers work with, to finish the final year of his law degree. Brown said: “It used to be notoriously violent and dangerous, but it isn’t anymore and I think the culture of education has made it a place of learning.

“By supporting APP to deliver legal education, our students have contributed to the likely success of hundreds of inmates being released due to the work of the inmate paralegals. Those students who undertake the LLB in prison are also more likely to be considered for presidential pardons.”

The five students who travelled to the East African country were selected based on their motivation, rather than on academic achievements so far on their law degree programme. UWE Bristol sponsored the trip by paying for expenses. “This was about giving students that would otherwise never have done these things, a chance to shine,” explained Brown.

Kelly Eastham, a second year law student who travelled to Africa as part of the scheme, said: “I never thought I would spend my summer working in three maximum security prisons in Kenya and that these would be the places that would inspire me the most. I am beyond moved by every single inmate and their motivation to achieve a law degree purely to help others with no regard for financial gain.”

Third year student George Ufumwen, who also volunteered, said: “I am very grateful for this opportunity as I would not have been able to finance this of my own accord. Integration into the project has given me new found confidence, as I was able to work closely with other students in a dynamic environment and gain a good understanding of how these skills work in a real life scenario.”

So far, through the APP scheme, which also works in Uganda, three inmates have graduated with the LLB law degree in Uganda and two in Kenya. Eight more are set to graduate in October.

The African Prisons Project: Student blog

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The following blog post is part of a series of blogs on the Pro Bono Offering at UWE Bristol: 

One of the many strands of activity students can undertakes as part of the UWE Pro Bono Unit is with the African Prisons Project, led by Kathy Brown. This summer several students received the opportunity to travel to Kenya and Uganda to work directly with the prisoners in the prisons. This has provided valuable life experience for both the prisoners and the students. Here, LLB student Nakita Hedges reflects on her thoughts and experiences:

When driving from the airport I could see the corruption which segregated the rich from the poor almost immediately. The rich drove past me on their way to their gated houses, whilst the poor begged at my window and lay on the edge of the street. This is something I felt so detached from as my experience of this type of lifestyle only seemed to appear behind a TV screen. For me to see this as an actual problem was a hit of harsh reality and I didn’t know whether to feel thankful for my privileged life or awful that these people will never experience anything like it.

A similar feeling of contradicting emotions hit me when arriving at the prisons for the first time. I was aware these people were separated from the world by society who had reformed their identity with a label. Nevertheless, despite their injustice, every single student I met kindly greeted me with a handshake and smile. They were polite and insisted on me taking their seats even if it meant they would be standing for the duration of the lesson. I found it difficult to look into their eyes and accept their gratitude without feeling guilty that our little time here meant so much to them.

Their determination to learn was honestly such an empowering feeling to witness. Their level of dedication to their studies was something I had not ever seen before. If they have been set a task, each person exceeds expectations. Regardless of their lack of materials, each student would return with masses of information which they would provide examples and apply to the real world. After a few weeks of being here, our students were beginning to think like lawyers. They were analytical of their own and our work, challenging everything that was presented to them. Whenever we had a debate I almost wanted to remove their note sheet because they didn’t need a piece of paper to dictate their thoughts, it came so naturally to them. I soon learnt that their positive mental outlook was derived from their motivation to learn and make a difference for themselves seeing as nobody else was going to do it for them.

We were constantly reminded that we were “improving [their] lives” and “reforming [their] dignity”, however, for me I never thought of our students as criminals and it saddened me that it was only our presence which allowed them to feel like normal human beings. I have never thought so highly of anyone before, and I am honoured to have spent my summer with these people. They are human beings trying to achieve the same dreams as me. I hope to reassure them that they have not been neglected by humanity and despite their circumstances are recognised as human beings and not by their label.

For more information on the African Prisons Project, please see here. To find out more about the UWE Pro Bono Unit please see here.

 

 

 

 

Pro Bono – The African Prisons Project

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A new initiative, started this academic year by the UWE Pro Bono Unit, has been our link up with the African Prisons Project.  Through this our law students work remotely assisting prisoners and warders in Uganda and Kenya. Kathy Brown explains more in this blog:

Following a volunteer trip by Kathy Brown to teach law in Kenyan prisons in December 2016, a new UWE pro bono activity was created.  Her role in Kenya was to support Kenyan law tutors employed by a UK based charity called African Prisons Project (APP) to teach law to APP sponsored University of London (UOL) external LLB students.  She described the experience as life affirming but realised her position as a law lecturer at UWE put her in a position to share her access to legal resources with the Kenyan (and Ugandan) prison LLB community.  She realised too that this was something she should take to and share with her own LLB students.

