Spotlight: Collaboration is key to boost social mobility

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Guest blog by Karl Brown FRSA, UWE Bristol Law alum and Faculty Advisory Board member.

I am a Commercial Property Partner in the Bristol office of national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP. I am proud to not only be Bristol born and bred but also very proud of my Jamaican heritage. My parents came to the UK in the early 1960s from Jamaica and my dad was a plasterer and my mum was a nurse. The example of my parents gave me a good work ethic but also a desire to make positive change by boosting social mobility and diversity in our professions. I found it very difficult to get a training contract (and ended up making over 100 applications) but through a combination of determination and also mentoring I eventually managed to get a training contract.

My personal experiences mean giving back to young people from less privileged backgrounds is important to me and is why I became a social mobility ambassador for the Law Society in 2016. In my role as a social mobility ambassador, I have given various careers presentations both in-person (pre-pandemic) and also online to show young people from underrepresented backgrounds that they can with the right attitude and work ethic have a career in law.

I firmly believe that it is only through collaboration between the business world and education institutions that we have any chance of reaching out to young people from a range of different backgrounds and inspiring them to try and achieve their desired careers.  This is why I was very proud in 2015 to be a founder member of the Bristol Learning City Partnership Board working alongside headteachers from schools in Bristol to try to formulate policies that work both for schools and also local business. And it is also why in my current role on UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Business and Law Advisory Board I always try and give the perspective of the business world when discussing ideas/proposed policies for the faculty. These roles have also I think made me a better solicitor and business leader as they have increased not only my range of soft skills but my understanding of how the world of business can best attract and develop talent.

Collaboration between businesses within a sector is also key if positive change is to be brought to that sector. I founded the Bristol Property Inclusion Charter (“the Charter”) in 2019 to boost diversity and inclusion in the Bristol property sector. Through research and also through my own networking as a property solicitor, I could see that the Bristol property sector was not as diverse as it could be given the wider diversity in the Bristol population. Another driver in my desire to bring positive change to the property industry was having seen my dad who like many other west Indian immigrants and immigrants from other countries in the past found a skilled trade in the property industry which enabled my dad and others to not only make a positive contribution to the UK economy but also to give a good start in life to their children.

The Charter has seven objectives which in summary include trying to open up opportunities in the Bristol property sector and collaboration to bring transformative change. The running of the Charter is through the Bristol Property Inclusion Commission which I founded in early 2020 and I sit on the commission as Chair alongside representatives from other parts of the property industry. In 2016 the Charter had about fifteen signatory companies/organisations but today we have sixty-six which include YTL, Live West, Bristol City Council, Avison Young, Redrow, Galliard Homes, Grainger plc and Elim Housing.

I would just conclude by making a confession. If you speak to my wife she will tell you that I am an avid follower of the news and in particular love watching CNN. It was watching CNN last year that I saw someone mention an old African proverb and as soon as I heard it I thought I would use it in speeches and articles. The proverb is “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.” If we work together then I firmly believe we can bring positive change to professions such as law and also to sectors such as property.

Stifling Access to Sanitation through Privatisation of Public Facilities in Ghana: The Cases of Human Rights and Dignity

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Blog by Dr. Felix Nana Kofi Ofori, REACT Humanitarian Network, Oxford, UK. Former PhD student, Bristol Law School, UWE Bristol.

Human well-being, now and in the future, depends on a healthy environment characterised by access to safe sanitation in society. [1] This blog examines the challenges confronting majority of Ghanaians whose access to sanitation, is hindered by privatisation and limited provision of public facilities; and where these are available, they are exorbitantly expensive thereby stifling and violating the dignity and human rights of the people. [2]

Access to sanitation as a right, evokes controversies in international human rights jurisprudence compared to the conventional rights. However, it is no secret within the Ghanaian society, that majority of the citizenry in cities, regional centres, including the remotest communities of the country, lack access to sanitation. [3] Fundamentally, lack of access to sanitation is a violation of the human rights and dignity of Ghanaians; as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), [4] as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in 2010).[5] However, under Ghana’s liberalisation and privatisation agenda, which was promoted by the IMF/World Bank[6], majority of public toilet/latrine facilities in the country were privatised with a view  to enhance the efficient management and provision of services for the people. Furthermore, since all human rights are interdependent there is little doubt that access to sanitation is critical to achieving human dignity which is at the fore-front of protecting human health.[6a] [6b]

