In October 2019, the House of Commons Justice Committee published the report of its inquiry into Court and Tribunal reforms (see the full report here). The inquiry was prompted by “[s]erious concerns… about the effect on access to justice and its efficient despatch of the current court and tribunal modernisation programme, led by the Ministry of Justice and the senior judiciary of England and Wales” (p.3). As part of the inquiry, Tom Smith (UWE Law), Marcus Keppel-Palmer (UWE Law), Sally Reardon ( UWE Journalism) and Phil Chamberlain (Journalism, University of Bath), submitted evidence on their research into court reporting in criminal courts:
“In January 2018, we held a project at Bristol Magistrates Court, attending every case held in open court during one week. During this period of time, only one case was attended by a reporter from local media. We fear that important work shining a light on the work of the Courts will continue to diminish.
During the project, a number of cases were conducted using video link. The positioning of the video screens in court meant that it was often difficult and, in some instances, impossible to follow the evidence being presented. Actually being present in court, researchers were able to clarify details with the CPS, something that will not be possible if the hearing is online.”
They argued that:
“Open Justice is held up to be one of the great values of our legal system. At a time when economics dictate that many local media outlets are closing or cutting back on staff, it would be detrimental to that principle if the Courts Service enacted changes to hearings that impacted further on the ease of reporting the courts.”
The Committee’s report recognised this problem, and
quoted the UWE team’s evidence as follows:
“The University of the West of England expressed concerns that the reform proposals would create further barriers preventing the reporting of the courts by the local media. They noted that: “[t]he number of dedicated Court Reporters on local newspapers is shrinking, and given the distances reporters would have to go to listen in on an online hearing at a booth at Court [this] can impose a further deterrent.” (p.54)
The UWE Bristol team are currently undertaking a national survey of court reporting during one month in 2019 and preparing to bid for funding to expand the empirical study, underpinned by the concept of ‘Justice Reporting’ – the idea that reporting on courts should go beyond merely relaying facts and case details, but should examine the processes and issues that form part of criminal cases.
The team has also presented its findings at the SLSA 2018
Conference, the What’s The News Conference 2018 in Brussels, the MECCSA 2019
Conference in Stirling, and the Future of Journalism 2019 Conference in
Cardiff, as well as presenting the research to visiting Chinese Judges.
Congratulations to final year UWE Bristol Law student, Sam Louwers,
for recently becoming Law Student of the Year at the Bristol
Law Society awards 2019. Sam was nominated by Shilan Shah-Davis, Associate
Head of Department, UWE Bristol, on behalf of the Law Department.
The Law Department started working closely with Sam last year
through his involvement with the UWE Law Society. Sam was ‘made-up’ by Shilan’s
submission and says it has been the proudest moment of his time at UWE Bristol
“Sam is a highly motivated, hardworking, forward-thinking and compassionate individual with a strong commitment to the values of inclusivity, diversity and justice. Through his work in the UWE Law Society and involvement in other projects, Sam truly stands out as a champion for inclusion and diversity and an inspirational leader. Sam is very highly thought of within the Law Department and his values and commitment emulate all that UWE Bristol is seeking to achieve for its students.
Sam winning the Bristol Law Society Student of the Year Award is absolutely fantastic and very well-deserved. His passion, drive and commitment are truly inspirational and he is a great role model and ambassador for UWE Bristol.”
Interestingly, Sam’s career started in the Armed Forces, however, that abruptly ended in 2017 when he was medically discharged due to two injuries. Sam says, “I had always had an interest in Law but I never thought that University was where I would end up and never thought that I would be good enough to take that path.”
He joined UWE Bristol after getting medically discharged and has gone from strength to strength from becoming the President of the UWE Law Society to push for a more diverse representation of students, to being awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Representation at the Student Experience Awards in 2018.
In his spare time (amidst caring for his young daughter and
family life), Sam also works for the Royal British Legion, running the Poppy
Appeal in his local area and supporting the national media team. He says that
the Royal British Legion have been instrumental in helping him deal with his
injuries. Once Sam finishes his degree he hopes to do his Barrister Training
here at UWE Bristol to start his career as a Criminal Barrister alongside Pro
Bono work and giving back to others who need help within the Armed Forces Community.