In September 2017, supported by her FBL Librarian colleague Julie Hamley and Bristol Law School colleague, Dr Thomas Webber she launched  APP.  Together with the Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School lead for pro bono, Marcus Keppel-Palmer. They agreed to principally target Level 1 students, filling a gap in terms of the pro bono activities offered to new students.  Kathy’s other priority was to make the activity as inclusive as possible – and this has become central to the pro bono activity. Selection for the activity was based on a willingness to try rather than academic excellence or pre-existing skills.

The focus of the activity was to provide APP LLB tutors and students with all the materials they would otherwise be able to access for themselves were they based at a university.  In return, students would be able to develop their own legal research skills as well as develop soft skills such as confidence building, working with different year groups and interacting with international tutor colleagues. In addition, students could make the project they wanted it to be, responding to the needs of APP tutors and adapting their roles on the basis of their experience as law students.

Nine months on the main objectives of the activity have been met. UWE students have been able to talk about the outcomes of their learning and development through the UWE Student Research conference and the UWE (staff) Learning and Teaching Conference.

In terms of their direct involvement and engagement with the APP students in Kenya and Uganda, they’ve shared in the excitement of APP’s first LLB graduation ceremony in Luzira Men’s prison in Uganda (live streaming). Consistent with the activity’s inclusive values, five UWE students from three year groups have been given the opportunity to work in three Kenyan prisons during July and August.

To find out more about the APP please click here https://africanprisons.org/

Top Patent Attorney Firm Is Latest To Join UWE’s Business Advice Clinic

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The next blog post in our series on Pro-bono. Written by Marcus Keppel-Palmer:

Leading Patent and Trade Mark firm, EIP has signed up to be mentors for UWE’s pro bono initiative the Business Advice Clinic. Attorneys from EIP’s office in Bath will assist UWE students working in the Business Advice Clinic and UWE IP supervisor Gill Ford. The Business Advice Clinic provides advice to start-up businesses across a range of legal and business topics, such as businesses based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the LaunchSpace incubator and the Network for Creative Industries.

Students take the lead in researching and presenting advice, whilst the mentors and supervisors provide support and ensure the advice is reflective of current practice. Gill Ford said: “IP is very important to start-up businesses and the Business Advice Clinic has received a range of queries from those involving confidential information to patent applications. Students value the opportunity to put their classroom knowledge to real world use.”

Matt Lawman from EIP said: “EIP is delighted to be joining UWE’s Business Advice Clinic initiative. Intellectual Property is widely misunderstood, yet is an essential consideration for many start-up businesses.  And, it is often true that the time when a business needs the advice the most is in the early stage when they can afford it the least.  So, the service provided by The Business Advice Clinic will prove invaluable for many business. EIP specialises in helping start-ups formulate an IP strategy and we love seeing clients use their IP to prosper and grow. We very much look forward to working with Marcus, Gill and the UWE students!”

EIP is an award-winning firm with offices in the UK, US and Germany giving specialist IP advice on patents, trademarks, designs and copyright. In 2018 EIP was named “UK Patent and Trademark Attorney Firm of the Year for Patent Litigation”.  Marcus Keppel-Palmer, Director of the Business Advice Clinic, said: “We are delighted to welcome EIP as a mentor to the UWE Business Advice Clinic. We are very grateful for the time and assistance the firm is prepared to commit on a pro bono basis to the Clinic and to the students. We look forward to increasing opportunities with a prestigious international firm.”

Pro Bono works: Network For Creative Enterprise

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The second blog in our series on Pro Bono: 

The Business Advice Clinic, one of UWE’s Pro Bono initiative, has been providing legal assistance to the members of the Network for Creative Enterprise over the past academic year. The NFCE is a collaboration between the Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio, Knowle West Media Centre, Spike Island, and The Guild based in Bath. UWE is also a partner in the Network. In each of the centres, residents have the opportunity to join the NFCE to receive a mixture of support to turn their ideas into economically sustainable businesses, including free work space and a package of business development support. As part of that support, residents from the hubs are able to make appointments with Business Advice Clinic students, supervised by Marcus Keppel-Palmer, Director of Pro Bono.