As society evolves so the ambit of rights grow to protect and promote the welfare and dignity of peoples globally, and particularly in this context, Ghana. Sanitation is crucially one area in which the dignity of most Ghanaians is violated because of the failure of successive governments to establish facilities to protect this right. [7] In its preamble, the United Nations Charter provides that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. [8] Thus, there can be no realisation of human rights without respect for human dignity; therefore, sanitation should be given critical priority by the government in allocating budgetary and physical resources to ensure that Ghanaians gain access to effective sanitation services. The duty to establish sanitation and hygiene facilities in Ghana as other countries, spans three obligations- availability, accessibility and affordability. [9] 

First, availability means that the government establishes public sanitation facilities within reasonable distance of the people’s reach; whilst, ensuring that poorer communities are not denied access to sanitation for want of paying. [10] Second, accessibility, is defined by the WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme and Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, as a standard 30 minutes time for someone to go to and return from a sanitation facility. [11] Also, it is the responsibility of the government and local authorities to ensure that children and persons with disabilities coupled with the location of the sanitation facilities do not impede access to such services. Third, affordability, as a human rights criterion, requires that “access to sanitation facilities and services be made reasonably affordable to all peoples, especially in the poorer part of cities and deprived communities of a county”. [12] Whilst the UNDP sets a threshold of 3 per cent, that by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is 4 per cent and that by the Asian Development Bank is 5 per cent respectively. [13] Despite the above established thresholds, the government and public agencies responsible for sanitation services in Ghana, continue to violate the right to sanitation; by failing, to adopt creative strategies to ameliorate any hardships pricing mechanisms impose on the people regarding access to sanitation services.

Strategically, the World Bank plays vital roles in the development of nations, especially Ghana, by offering financial and policy directions to help them improve their socio-economic services of which sanitation constitutes an integral part. Privatisation of water and sanitation services is one area in which the World Bank’s strategic guidance had created mixed consequences in Ghana. The World Bank opines that private participation in the sanitation services is beneficial to the state and its people because it introduces efficient and judicious management of services; and it secures the requisite funding to repair and maintain old infrastructures. [14] Conversely, larger parts of communities in cities and town throughout Ghana practise open defecation due to limited or non-availability of sanitation facilities. [15] The majority view is that privatisation not only stifles access to sanitation in further violation of the people’s dignity, but also breaches established obligations of governments to protect access to sanitation, as enshrined in International human rights law. [16] This resonates with the premise that economic and political expediencies coupled with national policies cannot be deployed by the government and its agencies to commit blatant illegalities concerning the implementation of privatisation agenda.

Primarily, the right to sanitation is considered as a private responsibility enjoining the individual to build his/her own latrine or pay to connect to the sewerage system; however, where individuals cannot afford to pay for this responsibility, the state has to bear this duty in two respects. First, the State should adopt the necessary measures such as tariff schemes or subsidies to ensure that services are affordable; and second, implement practical framework and enabling environment to guarantee access to sanitation. [17]

Copious evidence suggest that privatisation stifles access to sanitation which in turn undermines the human rights and dignity of Ghanaians, especially those in poorer communities, who lack the financial backing to either build or pay for sanitation services. The right to sanitation is an enshrined human right obligation of governments in the international community, including Ghana, requiring that access is protected and promoted without citing arguments of economic, social or political expediencies. Although Ghana has finite resources like other states, it is obliged to allocate portion of its budgetary resources to ensure that access to sanitation and hygiene facilities are progressively realised in accordance with international and constitutional mandates. Similarly, the duty to protect access to sanitation extends to supervising the implementation of privatisation contracts without compromising the dignity and human rights of Ghanaians.

References

[1] <www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/WaterAndSanitation/SR/Water/Pages/Progressiverealization.aspx. >Accessed December 13, 2021.

[2]Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (General Assembly Resolution 70/1, para. 5).

[3] UNICEF Ghana: “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” < https://www.unicef.org/Ghana/Water-Saniation-and-Hygiene> Accessed December 14, 2021.  

[4] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) (1966) UNTS, Art. 2 (1)

[5] Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, Caterina de Albuguerque, Report, Mission to Egypt, 50, UN. Doc.A/HRC/15/31/Add.3 (Jul. 5, 2010).

[6a] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969),  Adopted May 23, 1969, entered into force on January 27, 1980, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1155,p 331.

[6b] The World Bank-FAQ-World Bank Group Support for Water and Sanitation Solutions<https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/water/brief/working-with-private-sectors-to-increase-water-sanitation-access > Accessed December 14, 2021.

[7] Gould, C. and Brown, C. Sanitation Challenge for Ghana Dignified City Award (Stage 2), May 2020, IMC Worldwide.

[8] The Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice, UN, New York (1997) 3.

[9] A/HRC/45/10, “Progressive Realization of the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation” Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, September 14- October 2, 2020.