Sam’s dedication and determination prove he was a worthy winner for Law Student of the Year and UWE Bristol are proud to have him as a student here. After the awards ceremony, Sam said “speaking to the selection committee and senior lawyers in Bristol, and hearing the kind comments that they had given me, the congratulations, and how much they admired the dedication that I had put into my degree – especially with the disturbance in my background, felt really worth-while, and I felt privileged to be recognised.”
Find out more about studying Law at UWE Bristol on our website.
‘My name’s Nakita Hedges, I am a second year Law student, I worked for African Prison’s Project and I was a legal skills tutor. I taught a legal skills programme, so how to read cases, statutes etc. to prisoners in maximum security prisons in Kenya.’
What inspired you to
‘I came to university because I was really interested in human rights, so I took the opportunity to get involved in the Pro Bono group. It was all about supplying resources and materials to prisoners who hadn’t had legal aid and were trying to educate themselves. From there, the opportunity arose and I was like, this will be able to determine if I want to do this in my career, like providing justice for people – and it did.’
What was the most
surprising thing you learned whilst volunteering?
‘I learnt that no matter how somebody is titled or how someone is stigmatised by society that they are still a human being and they’re still decent people. I met murderers and sex offenders but I got on with them and that was surprising.’
Describe a time you
feel you made a difference?
‘We worked in three prisons and one of them was female, and there was a lady who was about sixty or seventy years old, and the thing that really touched me and that I walked away with is on the last day we had a bit of a cry and a goodbye, and she said “You don’t understand what it’s like being treated like a human being again. You giving us that support and being here and being nice to us and not looking at us like we’re evil horrible people” is the best thing that could have happened to them because nobody does that anymore.’
What is the impact of
volunteering and why should other students get involved?
‘Well, I think every single person needs to do things more than just watch it on a TV screen or on their phones and go out and experience life and see a different side to how you live and help people when you can because it’s the most rewarding thing, no pay cheque is more rewarding. If you can find that within yourself, or support other people in that decision then the world will change, it will.’
Do you want to make a difference? Visit our volunteering
pages or find out more about Pro Bono at UWE Bristol on our website.
Pre-trial detention (PTD) – that is, the removal of the liberty of those not yet convicted of any criminal offence – is a significant issue across all jurisdictions. It inherently interferes with the liberty of legally innocent individuals in the most significant way available to the state. This has implications for the presumption of innocence and access to justice for defendants, and its impact beyond the legal status and rights of those affected can be substantial – particularly regarding employment, family relations, housing, and mental health. Levels of PTD and decision-making regarding its use have been of particular concern across the EU for more than a decade, (including in England and Wales (E&W), a jurisdiction with a particularly high prison population). Alongside initiatives and proposals at the institutional level of the EU, both academic and third sector institutions have, for a number of years, been researching the use of PTD in various jurisdictions, and lobbying for a renewed policy focus on tackling its overuse and improving practise. A primary example is the report ‘A Measure of Last Resort?’; published by Fair Trials in 2016, the ten country study (including E&W) provided a detailed picture of PTD use and practise across the region, highlighting both good and bad practise. Amongst the many relevant issues highlighted was the importance of legal assistance for defendants in PTD hearings.
The presence of a lawyer is undoubtedly vital to fairer PTD proceedings; but it is the effectiveness of that representation, beyond mere presence, which is key. Effective representation – which challenges and scrutinises PTD decision-making in a meaningful way – gives operational value to the right to legal assistance; and underlying this is the quality of the lawyer providing the service. In 2017, Fair Trials – along with partners in Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary and Greece – commenced a project focusing on the effectiveness of legal assistance in PTD hearings, to further examine how such representation impacts on the use of PTD; the current issues existing in practice; and how effectiveness can be enhanced, thereby improving PTD decision-making. In October 2019, I attended a regional policy meeting in Brussels organised by Fair Trials (entitled ‘Effective Legal Assistance in Pre-trial Detention Decision-Making’) so that some of the findings of the project so far might be highlighted and discussed amongst practitioners, academics and policy makers from across Europe. This blog aims briefly highlight some of the major key issues raised during three panel sessions (consisting of a moderator and four practitioners from the project jurisdictions).
