Eviscerating the Right to Water in Riparian Communities: Stemming Mining Activities in Ghana 

Posted on

By Dr Felix Nana Kofi Ofori, UWE Alumni, Member of Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group 


Throughout the gold-mining communities in Ghana, vast swathes of land, bodies of rivers and streams have turned brownish as a result of unregulated mining activities as well as prospecting for mineral resources. Most alarmingly, the Ghana Water Corporation Limited (GWCL), in 2022, has warned that it will stop supplying water to the Ghanaian population because of the extra high cost of chemicals purchased to treat the heavily polluted water sources in the country. Besides the severe health and environmental impacts being suffered by the people, the following questions are worth answering: Could it be that the right to water is non-existent in Ghana? And would there ever be a political-will by the government to protect access to water? 

To answer the above questions, this blog is organised as follows: the right to water as a state obligation; states’ duty to protect the right/access to quality water; and stemming the challenges of mining operations in Ghana.  

The Right to Water as a State Duty  

Under General Comment No. 15, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) emphasised that states have a covenant duty of ensuring the progressive realisation of the right to water without discrimination on grounds of race, status or creed. The use of the word “progressive” is often misconstrued or as a pretext by some states to evade the responsibility of protecting access to water, especially among the poorest and deprived communities, as in the riparian towns of Ghana. Although developing states such as Ghana have limited financial resources to meet the socio-economic needs of their populations, the uniqueness of water as a critical component for the survival of human-beings distinguishes it from all other resources; thus, impelling states (Ghana included), to protect the right to water with altruistic financial and regulatory commitments to guard against water pollution activities. Equally as stipulated in General Comment No. 25, the right to water has three obligations namely the obligation to respect, to protect and fulfil.  

First, the obligation to respect requires States (Ghana included) to refrain from polluting water resources; arbitrarily and illegally disconnecting water and sanitation services; reducing the provision of safe drinking-water to poor communities in order to meet the demand of wealthier areas; destroying water services and infrastructure as a punitive measure during crisis era; or depleting water resources that indigenous peoples rely upon. However, the continuous pollution of water bodies throughout Ghana, particularly in the riparian communities indicate that the right to water is severely damaged or non-existent.  

Second, the obligation to protect requires States to prevent third parties from interfering with the right to water. This also means that States should adopt legislation or other measures to ensure that private actors—e.g., industry, water providers or individuals mining and prospecting for mineral resources—comply with human rights standards related to the right to water.  

Despite the obligation to protect the right to water, the reality on the ground tells a profound story of how the right to water is almost eviscerated. This is evidenced by the rampant illegal mining activities by public and private agencies, coupled with feeble state regulations, to stem the threat which is injurious to human health, biodiversity, environment and sustainable development. 

Third, the obligation to fulfil means States must, among other things, adopt a national policy on water that: gives priority in water management to essential personal and domestic uses;  identifies the resources available to meet these goals; specifies the most cost-effective way of using them;  monitors results and outcomes, including ensuring adequate remedies for violations.  

Contrary to these obligations, the current and successive governments of Ghana had implemented politically expedient or weak regulations incapable to protect water bodies against pollution and environmental degradation. It is further obvious from the preceding discussion that the right to water and the environment, as witnessed in the riparian communities of Ghana are savagely damaged; thus an urgent solution is required to stem the crisis. 

Stemming the Mining Challenges of Ghana’s riparian communities 

A human rights-based approach should be instituted across the country particularly within the riparian communities, emboldening them to participate in decisions that affect water resources management; as well as, hold duty-bearers and private agencies accountable for their actions in polluting water sources and environmental degradation. 

‘Leaving no one behind’ is the key promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this vein, Ghana needs to infuse the ‘right to water’ more practically into its sustainable development programmes across all sectors of country; and especially at the community level, where critical resources such as water, biodiversity and plants and fauna are endangered. It also requires that extensive educational programmes are initiated and implemented to enlighten the indigenous people of their rights and obligations as primary custodians to protect and guard against the destruction of their resources including water bodies. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Ghana) should be proactive in monitoring and enforcing existing regulations against harmful chemical uses by both public and private organisations that engage in mining operations. By this, those entities perpetuating degrading activities against the people, water sources and the environment will be prosecuted or fined so as to promote the sustainable development policy and efforts of Ghana. The World Economic Forum ranks the water crisis in the top 3 of global risks for the third consecutive year. Failing to respond effectively to these challenges will have devastating global effects, (Water Action-Decade, 2018-2028). Global crisis calls for global solution, beginning from the national and communal levels. Against this backdrop, it essential that the Ghanaian political leadership adopts creative lasting solution to stem pollution of all water sources in the country  as  a strategy to improve the people’s health thereby minimising the global water crisis of which Ghana is a party. Protecting the right to water is an imperative duty because majority of the people depend on the water bodies within their communities for socio-economic livelihood which in turn guarantee them human rights and dignity.