[10] A/HRC/45/10, Ibid. see note 9, para. 35

[11) Ibid. see note 9, para. 37

[12] Ibid. see note 9, para. 39

[13] A/HRC/30/39, Report of the Special Rapporteur  on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation: Addendum, para. 25.

[14] The World Bank –FAQ – World Bank Group Support for Water and Sanitation Solutions < https://www.worldbank.org/en/topics/water/brief/working-with-private-sectors-to-increase-water-sanitation-access-> Accessed December 14, 2021.

[15] The World Bank, Ibid.

[16] Winkler, T.I., The Human Right to Sanitation (2016), University of Pennsylvania Journal of International, Vol.37 (4) 1331-1406.

[17] Eide, A., Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as Human Rights in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights- Textbook, 9, 24 (Asbjorn Eide, Catarina Krause and Allan Rosas eds, 2nd ed., 2001)

Alumni spotlight: Choo Dee Wei

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Guest blog by LLB alumni, Choo Dee Wei.

I commenced the LLB (Hons) degree with HELP in 2001. It was a twinning-programme with UWE Bristol. My final year i.e. my 3rd year was in UWE itself. This was in 2003. Thereafter I undertook the Bar Vocational Course and was called to the Bar of England & Wales in 2005. I was admitted as an advocate & solicitor of the High Court in Malaya in 2007.

I wouldn’t trade my learning experience for anything in the world. UWE has provided lessons both in real life and in a classroom setting.

Without it, it is doubtful that I would be where I am today.

These lessons have brought me to this moment in time. Over a decade in practice and now managing and running my own firm comprising associates, pupils, staff, paralegals and interns. That aside, it remains important and vital to continue to develop and nurture young students to become great practitioners. Hence being involved in numerous events and sessions of such nature.

Choo Dee Wei
Present: Principal of Messrs. Choo Dee Wei
Graduated: LLB(Hons) 2003, UWE BVC 2005

“Too big to fail and too big to jail?” Are some corporations’ untouchable to the UK regulators?

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Blog by Amber Egan, UWE Bristol Law alumni

Public trust in business has been tarnished by the disclosure of fraudulent, dishonest and harmful activity by banks and corporations, such as the fall of Arthur Andersen and Libor Scandal.[1] The extent of corporate crime was brought to light during the 2007-2008 financial crisis, there was vast illegal conduct of many financial institutions who were then bailed out by the taxpayer. This was the turning point for the regulators and governments, it highlighted that tighter controls and sanctions were needed for corporations.

For corporations to be held accountable the prosecution had to prove that a person had “the directing mind and will of the company,” which is known as the identification doctrine.[2] This doctrine failed at many hurdles, including ignoring the complexity of modern corporations, the inequality between different sized corporations and individuals, but also, a lack of evidence for prosecution. Due to such ambiguity surrounding responsibility in larger complex corporations, it may be impossible to show ‘a controlling mind and will’. The identification doctrine can cause inequality between how ‘the untouchable executives’ and the ‘low-hanging fruit’ are treated, lower-level employees can be easy scapegoats for large corporations.[3] Following the Libor scandal, several low-level traders were prosecuted such as UBS trader Tom Hayes[4] whereas UBS could not be held criminally liable due to difficulty in fulfilling the requirements of the doctrine.

To try and address the issues with the identification doctrine, the UK introduced a series of statutes using the failure-to-prevent module to strengthen the approach to corporate economic crime. The new module was employed in both The Bribery Act 2010 and The Criminal Finances Act 2017, the offences can be classed as strict liability as the only defence available to corporations is a due-diligence defence, where the corporation can prove that ‘adequate procedures’ were in place to prevent such conduct making prosecution straight forward.[5]  The results from charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) are disappointing, the failure-to-prevent bribery offence[6]has only had two convictions since the introduction in 2010. The regulators have mainly employed DPAs as punishment instead of pushing for conviction. Unfortunately, the enforcement strategy is often determined by the size and the importance of the corporation, there has only been two convictions using the failure-to-prevent module, both being SMEs.[7] The regulators and even the judges fear prosecuting corporations that are ‘too big to fail’ and as a result it can be argued they alter the rules to fit the corporation making them ‘too big to jail.’