focused on the access of suspects and defendants to legal assistance in PTD
proceedings. The primary issues raised included the limited time and facilities
for preparation available to defence lawyers, coupled with pressure from courts
to ‘get on’ with cases. Absence and poor quality of translation services for
non-domestic defendants was highlighted as a problem, particularly since PTD
disproportionately focused on such persons (as well as marginalised domestic
citizens). The panel highlighted the problem of lawyers who lacked sufficient
independence from the police/prosecution (although also pointed out that legal
reforms in some jurisdictions had recently attempted to deal with this – but
described the current situation as ‘new law, old practice’). Additionally,
panelists emphasised the inadequate information provided to clients about their
rights. Overall, the panel suggested that the role of the lawyer needed to be
‘concrete’, and provide more than a superficial form of legitimacy to what were
ultimately unfair proceedings – particularly since courts would simply assume
that there were no issues if a lawyer was present.
Panel 2 (moderated by myself)
focused on improving the effectiveness of legal assistance. Panelists
highlighted that, to truly ensure equality of arms, lawyers needed to be
meaningfully acquainted with case files and materials in advance. However,
problems with access (particularly for certain types of material) and time for
study were again considered a major problem. It was pointed out that
inaccessible drafting and organisation of case files hindered effective legal
assistance, and that clear scheduling of materials would improve this.
Notwithstanding the above, one panelist highlighted good practise in their
jurisdiction, describing how full access to police/prosecution case files was
granted to lawyers from the outset, with no ‘cherry picking’ of materials. This
was bolstered by a minimum of 48 hours for lawyers to study materials and the
support of the judiciary, who were generally reluctant to restrict access to
files. The panelists highlighted the importance of knowledgeable, qualified and
experienced lawyers, who were motivated to properly engage with cases and
personally attend consultations with clients. This was, it was argued,
supported by true independence and proper payment for the work done. However,
good practise was also undermined by practical issues such as major delays in
payment of legal aid to lawyers and lack of private physical spaces for
consulting with clients. This would present serious difficulties for lawyers
attempting to build a relationship of trust with their client. It was concluded
that legal assistance needed to be ‘real’ and not simply ‘theatre’, and that
lawyers can be both an assistant (not an obstacle) for courts, and a mediator
between courts and defendants.
Panel 3 focused on the role of
lawyers in promoting alternatives to detention. A central problem in this
regard was the issue of credibility of alternatives; that is, a lack of trust
in the effectiveness of non-custodial pre-trial measures on the part of the
judiciary. Panelists felt that public/media pressure and risk aversion played a
role in the under-use of alternatives to detention, which was not helped by a
lack of time for all parties to fully consider alternative proposals. In some
cases, poor inter-agency working appeared to undermine use of conditional
release; for example, drug rehabilitation was described as being under-used in
one jurisdiction because the courts and the medical profession administering
rehabilitation spoke ‘two different languages, in two different worlds’. It was
felt that lawyers could play an important role in promoting the use of
alternatives, but that there needed to be more variety of alternatives
available and some creativity as regards to their use in different cases. One
panelist felt that alternatives were not simply under-used due to a lack of
credibility, but due to the mindset of courts which regarded PTD as a ‘first
resort’. In some cases, it was felt that prosecution/police used PTD as an
investigative tool that could frustrate the accused and increase the likelihood
of a confession. Overall, it was felt that lawyers needed to do more to
establish a relationship of trust with the courts which would enable them to
more credibly suggest alternatives to PTD.