Will the creation of the crime of ecocide at the international and national level hold those who cause severe and irreversible harm to the environment liable?

Posted on

By Harry Muir, Third Year LLB student 

Earth is at the precipice of an environmental catastrophe that could result in the mass extinction of life as we know it.[1] Yet, corporate and government leaders are still committing and condoning acts that have a detrimental effect on the environment for profit and personal gain.[2] Although these leaders have the power to change their practices, little is being done to do so.[3] Arguments have therefore arisen that by using existing legal mechanisms, a crime could encapsulate these destructive acts to the environment and climate;[4] this crime is known as ecocide.[5] Ecocide has developed substantially since first being discussed after the use of ‘agent orange’ during the Vietnam war[6] and today, more discourse is taking place that a crime of ecocide could become a tool to save the earth[7] on a fast track to environmental collapse.[8]

This blog post will critically discuss that whilst the introduction of ecocide at a national level could act to hold those who cause severe and irreversible environmental damage accountable, the proposed international crime of ecocide would potentially be far better at achieving this goal.

Ecocide: discussion at the international level

At the international level, there is currently no crime that specifically prosecutes ecocide.[9] In response to this, academics such as Higgins have targeted the International Criminal Court (ICC) to recognise the crime of ecocide as a fifth ‘missing crime against peace’[10] under the Rome Statute[11] especially as ecocide was included in the draft Rome Statute.[12] Critical opinion has focused on the ICC’s existing legal provisions not being sufficient enough; for instance, their only reference to the protection of the environment is in relation to harm caused in wartime[13] which ignores ecocide committed in peacetimes such as severe deforestation[14] or oil spills.[15] An ICC policy paper in 2016 outlined environmental damage could be considered in relation to existing crimes[16] which Mwanza notes, demonstrates a ‘green shift’ at the ICC.[17] This green shift is apparent as a petition against President Bolsonaro for his ‘crimes against humanity’ explicitly references ecocide in relation to the mass deforestation of the Amazon[18] and therefore could be seen as a method to hold those who cause ecocide liable and protect the environment. Pereira is however critical about this shift as the other ‘crimes against peace’ have high mens rea requirements[19] and difficult evidential burdens[20] proving a hindrance to the actual prosecution of environmental harm. Therefore, an international crime of ecocide would be far better suited at holding those who cause destructive acts against the environment liable than existing provisions.

In response to the lack of environmental protections in the Rome Statute, a historic legal ecocide definition was drafted by an independent expert panel (IEP)[21] specifically for the Rome Statute[22] which is as follows:

‘“Ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts’[23]

An element of this definition that has been the focus of academic debate has been the ‘wanton’ element which will be discussed. Wantonness arguably imports an ‘anthropocentric element’ which contradicts the entire ‘ecocentric’ nature of the crime of ecocide commented on by Minkova.[24]The implications of this element, according to Keller, mean severe, irreversible, and long-term damage to the environment can be committed[25] so long as there is a good enough reason for it.[26] Thus, corporate and government actors could argue they have committed ecocide for the public benefit therefore limiting accountability if they have the resources to argue their way out of liability.[27] Mehta would however disagree as the crime is still mostly ‘ecocentric’ in a predominantly ‘anthropocentric’ legal system.[28]

It is however argued that deterrence would be a powerful mechanism behind this international crime of ecocide at the ICC.[29] It is important to note that, in order to change the Rome Statute to include ecocide, one signatory must bring an official proposal[30] and only two-thirds of ICC signatories must agree to enable amendment.[31]  This proposal however has the possibility of being effectively ‘timed-out’ when the proposal is not brought within a specific time frame as seen with Bangladesh, Samoa and Vanuatu’s ecocide proposal[32] even so, actual implementation potentially could take up to 5 years.[33] These strict time limits and lengthy implementation dates are of a significant hindrance as again the world is in need of immediate environmental protection to safeguard the future. This being said, as corporation CEO’s want to keep a ‘clean’ reputation,[34] they understandably do not associate with an equivalent crime to genocide or war crimes[35] as this could be detrimental to their business stock price and profit.[36] Academics predict that ecocide’s recognition at the ICC would act to immediately instigate a change in corporate business practises causing ecocide[37] by creating a duty for governments and corporations to not disregard the environment and therefore encouraging the adoption of a green economy.[38] Deterrence would therefore serve as an immensely powerful mechanism to combat crimes of ecocide immediately long before the expected 5-year amendment process into the Rome Statute. These however are only predictions and in the meantime as Greene proposes, national provisions could be created and implemented immediately as an alternative to international provisions.[39]

Ecocide: discussion at the national level

A crime of ecocide in national legislation however comes with enforcement and implementation difficulties which will be critically discussed in light of current national provisions in relation to government and corporations who commit ecocide.[40]