The SFO is not the only regulator in the UK with power, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) can take action such as suspending or withdrawing a firm’s authorisation, issuing civil fines, injunctions, restitution orders and insolvency orders, however breaches rarely amount to anything but fines.[8] The FCA has the power under the Money Laundering Regulations 2017[9] to criminally prosecute a person or organisation it suspects of not putting in place sufficient safeguards against money laundering. The FCA has not brought a single criminal prosecution against a firm or individual for breaching its new Regulations which came into effect in 2017.[10]

The UK introduced DPAs in 2013,[11] the driving force for legislating DPA’s is the difficulty in achieving successful prosecutions of corporate offenders, however they have had limited application. They often include provisions for corporations to pay large fines, along with improving their conduct and governance through an external monitor. The aim is to foster cooperation between corporations and regulators by encouraging self-reporting in aid of leniency.[12]  Even though DPAs are available to be used by all enforcement agencies, so far they have only been used by the SFO for nine agreements and have largely been for bribery offences.[13] Whereas since 2013, the US has entered into 280 DPAs for numerous financial crimes. [14] Some positives of DPAs are that funds and resources are saved by avoiding a lengthy court trial especially where a corporation self-reports and it limits the uncertainty of a trial. One of the weaknesses with a DPAs is inconsistency between large and SMEs. SMEs often commit much less severe crimes, but as they do not pose a risk to the economy when they go bankrupt, a prosecution can pushed for. Another weakness is the deterrence given with a DPA, HSBC is a repeat offender when it comes to financial crime so there is a risk of financial penalties from DPAs becoming “a cost of doing business, lessening the impact and the effectiveness of DPAs.”[15]

The regulators principal argument for the move towards DPA’s is the risk of the collateral consequences caused by a prosecution.[16] When a corporation is convicted it would bring collateral consequences on potentially innocent employees and shareholders, along with possible catastrophic effects for the industry, the stock market and the knock-on effects for the wider community.

For example, HSBC being a systematically important institution meant that it was untouchable by regulators, the fear of the damage to the global economy was far greater than the need for prosecution in the UK and US. As a result, they were offered a DPA and controversially kept their banking licence. Many corporations have essential government contracts so prosecutors are careful to avoid penalties leading to automatic debarments that would affect government operations where government contracts are essential the collateral consequences would be severe, such as military contracts.[17]

Prosecutors seeking to deter corporate crime should adjust their strategies to focus more on charging culpable individuals, as there has been very little prosecution activity for individuals also. However, prosecution is only a benefit if the correct individuals are being identified, as discussed above, lower-level employees are made scapegoats by senior executives.

Does the Senior Managers Certificate Regimer light at the end of the tunnel?

The SMCR aims to encourage a culture of staff at all levels taking personal responsibility for their actions and making sure staff clearly demonstrate where responsibility lies.[18] This makes the issue of identification much easier as responsibilities of senior managers will be clearly set out and, should something in their area of responsibility go wrong, they can be personally held accountable. For the senior managers regime, firms must provide documentation to the FCA to show responsibilities of senior managers and their suitability for their jobs.[19]

The certification regime is for those that are not senior managers but ‘whose role means it’s possible for them to cause significant harm to the firm or customers’.[20] A firm should not permit an employee to carry out certain functions unless it has issued them with a certificate to say that they are fit and proper for the specific function.

The FCA has extensive powers allowing them to issue penalties, custodial sentences and prohibitions[21] for breaches of the SMCR including breaches of the Code of Conduct[22] and breaches of The Fit and Proper rules,[23] set out in the FCA handbook.[24] However, as seen before just because the FCA has the power to impose custodial sentences does not mean they will, the FCA has only imposed fines under the SMCR as yet.


[1] Ministry of Justice Corporate Liability for Economic Crime Call for Evidence (Ministry of Justice: London, 2017) p3

[2] Tesco Supermarkets LTD v Nattrass [1972] AC 153

[3] Nick Werle, ‘Prosecuting Corporate Crime When Firms Are Too Big to Jail: Investigation, Deterrence, and Judicial Review’ (2019) 128 Yale L J 1366, p1412

[4] R v Tom Alexander William Hayes [2015] EWCA Crim 1944.

[5] A Ashworth, ‘A new generation of omissions offences?’ (2018) 5 Crim. L.R. 354 p.4.

[6] The Bribery Act 2010 s7.

[7] There have been two convictions under s7 of the Bribery Act 2010 for failing to prevent bribery, while under s45 and s46 of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 there has been no convictions to date. The government is unable even to specify the number of companies who fail to file tax returns or the amount of penalties collected for late filing.<https://leftfootforward.org/2021/04/our-watchdogs-are-toothless/ > accessed 29th April 2021

[8] The Financial Conduct Authority ‘Enforcement’ (FCA,2016) <https://www.fca.org.uk/about/enforcement> accessed 29th June 2020

[9] This replaced the Money Laundering Regulations 2007

[10] Rozi Jones ‘FCA yet to prosecute under 2017 money laundering rules’ (Financial Reporter, January 2020) <https://www.financialreporter.co.uk/regulation/fca-yet-to-prosecute-under-2017-money-laundering-rules.html#:~:text=For%20over%20two%20years%20the,up%20to%20two%20years’%20imprisonment.> accessed 5th August 2020

[11] Crime and Courts Act 2013 s45 Schedule 17

[12] F Mazzacuva, ‘Justifications and purposes of negotiated justice for corporate offenders: deferred and non-prosecution agreements in the UK and US systems of criminal justice’ (2014) 78 J. Crim. L. 249

[13] SFO have come to nine agreements since the introduction of DPAs in 2013.