Overall, the meeting identified a variety of key themes related to more effective legal assistance in PTD hearings, including: early and continued access to materials and information; trust; independence; privacy; quality and experience of lawyers; adequate translation; adequate time for preparation; and sufficient and timely remuneration. A key call by Fair Trials, and the project partners, was for the EU to make PTD a policy priority, in a similar form to the 2009 roadmap on minimum procedural rights of defendants in criminal proceedings. By establishing clear minimum standards across Europe in this key aspect of PTD practice, the quality and effectiveness of legal assistance could be significantly improved. Equally, individual jurisdictions (including E&W) also need to take ownership of this issue and act on some of these problems, so that PTD decision-making is robust and fair – and, as a consequence, detention is used appropriately and proportionately.
This post (edited for publication) is published on our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following the blogging success over the last couple of years, 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 Noëlle Quénivet. Using innovative learning and teaching methods, Noëlle developed this module 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.
By Anita Dangova
The social ambition of the European Union to enforce and maintain sustainable development commitments has led to a radical increase of the incorporation of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) labour standard conventions into European Union (EU) free trade agreements (FTAs) with third parties over the past two decades (at 265). In this blog post, I will show that labour standards can be effectively maintained via FTAs through a system of consultative measures. Although such a system can be criticised for being a ‘soft’ mechanism of dispute settlement it has proven successful to enforce labour standards agreed upon in FTAs between the EU and States. Using the recent consultations request by the EU regarding the failure of implementation of sustainable development provisions by South Korea as a case-study, I will particularly highlight how this soft resolution mechanism works with developed and developing states.
The EU’s Approach to Resolving Disputes
The EU ensures that disputes related to maintaining the ILO’s labour standard conventions in its FTAs are resolved through a cooperative and soft dispute resolution mechanism (Postnikov & Bastiaens, ‘Does Dialogue Work? The Effectiveness of Labor Standards in EU Preferential Trade Agreements’ (2014) 21 JERR 923, 925). This stands in contrast to the direct sanctions system used by the US as, in case of a dispute between the EU and a non-member state regarding failure to apply an FTA’s labour standards provisions, consultations are usually a pre-condition (Postnikov & Bastiaens). The table below explains the EU’s idea of resolving a dispute in a fair, friendly and equal-party manner by consultations, and not sanctions. That is why, in my opinion, the FTAs’ consultations system can be effective in maintaining labour standards’ provisions.
They are known as means of peaceful dispute settlement, as well as a tool towards a proactive work of both the parties (see Peters, ‘International Dispute Settlement: A Network of Cooperational Duties’ (2003) 14(1) EJIL 1, 2).
A good example to show how such a mechanism works is the recent discussions held in the framework of the EU-South Korea bilateral FTA. Indeed, a recent consultations request was made by the EU after establishing that Korea had failed to ratify the ILO conventions regarding the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining. Under article 14.3(1) of the FTA, either party can commence consultations, which are to be conducted in good faith and ‘with the aim of reaching mutually agreed solution’, when there is an issue regarding the implementation of the ILO labour standards, as defined under Chapter 13. Under article 14.4, unsuccessful consultations would initiate an arbitration procedure, leading to further costs, delay of settlement and intensified pressure. These consequences, therefore, can encourage Korea to ‘change its behaviour’ at the consultations, by acting in a meaningful way and eventually ratifying the labour standards, which the State is legally bound by the agreement to do.
Another example is the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) agreement under which matters, related to the implementation of labour standards, can be resolved with a recourse to consultations’ request, with the objective to reach a ‘mutually satisfactory resolution’ (article 23. 11). Therefore, we can see that the EU FTAs generally encourage maintenance of the labour standards provisions through soft dispute settlement mechanism, incorporating consultations. This additionally shows that the mechanism’s effectiveness in encouraging developed states to ratify the labour provisions, which they agreed to be bound by, is considerably recognised both in the law and in practice.
What about Developing States?
Under article 50 of the Cotonou Agreement, the parties, i.e. the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, reaffirm their commitment to enforce the application of five core ILO labour standards conventions (Abolition of Forced Labour; Freedom of Association; Collective Bargaining; No Discrimination; Abolition of Child Labour.) The first step of ensuring the effective implementation of article 50 is to conduct a political dialogue (article 8). This again reflects the EU’s idea of soft, yet effective, cooperation. When all options of dialogue are exhausted, the parties can commence diplomatic consultations (article 96(2)(a)). The provision expressly states that the consultations shall be conducted in a manner, appropriate to find a solution. In case of a failure to find a solution, ‘appropriate measures‘, such as compensation, can be taken. Aware of the subsequent pressure, which will be caused by those measures, the developing states will seek to avoid paying compensation and will thus after the consultations be incentivised to ratify the relevant labour standard conventions. That is why it can be argued that the consultations mechanism, adopted by the FTAs, is an effective way of maintaining labour standards in developing states.