Both Russia[41] and Ukraine[42] criminalise ecocide in their respective criminal codes and in the current context of the war facilitated by Russia, Putin’s acts have constituted ecocide.[43] However, although these provisions exist, they are only as powerful as the countries’ legal system and their respect for the rule of law as commented on by Schwegler[44] which likely means Putin will not be held accountable under existing national provisions.[45]

There has also been difficulty holding corporations accountable under national provisions[46] which is critical as they significantly harm the environment with their actions.[47] A country who has taken a step to hold corporate actors accountable is Guatemala for example, who have recognised an ecocide law which held a palm oil corporation liable for ecocide for causing severe damage to the waterways and the surrounding eco-system.[48] As Greene however illustrates, enforcement of this ruling created difficulties especially as the corporation has now gone back to polluting the river again constituting an act of ecocide[49] arguably not having the predicted deterrent effect discussed earlier.[50] It is therefore no surprise that the implementation of an international crime of ecocide was outlined as the next logical step in response to this ruling.[51]

The UK has been reluctant to criminalise ecocide at a national level with recent proposals to include ecocide as a crime punishable with 30 years’ imprisonment in The Environment Bill[52] being removed after arguments prevailed that economic activity would be severely impacted due to environmental criminalisation.[53] The UK sees ecocide as a barrier rather than an opportunity as they have the resources to be a pioneer and utilise existing green technologies to thrive with nature[54] enabling the development of a ‘green’ economy.[55] France, on the other hand, recently recognised ecocide as an offence punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment or a 4.5 million euro fine.[56] Ecocide was changed from a criminal to a civil offence due to the potential stigmatisation of businesses’ economic activity;[57] however, the prison penalty associated with the crime should still act as a deterrent[58] in protecting the environment.


In light of the arguments presented, criminalisation of ecocide in the Rome Statute would be the best option for holding those who severely damage the environment accountable due to its predicted deterrent effect as a ‘crime against peace’. In comparison, although national ecocide provisions could act immediately to protect the environment, difficulties in enactment and enforcement are major drawbacks to accountability and environmental protection.

[1] Tim Lindgren, ‘Ecocide, genocide and the disregard of alternative life-systems’ [2018] 22 International Journal of Human Rights 525, 528.

[2] Rob White, ‘Ecocide and the Carbon Crimes of the Powerful’ [2018] 37 University of Tasmania Law Review 95, 102.

[3] Vanessa Schwegler, ‘The Disposable Nature: The Case of Ecocide and Corporate Accountability’ [2017] 9 Amsterdam Law Forum 71, 81.

[4] Polly Higgins, Damien Short and Nigel South, ‘Protecting the planet: a proposal for a law of ecocide’ [2013] 59 Crime Law and Social Change 251, 252-254.

[5] Sailesh Mehta and Prisca Merz, ‘Ecocide – a new crime against peace’ [2015] 17 Environmental Law Review 4.

[6] Saloni Malhotra, ‘The International Crime That Could Have Been but Never Was: An English School Perspective on the Ecocide Law’ [2017] 9 Amsterdam LF 49, 52.

[7] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

[8] D Carrington, ‘World close to ‘irreversible’ climate breakdown, warn major studies’ The Guardian (27 October 2022)

[9] E Trigt, ‘A Legal Definition of Ecocide’ (Peace Palace Library, 15 July 2021) <https://peacepalacelibrary.nl/blog/2021/legal-definition-ecocide>

[10] Polly Higgins, ‘Seeding Intrinsic Values: How a Law of Ecocide will Shift our Consciousness’ [2012] 1 Cadmus Journal 9.

[11] The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court art 5

[12] Saloni Malhotra, ‘The International crime that could have been but never was an English school perspective on the ecocide law’ [2017] 9 Amsterdam Law Forum 49, 53.

[13] The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, art 8(2)(b)(iv)

[14] Danilo Urzedo and Pratichi Chatterjee, ‘The Colonial Reproduction of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Violence Against Indigenous Peoples for Land Development’ [2021] 23 Journal of Genocide Research 302, 304.

[15] Ricardo Pereira, ‘After the ICC office of the prosecutor’s 2016 policy paper on case selection and prioritisation: towards an international crime of ecocide?’ [2020] 31 Criminal Law Forum 179, 196.

[16] Office of the Prosecutor, Policy Paper On Case Selection And Prioritisation, 15 September 2016, <https://www.icc-cpi.int/news/policy-paper-case-selection-and-prioritisation>

[17] Rosemary Mwanza, ‘Enhancing Accountability for Environmental Damage under International Law: Ecocide as a Legal Fulfilment of Ecological Integrity [2018] 19 Melbourne Journal of International Law 586, 598.

[18] Danilo Urzedo and Pratichi Chatterjee, ‘The Colonial Reproduction of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Violence Against Indigenous Peoples for Land Development’ [2021] 23 Journal of Genocide Research 302, 304.