[14] Gibson Dunn, ‘2019 Year-end update on corporate non-prosecution agreement and deferred prosecution agreements’ (Jan 2020) <https://www.gibsondunn.com/2019-year-end-npa-dpa-update/> accessed 4th August 2020

[15] Editorial, “Too Big to Indict”, New York Times, 12 December 2012, quoted in Reilly, “Justice Deferred is Justice Denied” (2015) Brigham Young University Law Review 101, 103.

[16] Nick Werle, ‘Prosecuting Corporate Crime When Firms Are Too Big to Jail: Investigation, Deterrence, and Judicial Review’ (2019) 128 Yale L J 1366, p1378

[17] For example, Rolls Royce, Airbus and G4S all have government contracts.

[18] Press Release, ‘FCA outlines proposals to extend the Senior Managers and Certification Regime to all financial services firms’ (FCA, July 2017) <https://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-outlines-proposals-extend-senior-managers-certification-regime-all-firms> accessed 8th April 2020

[19] Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 Part 4 s29

[20] O Jackson, ‘Primer: the senior Managers certification regime’ (2018) International Financial Review 1

[21] Lexis PSL ‘FCA and PRA investigations, enforcement and discipline overview’ (Lexis Nexis, 2020) <https://www.lexisnexis.com/uk/lexispsl/corporatecrime/document/393813/583N-GY51-F18F-M1K2-00000-00/FCA-and-PRA-investigations,-enforcement-and-discipline—overview> accessed 29th April 2020.

[22] Referred to as COCON

[23] Referred to as FIT

[24] Examples of penalties include J Staley CEO of Barclays for breaching COCON 2.1.2 fined £321,200 by the FCA, Guillaume Adolph a former Deutsche trader for breaches of Principle 5 and FIT fined £180,000 and a prohibition by the FCA. See Financial Conduct Authority ‘Fines 2018’ (FCA,2020) <https://www.fca.org.uk/news/news-stories/2018-fines> accessed 29th April 2020.

Case study: UWE Bristol Law Alumni

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My name is Miriam C Nkomalago, a UWE Bristol alumni from the graduate year of 2018. I transferred to UWE Bristol in my last year of LLB from HELP University, Malaysia, through the UK Law Degree Transfer Program offered at HELP University.

Moving and studying at UWE Bristol was very life changing for me. I enjoyed the hospitality shown to me by my flat mates at the Hollies, where a lot of good memories were created with them.  The career fairs hosted by the University enabled me to network with individuals creating great impact in their communities and helped me get a volunteer opportunity at Nilaari Agency.

Nilaari was home to me. Everyone was keen to help me learn about their work and participate in their decision meetings and events. Through Nilaari, I was able to learn a lot about their efforts in dealing with mental health in Bristol and the whole of UK. I was able to understand the harsh living conditions and the impact it has on the mental health of the immigrants and people in BAME communities. My time at UWE gave me the chance to explore a leadership position as the Vice President of the East African Society. This position taught me about the different personalities and characters we associate with and how to communicate and cooperate with one another positively.

Another thing that made my time at UWE worthwhile was the 24 hour access to the library facilities at Frenchay campus. I never liked studying or working in the library because I preferred my own space; but when I moved to UWE, a lot of my work was done in the library because of the options like the ‘silent floor’ which was rarely fully occupied and there were no distractions when working.

Once I returned back home, I founded a legal database for law students and lawyers in Tanzania, Lex Scripta. The platform provides vital legal resources to legal scholars and practitioners in Tanzania. It currently provides access to cases, Acts and student written articles for free. Moreover, I work closely with law students by teaching them ways to navigate through law school and other practical skills they need in order to catch up with the changes of the legal field.

I am a strong believer that an individual’s personal development and career growth can be positively enhanced through the accessibility and affordability of the right studying and working resources. With this platform, I get to work closely with law students and lawyers in my country by enhancing their research and practical skills through short online sessions and workshops.  In the short period of working with them, students have reached out to me with positive feedback that Lex Scripta has been of help in their studies by being able to research and access case laws, having ease in attempting and answering exam questions because they now understand what answers to give the examiner and more. So far, I already see myself creating the difference I envisioned for Lex Scripta and I am looking forward to reaching out and helping more law students and lawyers.

To stay in touch with UWE Bristol and access news and benefits for alumni, visit our Stay Connected web page.