Marcus said: “the businesses at NFCE are those working in the creative and cultural arena, often at the very outset of their business life, and so many of the questions are around intellectual property protection, putting together terms and conditions of business, and data protection, although we have been asked about all kinds of matters, including regulations affecting drones!”. Clinics have been held at the Watershed, Spike Island and Knowle West Media Centre with plans to venture over to Bath underway. Each client has a one-hour appointment with students taking instructions, undertaking any research and providing assistance as a follow-up.

One of the students on the team, Lucie Wickens said: “these regular drop-in sessions at Spike Island, Watershed, The Guild and Knowle West Media Centre have provided students with excellent exposure of working with clients, and has assisted in the development of start-up businesses (many of which are UWE graduates) across Bristol and Bath. The work I have undertaken on the Business Advice Clinic, through the Network for Creative Enterprise has been invaluable as a discussion point in interviews, and in building my confidence of working with clients.”

Nearly 20 of the residents have so far taken advantage of the sessions. These residents have reported that the advice and the access to advice has been invaluable. One resident said: “Thank you so much for all the support and advice from you and your team. The conversations and the draft contracts you have drawn up have been an invaluable contribution to our development. Without this free service offered through the Network for Creative Enterprise we would have struggled to access let alone pay for legal advice and support of this kind.”

Rachael Burton, one of the NFCE Producers based at the Pervasive Media Studio, said: “It’s been great to work with Bristol Business and Law School at UWE through the legal advice clinics run by Marcus and his students. Having access to free legal advice in a familiar setting has been really valuable to the artists and small creative businesses we are supporting through Network for Creative Enterprise. We look forward to developing this ongoing relationship.”

 

Community Asset Transfers: Legal and Practical Issues seminar

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On 19th April Bristol Law School co-hosted a seminar with The Old Library, Eastville on the legal and practical issues surrounding Community Asset Transfers (‘CAT’).

Bristol Law School pro bono students, Alice Gibson and Lauren Johnson, gave an excellent presentation focusing on the legal issues of community asset transfer.

Debbora Hall from The Old Library focused on her practical experiences of going through the CAT process.

This was followed by a busy question and answer session with the audience.

The seminar was held at the former library on Muller Road, Bristol (now known as The Old Library) and it is amazing to see and hear how much the team of volunteers has achieved there in making this building a bright and vibrant space for the local community.

Due to the popularity of the event we are hoping to run another CAT seminar soon.

Free seminar: Community asset transfers: legal and practical issues

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The UWE Bristol Pro Bono Unit, in conjunction with The Old Library, will be holding a free seminar on Thursday 19 April from 6pm for anyone who would like to find out more about the legal and practical side of community asset transfer.

A Community Asset Transfer involves a charity or not-for-profit organisation taking a lease or licence of council owned premises to run and manage those premises.

The purpose is to generate social, economic or environmental benefits for local people.  Examples include community centres, libraries and playgrounds.

If you’d like more information or to register please see here.

IPO Develops New Tools For Universities

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Marcus Keppel-Palmer, the Associate Head for the Faculty of Business and Law for Pro Bono, was one of the panel members working with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) developing a new range of Intellectual Property (IP) resources for use in Schools, Universities, and businesses.

The new suite of resources aim to develop a greater understanding on on IP with students and how IP impacts on their future careers.

The resources known as IP Tutor Plus were launched on January 9th 2018.

IP Tutor and IP Tutor Plus

The IP Tutor tools, developed by the IPO, CIPA, CiTMA, lecturers and industry professionals, provides information on IP.

IP Tutor Plus is a resource for university lecturers to deliver IP lectures. There are four modules; creative, humanities, STEM and law, business and accounting subject areas.

IP for Research

Created for PhD students and researchers to develop a greater understanding of how IP can maximise the impact of their research.

IP management tools

The Intellectual Asset Management Guide for Universities and Lambert Toolkit support the setting of IP strategies within universities, and the management of effective collaborations between universities and businesses.

Resources for further education

Before students reach university, the Future Innovators Toolkit provides level 3 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers with the resources they need to introduce IP at any point in the curriculum.

More details can be found here.