[19] Ricardo Pereira, ‘After the ICC office of the prosecutor’s 2016 policy paper on case selection and prioritisation: towards an international crime of ecocide?’ [2020] 31 Criminal Law Forum 179, 215.

[20] Ibid, 211.

[21] Haroon Siddique, ‘Legal experts worldwide draw up ‘historic’ definition of ecocide’ The Guardian (London, 22 June 2021)

[22] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 24-25.

[23] Stop Ecocide Foundation, ‘Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide’ (June 2021) <https://www.stopecocide.earth/legal-definition>

[24] Liana Georgieva Minkova, ‘The fifth international crime: reflections on the definition of “Ecocide”’ Journal of Genocide Research (forthcoming).

[25] J K Heller, ‘Fiddling (With Ecocide) While Rome (and Everywhere Else) Burns’ (Volkerrechtsblog, 18 February 2022) <https://voelkerrechtsblog.org/fiddling-with-ecocide-while-rome-and-everywhere-else-burns/>

[26] J K Heller, ‘Skeptical Thoughts on the Proposed Crime of “Ecocide” (That Isn’t)’ (OpinioJuris, 23 June 2021) <http://opiniojuris.org/2021/06/23/skeptical-thoughts-on-the-proposed-crime-of-ecocide-that-isnt/>

[27] Liana Georgieva Minkova, ‘The fifth international crime: reflections on the definition of “Ecocide”’ Journal of Genocide Research (forthcoming).

[28] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Polly Higgins, ‘Seeding Intrinsic Values: How a Law of Ecocide will Shift our Consciousness’ [2012] 1 Cadmus Journal 9.

[31] K Mackintosh, J Mehta and R Rogers, ‘Prosecuting Ecocide’ (Project Syndicate, 31 Aug 2021) <https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-icc-should-recognize-ecocide-as-an-international-crime-by-kate-mackintosh-et-al-2021-08>

[32] K Surma, ‘A plea to make widespread environmental damage an international crime takes centre stage at The Hague’ Inside Climate News (Pittsburgh, 7 December 2021)

[33] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

[34] Vanessa Schwegler, ‘’The Disposable Nature: The Case of Ecocide and Corporate Accountability’ [2017] 9 Amsterdam Law Forum 71, 98.

[35] R Killean, ‘Could criminalising ecocide increase accountability for environmental harm in conflicts?’ (Conflict and Environment Observatory, 22 April 2021) <https://ceobs.org/could-criminalising-ecocide-increase-accountability-for-environmental-harm-in-conflicts/>

[36] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

[37] Vanessa Schwegler, ‘’The Disposable Nature: The Case of Ecocide and Corporate Accountability’ [2017] 9 Amsterdam Law Forum 71, 86.

[38] Polly Higgins, Damien Short and Nigel South, ‘Protecting the planet: a proposal for a law of ecocide’ [2013] 59 Crime Law and Social Change 251, 261.

[39] Anastacia Greene, ‘The campaign to make ecocide an international crime: Quixotic Quest or Moral Imperative?’ [2019] 30 Fordham Environmental Law Review 1, 46.

[40]Rob White, ‘Ecocide and the Carbon Crimes of the Powerful’ [2018] 37 University of Tasmania Law Review 95, 102.

[41] The Criminal Code of the Russia Federation No. 63-FZ of June 13, 1996, art 358.

[42] The Criminal Code of Ukraine of September 1, 2001, art 441.

[43] S Smith, ‘This is ecocide’: Ukrainians hope to rebuild greener country after Russian war ravages environment’, The Independent (19 March 2022).

[44] Vanessa Schwegler, ‘’The Disposable Nature: The Case of Ecocide and Corporate Accountability’ [2017] 9 Amsterdam Law Forum 71, 94.

[45] R Killean, ‘Legal accountability for environmental destruction in Ukraine’ (Conflict and Environment Observatory, 7 March 2022) <https://ceobs.org/legal-accountability-for-environmental-destruction-in-ukraine/>

[46] Vanessa Schwegler, ‘’The Disposable Nature: The Case of Ecocide and Corporate Accountability’ [2017] 9 Amsterdam Law Forum 71, 92.

[47] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

[48] B Whitford, ‘Court ruling advances case for ecocide law’ (Positive News, April 22 2016) <https://www.positive.news/environment/court-ruling-advances-case-ecocide-law/>

[49] Anastacia Greene, ‘The campaign to make ecocide an international crime: Quixotic Quest or Moral Imperative?’ [2019] 30 Fordham Environmental Law Review 1, 21-22.

[50] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

[51] B Whitford, ‘Court ruling advances case for ecocide law’ (Positive News, April 22 2016) <https://www.positive.news/environment/court-ruling-advances-case-ecocide-law/>

[52] Environmental HL Bill (2019-21) 16, cl 133

[53] HL deb 14 July 2021, vol 813, col 1900

[54] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

[55] Polly Higgins, Damien Short and Nigel South, ‘Protecting the planet: a proposal for a law of ecocide’ [2013] 59 Crime Law and Social Change 251, 257.