Karl Brown: My legal life

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This blog was originally posted by the Law Society Gazette. UWE Bristol Law School alum and Faculty of Business and Law advisory board member, Karl Brown, speaks about his career to date.

At school my best and favourite subjects were English and history. I quickly realised that I would like a career which would involve analysing documents and using communication skills. In the sixth form I got a short work experience placement at a local law firm. This confirmed to me that I would like to study law at university and then go on to a legal career.

I found it very difficult to get a training contract. I did not secure one until four years after I had finished my degree, following more than 100 applications. I eventually obtained a contract with Porter Dodson in Somerset and my training was in its Taunton office. My seats were commercial property, litigation (a combination of civil and family litigation), residential conveyancing and private client.  

Many of the titles I had to review as part of my commercial property seat were large bundles of unregistered title documents or complicated titles related to rural properties. Despite this steep learning curve, I really enjoyed it and my confidence increased rapidly. My seat in residential conveyancing helped me fully understand each step involved in the property buying/selling process and also confirmed to me that I would ultimately want to specialise in property law.

I am a passionate believer in diversity, inclusion and social mobility. Working every day with the Bristol property industry I saw the fantastic opportunities available for anyone who would like a challenging and rewarding career, but I was concerned that not all young people in Bristol were aware of these opportunities. To address this I set up and launched the Bristol Property Inclusion Charter. This involves firms, companies and organisations working in the Bristol property industry signing up to pledges which aim to make the industry more diverse and inclusive. It is the UK’s first city property inclusion charter. I have been heartened by the enthusiastic response and to date have secured more than 15 signatories, including social housing associations, corporate building and architectural firms, estate agents and the University of the West of England. 

I saw the fantastic opportunities in the Bristol property industry available for anyone who would like a challenging and rewarding career, but I was concerned that not all young people in Bristol were aware of them

The Bristol Junior Chamber (BJC) is a business group for people under the age of 40. I joined the BJC in 2008 and from 2009 spent four years as its chair of education and skills (which included coordinating mock interviews at local schools), one year as vice-president and then in 2014 I became its first-ever black president. I had three main objectives: (a) organising speakers and events to help members become future leaders; (b) promoting products made or industries located in Bristol (for example, I organised a tour for BJC members of Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol, which has been the location for some major films and TV series); and (c) promoting the importance of social mobility to the business community in Bristol. Among other things, I arranged for the then deputy chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Baroness Gillian Shephard, to give a speech on social mobility at an inaugural BJC President’s Lecture.

In 2015 I was invited by the mayor of Bristol to sit on the new Bristol Learning City Partnership Board. Bristol was the first learning city in England. The aim of the board was to promote the idea that learning is for everyone regardless of age or background and should not stop when a person concludes their formal school/university education. 

It is clear that the legal sector has recognised the importance of diversity and social mobility. This can be seen when you look at firm websites and when you read articles from law firm leaders. I do think, however, that it is also recognised that law firms have not only to confirm that they have a diversity/social mobility agenda, but also demonstrate results. I am sure that if law firms do adopt procedures such as name-blind CVs and contextual recruitment, more firms will, in time, be able to demonstrate results from their social mobility objectives.  

Karl Brown, Senior Associate, Clarke Willmott. Image: Law Society Gazette.

UWE Bristol wins Guardian Award for Equity Programme

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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

Guest blog post: A student representatives’ perspective of the Times Higher Education awards ceremony

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Guest author: Mia Collins, 3rd Year Business and Management Student 

Currently in my final year of studying Business and Management, I have been fortunate enough to represent the department as its Lead Department Representative and the Finance, Business and Law faculty as its Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Committee member. These roles have demonstrated huge benefits to my educational and professional development, yet, the most monumental opportunity the positions have brought me is attending the Times Higher Education Awards in London. As a typical student does, I have had significant exposure to Bristol’s nightlife – but none of them compare to the night I had at the awards ceremony.

The night began on, rather, a stressful start; having only 1 hour to get to get ‘black tie’ ready, I was under significant pressure– for those who know me well enough, will understand exactly the level of stress I mean. Despite this, I was immensely excited. We ventured over to the JV Marriott Grovesnor House in London, where we were met with bubbly and snacks. Walking into the reception room, in itself, was an experience; everyone had gone above and beyond with their appearance and looked fantastic. Before the night had really began, this was a great opportunity for me to get to know the people who facilitate the day to day operations of UWE; as a team of 14 (2 being myself and Lily Liu, the only students in attendance), were able to get to know the likes of Steve West, Donna Whitehead and lot more. Before one too many glasses of prosecco, we got a #teamUWE picture:

(Don’t we scrub up well!)