[56] No. 2021-1104 of August 22, 2021, Climate and Resilience Law, art 231-233.

[57] L Alderman and C Meheut, ‘‘Going Green, or Greenwashing? A proposed climate law divides France’ New York Times (19 May 2021)

[58] Jojo Mehta, ‘Ecocide: a crime against the planet’ [2021] 66 Journal of the Law Society of Scotland 24, 25.

Thinking differently, engaging differently: Neurodivergence in the Criminal Justice System and the role of the Bar

Posted on

In October 2022, Dr Tom Smith published the first of a two-part series of articles examining how the experience and engagement of neurodivergent individuals (for example, those who are autistic or have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)) drawn into the criminal justice system (CJS) can be more effectively and fairly managed by criminal defence barristers, when undertaking their role as legal representatives. Whilst not a set term, neurodivergence commonly describes cognitive development which varies from the typical, primarily related to and affective of communication, learning, attention, sensory processing, and mood regulation (among other aspects of cognition and behaviour). Evidence suggests that significant barriers to a positive and effective experience for neurodivergent individuals remain at all stages, including in policing, courts and prisons (see, for example, the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection, published in July 2021).  

As facilitators of access to justice, lawyers can either mitigate or aggravate these issues (in the same way they can for any vulnerable participant); they are therefore key to ensuring that neurodivergent individuals – whether as an accused person or a victim of crime – are able to engage with the CJS on an equal basis with their neurotypical peers. This is particularly the case for barristers and advocates representing neurodivergent defendants at trial and sentence. It is clearly vital to the right to a fair trial that the accused is represented effectively by their lawyer; as part of this, barristers and advocates must discharge their duty to protect and advance the best interests of their client in a meaningful way.  

In the context of neurodivergent individuals, such principles arguably demand a more specialised approach which is carefully adapted to the needs of those being represented. This is particularly the case in relation to direct engagement (for example, client conferences or taking instructions); advocating for a client in court; and ensuring that clients are able to access hearings effectively through engagement with the court and other parties. Ultimately, providing good legal representation requires more than grasping the nuances of facts, case law, legislation, and procedures pertinent to a client’s cause. Good lawyering can only be realised if lawyers are also able to effectively engage with and understand the personal needs of the people they represent. 

The article was published by Counsel, the official magazine of the Bar of England and Wales, which is read by legal professionals, from law students to senior judges, policy makers, key influencers, and members of the government, as well as having a wider general readership. 

Read the full article on Counsel magazine.  Part 2 is due to be published in November 2022.

UWE Bristol wins Guardian Award for Equity Programme

Posted on

We were delighted to be finalists at this year’s Guardian University Awards but are over the moon to have actually won! This award means so much to everyone who’s been involved in developing and delivering the Equity Programme ever since our first pilot event in October 2016. It’s been a long and sometimes challenging journey to introduce a progressive positive action scheme like this. Working with students, local employers and national diversity thought leaders, we’ve created something which the University can be really proud of and which offers BAME students a chance to leverage leadership and enterprise skills as they embark upon their graduate careers. 

The Equity programme has 4 pillars: 1-2-1 mentoring, identity and leadership coaching, enterprise education workshops and large evening networking and guest speaker events. National statistics on the performance and progression of ethnic minorities in the labour market (as highlighted by the MacGregor Smith Race in the Workplace Review 2017) have to change and we are proud to be leading the way on the role universities can play in this regard. Finally, we want to thank every facilitator and the external guests who attend our events and enrich our student experience.

Equity evening events run throughout the academic year and are open to the public to attend. We warmly encourage alumni to consider attending the evening events to give our students networking opportunities as well as being part of the collective challenge to diversify the talent pipeline. To find out more please visit www.uwe.ac.uk/equityor email raceequality@uwe.ac.uk

Post written by Dr Zainab Khan- Equity Programme Lead

Take advantage of degree apprenticeship SME funding with UWE Bristol

Posted on

15 May 2019 15:00 – 17:00

Register here

Are you interested in upskilling your workforce and does the cost of training seem a barrier to accessing local talent?

This event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from existing businesses who have apprentices at UWE, and how to make it work. In addition to this, we will be highlighting upcoming degree apprenticeships and further opportunities for your business to train your employees at degree level with the funding available.

UWE Bristol is the only university in the region with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support non-levy employers and has secured funding to support apprentices from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

David Barrett, Director of Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol, will welcome you to the event and alongside the Degree Apprenticeship Hub team will be able to help identify your training needs and suitable solutions.

Spaces are limited for this event, so please register below.

If you have any questions about this event or degree apprenticeships please feel free to contact Ellen Parkes.