After a chatter and a social, we were taken into the main awards hall. Merely walking towards the hall, you are greeted by the most amazing floor imaginable (see below). From the onset, everything about the night was glamourous. Once we (eventually) found our tables, we sat down to a starter of crispy salt cod fritter (essentially, the fanciest fish finger ever), followed by slow braised beef short rib with vegetables, finishing off with a Greek yoghurt tart and petits fours – yum.

As time went on, the more nervous we all became, and before we knew it, our category was up next. We had thankfully been shortlisted, for the second year in a row, Business School of the Year and were up against some intense competition. The category was announced… UWE’s participation was mentioned… a huge cheer from all of our 3 tables… on the very edge of our seats…the winner was announced… and THEN, ah. ESCP Europe Business School were awarded the winners of 2018. Despite not winning, this year(!), we didn’t lose spirit. We were up for Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration. Again, we didn’t quite get it this time; we did, however, receive a special commendation for our efforts. Not all bad, eh?

The night didn’t end there – a disco was to follow. Thankfully, we were sat the closest to the stairs, so UWE were the first to get to the dancefloor. I must add, we took over the ENTIRE dance floor, truly a UWE takeover. The night didn’t purely involve partying, it was a great opportunity for me to develop my networking skills and get to meet some senior figures from all across the country – one in particular, the Sponsorship Director of the Times Higher Education awards. After hours of singing our hearts – out at the very top of our lungs – lunging and squatting(?) to the beat and showing the other universities why UWE really are the best, the disco came to an end – it takes a lot of skill and endurance to be the FIRST and LAST ones on the dancefloor, but we executed it so well.

We got back to our hotel in the early hours of the morning and, with no voice left and feet in agony from high heels, we sat in the lobby, each with our takeaway laughing and chatting until it was time for bed.

The night as an entity was phenomenal, I am incredibly grateful to be 1 of the 2 students fortunate enough to attend. I’ve not only taken away great memories from it but have also made great relationships with senior staff whom I would never usually have the opportunity meet. A huge thank you to everyone who facilitated the evening and made it as incredible as it was. Every day I am more and more honoured to represent UWE and everything we achieve. Bring on Business School of the Year 2019!

Below are a few photos from the evening:

   

Bristol Law School graduate named Human Rights Lawyer of the Year

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By Jeremy Allen, Media Relations

A Bristol Law School graduate has been named Human Rights Lawyer of the Year by the Law Society, the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales. Ravi Naik was awarded the accolade for work as a leading lawyer representing a client on the Cambridge Analytica case.

After receiving the award Naik, who is partner at Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, said: “Receiving this recognition is fantastic and something I never expected. When I was a student at UWE I could only dream about winning this and it is a testament to the education received there and the people I have subsequently been lucky enough to work with,” he added.

The solicitor studied for a law degree at UWE Bristol, graduating in 2006. He later went on to work in London for the human rights organisation Reprieve to help release British detainees from Guantanamo prison. While at the organisation, he was involved in the case that led to the release of Binyam Mohamed, who was freed from the jail and returned to the UK in 2009.

Naik now works on cases that protect individuals’ data rights. These have included helping a client access their data on Tinder, which revealed 800 pages of information including photos, online chats, education among other data.

The lawyer and his team are also representing an individual on the case that has brought Cambridge Analytica to task about a large quantity of data, which it is accused of harvesting from Facebook profiles and using for political purposes. He is also the lead lawyer against Facebook for the related breach.

“As more and more authority has shifted from public to private entities, a new power relationship has arisen. For me, this work is about re-calibrating that imbalance,” he said. “My interest has always been to hold power to account and give voice to individuals. People have begun to understand that digital services they receive mean that they are often not as free as they might have been. We are starting to see the power of data rights as human rights.”

Human rights has been a topic of interest to Ravi for many years. His great uncle was one of the first Asian barristers to qualify in the UK, before he returned to India as part of the freedom struggle for independence. “He instilled in me this idea that by using the law you can effect change. Later I was lucky to work with some of the best lawyers, academics, journalists and others across the world. They helped me to understand how you can push boundaries in law to also bring about change in international jurisdictions.”

The award was presented at the Law Society Excellence Awards in London on 18 October by news presenter Mishal Husain and Law Society President Christina Blacklaws.

Congratulations Ravi!

Student blog post: With Reference to the Case-Law of the European Convention on Human Rights Do Prisoners Have the Right to Vote and, if yes, to which Extent?

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This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication

Guest author: Magdalena Vakulova

Introduction

The right to vote has always been a hot topic. In fact, fights to achieve universal suffrage have been here for centuries, and still continue today. Even though the right to vote is one of the basic principles of democratic society and the strongest ‘say’ the citizen can have as well as one of the fundamental human rights encapsulated in Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) there are still many ambiguities over potential restrictions to this right.