We are looking forward to meeting you and beginning the degree apprenticeship partnership journey.

The event takes place in the University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus from 15:00 – 17:00.

Register here

Guest blog: My Day at Clarke Willmott as Part of the Faculty Advisory Board Mentoring Scheme

Posted on

Guest blog by Noëlle Quénivet: 

The Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School launched at the inception of the 2017/2018 academic year a pilot Faculty Advisory Board Mentoring Scheme, the chief aim being to contribute to UWE staff’s personal and career development and provide further, external feedback on the 360 review that all senior academic staff had undergone in the past few years. Among, the wider purposes of this scheme are to create a culture of positive employee engagement and develop a broader understanding of external organisations and the dynamics within an external business so as to be in a position to engage at the right level in target organisations.

As someone who had never worked in a private company and teaches subjects that lead to careers in the public and charity sector as well as in international organisations the opportunity to meet with someone completely outside my world was incongruous, albeit intriguing. I signed up to the scheme and was allocated Karl Brown, a Senior Associate in the Commercial Property team of Clarke Willmott in Bristol, as my mentor. That was no doubt a full immersion into the private and commercial world! We arranged for our first meeting to be over the phone and used the 360 degree feedback as a guide to help kick off the discussions and identify some specific areas for discussion. Designed to be relatively informal this kind of mentorship works well. Whilst overall as well as specific expectations and objectives are set for such meetings, there is plenty of leeway to broach new issues, topics and challenges I am facing in the Bristol Law School, both as a researcher and a lecturer. It also gives Mr Brown, a member of our Advisory Board, the opportunity to get a glance into the academic world. Furthermore, such meetings are an occasion to exchange ideas and discuss the potential involvement of the private sector in academic life. In other words, it is a two-way street, not just a mentoring scheme.

At one of these meetings Mr Brown suggested I spend a day at Clarke Willmott to gain insights into the way a law firm works. He arranged for me to be placed with Richard Moore, a partner at Clarke Willmott working in its Commercial and Private Client Litigation team which focuses on commercial litigation and dispute resolution. The date was set for Wednesday 11 July, at a time when teaching/marking is off the table. Upon my arrival I was met by Mr Brown who gave me a brief tour of the law firm. I quickly realised the size of the firm and the breadth of the legal issues its employees covered. And this was only the Bristol office as Clarke Willmott has also offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Taunton and Southampton! I was then introduced to Mr Moore who presented me to his team and explained the type of work the team undertakes. I was then whisked to attend the compulsory introductory health and safety training.

When I came back from the training three folders had been placed on my desk. Mr Moore explained that it was probably the best way to give me an idea of the type of work carried out by his team. Looking at these folders very much reminded me of my internship at UNHCR London when solicitors would send by post huge folders accompanied by a letter seeking our assistance. I remember staring at my first folder in horror, wondering how I could possibly read this folder in a couple of hours. Indeed, some solicitors would inform us that their client would be deported within days and unless we promptly intervened on their behalf the client would be returned to their country of origin. I quickly learned which documents needed to be read first (or at all) and which sections were the most relevant and thus had to be read in full and with a keen eye for details. All this had to be done in light of UNHCR guidelines and the relevant legal framework. Here, at Clarke Willmott, the case I was given related to a company that had threatened another (and a large number of its customers) with patent litigation if it continued to use a particularly product for which it claimed it had a patent. My knowledge on the subject-matter being pretty much that of a laywoman I decided to focus on the procedure and the practical aspects of the case, eg how can a solicitor know whether a patent claim and counter-claim are genuine, why does a solicitor recommend their client one procedure over another (in this case the shorter trial scheme), how are experts chosen, how is information collected, is it standard practice to reply to a claim paragraph by paragraph (ie point by point), why are there track changes in some of the official documents, etc.? As Mr Moore came back from a meeting I had the opportunity to ask him some of these questions. My next opportunity to understand better the work of a commercial law solicitor was to attend a conference call with a client who had instructed Mr Moore on a variety of litigation matters at Clarke Willmott and his previous firm. Interestingly, he explained to me that some clients even follow solicitors who change law firms. Clearly, this must be an indication of the importance of trust and confidence between a client and a specific solicitor. That being said, Mr Moore also stressed that a hugely positive aspect of being employed by a large law firm is that clients can use the wide range of services offered by the firm and thus all their legal dealings stay ‘in-house’. The conversation indubitably showed this established trust relationship between Mr Moore and his client. The issue at stake was the misuse of a franchise and, sadly for the client, it was not the first time the client was faced with this problem. Mr Moore explained in a very honest manner the advantages and disadvantages of the range of courses of action available to the client. In particular, he pointed out that a change in the law meant that using a previously favoured course of action might not yield the results expected and might be more costly. He expounded his preferred solution which was to send a robust letter to the company in question and to avoid court litigation if at all possible. At first I was a bit bemused by Mr Moore’s attitude as it gave the impression that he was simply saying to the client that they did not need his help. Yet, this would be a flawed understanding of this conversation: capacity-building is part of building a trust relationship between a solicitor and the client. He was advising his client to undertake a course of action which would save them money on legal fees and was putting his client’s interests above those of his own law firm; principle over profit.