The current law in the United Kingdom denies the right to vote to prisoners while incarcerated (People Act 1983, part 1 section 3). However, according to Hirst, a case decided by the European Court of Human Rights, the denial of right to vote for prisoners falls outside the given margin of appreciation as the automatic ‘blanket ban‘ contradicts the very essence of this right.

Referring to the relevant case law I will examine the right to vote for prisoners in the UK. I decided to focus on the UK because the judgment (Hirst v UK) was not only the first one in a long series of cases relating to universal suffrage for prisoners but was also applied in different jurisdictions across Europe. I will be arguing that even though the States were given a wide margin of appreciation to exclude prisoners from the voting process, this can only be done if it does not violate the whole essence of the right. In my opinion reasonable restrictions of this right should be allowed and approved as compatible with Article 3, 10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)

Mr Hirst’s Argument

In this video Mr Hirst, convicted of murder, argues in favour of prisoners’ right to vote as a basic human right. 

The Right to Vote as the Basis of Democract

First, we must understand that the right to vote is not only a basic aspect of citizenship but also viewed as the ‘core principle’ (L Beckman ‘The Right to Democracy and the Human Right to Vote: The Instrumental Argument Rejected’ (2014) 13 Journal of Human Rights 381) of the democratic system (Watch this video which explains why a voting right for everyone is so important in a democratic society.) In order to ensure effective democracy within the State the basic human rights of every citizen (Scoppola v Italy, para 51) must be preserved and this without discrimination or unreasonable restrictions incompatible with the terms of the ECHR (Hirst v UK (paras 27 and 41)). Moreover, everyone’s right to participate in voting is implied in Article 21 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and more explicitly outlined in Article 25 of the ICCPR where the right to vote is established as a binding norm of international law. Further Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR states that the right to vote is not only the key aspect of effective political democracy but also an important element of the Convention system (Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v Belgium, para 47). Therefore the exclusion of prisoners from the right to vote must be reconcilable with the purposes of Article 3 of Protocol 1 (Hirst v UK (No. 2), para 62). However, in my opinion, the UK has departed from this fundamental norm as it has prevented prisoners from exercising this basic right and so has fully blocked their access to the democratic system.

The Margin of Appreciation and UK Arguments 

In the case of Hirst v UK it was held that a blanket ban on prisoners’ right to vote under s. 3(1) of the 1983 Act is not compatible with Article 3 of Protocol 1. Even though the States are endowed with a wide margin of appreciation and the rights under Article 3 are not absolute, the automatic ban falls outside these margins (Hirst No 2, para 82) as it is not proportionate (Scoppola, paras 93-102; Hirst No 2, paras 76-85) (see also Sauvé v Canada (Supreme Court of Canada), paras 37 and 54-62).

The first  argument that the UK submitted to the European Court of Human Rights was that as prisoners had breached a social contract, they lacked moral virtue and therefore did not deserve this right. The second ground of the government’s reasoning was that this restriction was a punishment which helped enhancing civic responsibility (Hirst No 2, para 50).

The Response of the ECtHR to the UK Arguments 

The ECHR rejected the UK arguments. Firstly, it argued that the lack of moral virtue is contradictory to the fact that the State requires prisoners to fulfill other civic duties. Moreover the ECHR emphasized that the right to vote is a right and not a privilege (see also Sauvé, paras 14, 19-24 and 37; Hirst No 2, paras 59 and 75) which you deserve through a good moral virtue.

Secondly, it was held that incarceration per se is not a reasonable justification for violating fundamental rights. Whilst the ECHR to some extent approved the idea of a voting ban being understood as a punishment (Hirst No 2, paras 74-75, see also Dikson v United Kingdom) it however stressed that any such restriction  needed to have a clear link between the punishment and the restriction (see Hirst No 2, Joint Dissenting Opinion of Judges Wildhaber, Costa, Lorenzen, Kovler and Jebens, para 8 and Dissenting Opinion of Judge Costa, para 3). Yet, there was no such evidence that the UK had even thought about the link to the offense (see discussion by Weston) or any other justification of the punishment. In contrast the UK applied the automatic ban to every prisoner. The UK reasoning was not objective at any point and therefore I agree that the ban contradicts the very essence of the universal suffrage (see Mathieu-Mohin, para 52).

Conclusion 

In my opinion the reasoning of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst was correct as the UK’s justification for the ban was discriminatory and not legally tenable. In this light I think that the UK should carry out debates and amend the current legislation so that the restriction of the right to vote is possible to some extent at least. Furthermore I believe that enfranchisement will help prisoners in their rehabilitation.

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