Another folder appeared on my desk: it was a pending case relating to fraud in a company. The information was of a different type from the previous case: company reports, interviews, accounting reports, etc. Having previously taught on the module Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility that is offered on the LLM programme at UWE (see eg LLM in Commercial Law) I was flabbergasted by this example of poor practice of corporate governance. In fact, I wondered whether similar documents could be used as the basis for a student assignment. After all it would neatly fit with the Faculty’s strategic priority to offer practice-led modules and programmes. And so, on my ‘to do’ list appeared the item: ‘need to talk to relevant module leaders and suggest this type of document to form the basis of scenario to be looked at in workshops or set for assignment’.

My last insight into the work of a commercial solicitor was fast-paced: it was a conference call from a known client who was wondering whether they could challenge a procurement decision. In a less than ten minute conversation Mr Moore first tried to get an idea of the relevant legal issues and the time-frame and then asked the client to send him the materials as soon as possible. As he put down the phone he informed his colleague who had attended the call to find out as quickly as possible whether suitable barristers were available for such a case (bearing in mind it looked like a week-end job) and to start the paperwork as soon as the client would send formal instructions to Mr Moore. It was interesting to see the beginning of a case with a team working against the clock and without any prior knowledge of the claim.

Overall I very much enjoyed my day at Clarke Willmott. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on the modules we offer and more specifically the design and assessment of these modules. Whereas an academic law degree centres upon the acquisition of relevant legal knowledge and skills procedural issues are hardly ever looked at. They are definitely more the focus on the LPC and BPTC, the professional courses we offer at UWE and prepare law graduates to become solicitors and barristers. The tasks Mr Moore undertook on that day were those taught on these courses, yet without a rigorous knowledge of company law and the law relating to copyright, patent and procurement he would not be able to deal with these cases. It is really a matter of building students’ knowledge step by step whilst giving them an insight into the next step. In fact, students who are taking part in the vast range of pro bono activities offered by the Bristol Law School benefit, like me on my day at Clarke Willmott, from a better insight into the procedural aspects of legal action; one might say, a better insight into the real world.

Jackie Jones addresses the United Nations on women’s human rights

Posted on

Professor Jackie Jones was one of only 9 representatives of all UK Non-Government Officials (NGOs) speaking at the United Nations in Geneva.

Professor Jones was author of the United Nations Wales Shadow Report on Women’s Human Rights that has been submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  The Shadow Report compiles  evidence from the Third sector (NGOs) on how well the Welsh and Westminster governments are complying with their international law obligations.

The report highlights some serious gaps, including, closure of courts, rape crises centres, lack of funding opportunities and increases in violence to name but a few. It also calls for transposition of the CEDAW into domestic law to ensure no regression in rights for women in the future. The report has been received by the Committee and is on its website.

CEDAW monitors the implementation of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (adopted 18 December 1979).  Countries who have become party to the treaty (States parties) are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of the Convention are implemented.

During its sessions, the Committee members discuss these reports with the Government representatives and explore with them areas for further action by the specific country. The Committee also makes general recommendations to the States parties on matters concerning the elimination of discrimination against women.

In this instance, Jackie Jones was giving evidence to the pre-session of CEDAW. The Committee heard evidence about the compliance of the UK with its human rights obligations towards women.

Professor Jones focused on domestic transposition/implementation of CEDAW into UK law – and the effects of devolution on women’s unequal position in the 4 nations – as reflected in British society, policy and law.

For more information about the process, please see:


PRO BONO: African Prisons Project – Life-changing experiences

Posted on

The Pro Bono Unit at UWE Bristol works with the African Prisons Project. The project sees UWE students assisting prisoners and prison warders during their Law studies. Kathy Brown has previously blogged about the project here.

Earlier this year, funding was achieved to allow a few students to undertake a summer internship in Kenya and Uganda for the APP. Below Kathy Brown reports on their experiences so far:

 Summer in Kenya … or not as the case may be!

On 2nd July I flew to Nairobi with three UWE law students as they ventured to start a ‘summer internship’ with APP.  Kelly, George and Lindsay were the first cohort of volunteers with Rad and Nakita arriving 18th July. Our first impressions after a 90 minute visa queue at midnight is that it’s cold, we are being choked by diesel and we are on a six lane highway heading into the centre of Nairobi!

It’s 4th July before we make our way to our first prison – Kamiti High Security Men’s prison (once notorious for beatings, excessive overcrowding and a prison officers resisted being posted to). 

We are met by a very different experience.  There’s no mistaking the blue and white stripe heavy cotton uniforms with bright yellow nylon sweaters to rage off the ‘winter’ cold but apart from that this prison is open – and inmates move around en masse with no obvious security. 

We are taken to the ‘Academy’ a shabbily constructed and maintained two storey block with partitioned walls to segregate English from Maths classes and History from Biology. 

Upstairs along the rickety iron stairway constructed by the students themselves is the preserve of the law students and others.  We make our introductions, which we have been warned are important and lengthy.  Two hours later it feels joyous and riotous. 

We’ve all been invited to Wilson’s anticipated High Court hearing on the 18th July following his legal challenge of the unconstitutionality of the Kenyan death penalty … watch this space.

Kelly Eastham attended the High Court to hear that Wilson’s death penalty for aggravated burglary 20 years ago is unconstitutional – he will be re-sentenced next week; this highly intellectual and learned undergraduate law student is likely to be released in view of his term served.  Sadly he has no family.  Kelly was his family today and visited him in the holding cell where he was un-cuffed to meet her.  Choking back the tears she offered her support.  Life-changing stuff.



Honorary degree awarded to Alderman Timothy Hailes, JP

Posted on

UWE Bristol awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws to Alderman and Sheriff of the City of London, Timothy Hailes, JP, in recognition of his contribution to the legal profession and to public service.

The honorary degree was conferred at the Awards Ceremony of the Faculty of Business and Law at Bristol Cathedral on Monday 16 July at 10.30.

Tim is the current Aldermanic Sheriff of The City of London – holding an office that dates back to Anglo Saxon times and a pre-requisite to becoming Lord Mayor of the City of London; being established around 700AD. He became Sheriff at the age of 49. He is also a Managing Director and Associate General Counsel in the Legal Department of JPMorgan Chase & Co, which he joined as an Associate in 1999. Prior to joining JPMorgan he trained and qualified as a Solicitor, practising in law firms from 1993-1999 with a particular specialism in derivatives, securities and international capital markets.

Tim was educated at Bristol Grammar School, read a BA (Hons) degree in Medieval and Early Modern History at Kings College London where he was also President of the Students Union (1988-89), and then returned to Bristol to undertake his professional qualifications in law at UWE from 1991-93. He still considers himself a proud Bristol boy!

He was elected Alderman for the Ward of Bassishaw in the City of London in May 2013 having been appointed and sworn to the magistracy in the prior January. In 2017 he was appointed a Member of the Order of St John by HM The Queen.

In May 2014 he was named In House UK Finance Lawyer of the Year, was recognised as European Financial Services Regulatory Lawyer of the Year in May 2017 and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to the UK In House Legal Profession in December 2017. He is widely acknowledged as one of the leading banking, financial services and regulatory lawyers in the country and has represented the industry to governments, regulators and supranational organisations all over the world.

Congratulations Tim!

Pro bono works

Posted on

In a series of blog posts Associate Head of Pro Bono, Marcus Keppel-Palmer will be sharing with us why Pro Bono at UWE Bristol works. In this first post Marcus shares research shared at the UWE Learning & Teaching Conference about the similarities between Law students and Journalism students:

Pro Bono gives students an opportunity to develop their professional identity as lawyers, allowing them to develop skills, confidence, ethics and professionalism outside the classroom.  I explored this at the UWE Learning & Teaching Conference jointly with Sally Reardon (UWE Journalism), who also found that journalists form their professional identity away from the gaze and strictures of assessment.

Students come to University with pre-formed views as to what Journalism and Lawyering is, views that are mainly formed by media images, often casting these characters as the hero of the story. Typical depictions of lawyers and lawyering can be found in To Kill A Mockingbird, The Rainmaker, and other John Grisham stories, whilst crusading journalists are depicted in films such as All The Presidents Men and The Post.

However, when they start to study, students are shocked that the reality of study is at odds with these romanticised images. Sally and I argued that students needed to see these professions in the round, creating an individual professional identity, and through that a coherent learning community. Professional Identity is the more than simply ethics and professionalism; it is the way a lawyer understands his or her role relative to all of the stakeholders in the legal system, including clients, courts, opposing parties and counsel, the firm and the legal system or society as a whole. Journalists of course play a valuable role within the courts too, but of course have a wider set of stakeholders and wider social impact to engage with.

In order to develop professional identity, students need opportunities to experience the complex interlay of professional behaviours, skills, ethics, and the relationships, whilst using their doctrinal knowledge. For law students and journalists that often requires participation in extra-curricular activities. Sally spoke about the Global News Relay, an annual event whereby UWE journalists collaborate with students from other countries around the world to compile a snapshot news programme across time zones and continents in one day. I spoke of the professional identity law students forge through participation in various strands of pro bono, such as the welfare benefits advice service, the Business Advice Clinic, and the Bristol Music Advice Service.

To find out more about the pro bono offering at UWE Bristol please see here.

Back to top