The first stage (at 25) of labour standards dispute settlement is the following:
To assess the effectiveness of consultations more generally we can consider the WTO’s dispute resolution system as set out in article 4 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding. In case of a dispute between two member states, either one is capable of initiating a consultations request. Between 1 January 1995 and 31 December 2016, the system has dealt with 573 requests for consultations. Out of this number, it has issued about 350 mutually agreed dispute settlement decisions (see Reich, The Effectiveness of the WTO Dispute Settlement System: A Statistical Analysis, EUI Working Papers, Law 2017/11, at 4). Therefore, this constitutes a strong evidence that consultations are generally an effective way of settling disputes in the field of economic law.
In this blog post I have argued that the FTA consultations mechanism is an effective way of ensuring the implementation of labour standard commitments, based on the EU soft consultative dispute resolution system. I have, furthermore, showed that this system works with developing and developed states, basing my analysis on examples such as the Cotonou, EU-South Korea and CETA agreements.
UWE Bristol Law students speak about the benefits of taking part in Pro Bono activities.
The Pro Bono Unit enables UWE Bristol Law School students to provide free legal advice services to members of the community. We have spoken to several students about their experiences of getting involved in Pro Bono.
Here’s what they had to say:
“For my career it has helped me get work experience. I think that being involved in Pro Bono will give you that confidence to put that on your CV and when law firms can look at you being involved, they definitely would want to take you on and give you some more experience because they trust in you.” – Manmeet Singh, Law Student
“When I was at UWE I got involved in an organisation called Street Law which is a programme that goes to help teach younger children the basic of laws. So, we would be teaching them things like civil and criminal law, the advocacy process and just a general introduction to studying law.” – Isaac Cole, Trainee Solicitor
“It helped me build my confidence as before I couldn’t really speak in front of a group of people and now I’m accustomed to holding events of upwards of 300 people.” – Freya Whiting, Law Student
“The Pro Bono experiences I’ve done has helped me for my career in a sense that it’s developed my confidence when being in an interview situation. It’s also helped in a sense that it’s helped me further understand why I want to pursue this career.” – Rory Jutton, LPC Student
“I would recommend students to do Pro Bono activities or get involved with Pro Bono. The main reason is employability, you can’t really put a price on that – it’s invaluable experience, it’s satisfying and it’s incredibly rewarding.” – Dominik Morton, Pupil Barrister
If you would like to know more about Pro Bono at UWE Bristol
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.
Corruption is a globalising phenomenon. Not only is it rapidly expanding globally but, more significantly, its causes, its means and forms of perpetration and its effects are more and more rooted in the many developments of globalisation. The Panama Papers, the FIFA scandals and the Petrobras case in Brazil are just a few examples of the rapid and alarming globalisation of corrupt practices in recent years. The lack of empirical evidence on corrupt schemes and a still imperfect dialogue between different disciplinary areas and between academic and practitioners hinder our knowledge of corruption as a global phenomenon and slow down the adoption of appropriate policy responses.
“Corruption in the Global Era” seeks to establish an interdisciplinary dialogue between theory and practice and between different disciplines and to provide a better understanding of the multifaceted aspects of corruption as a global phenomenon. The book gathers top experts across various fields of both the academic and the professional world – including criminology, economics, finance, journalism, law, legal ethics and philosophy of law – to analyze the causes and the forms of manifestation of corruption in the global context and in various sectors (sports, health care, finance, the press etc.) from the most disparate perspectives.
The theoretical frameworks elaborated by academics are here complemented by precious insider accounts on corruption in different areas, such as banking and finance and the press. The expanding links between corrupt practices and other global crimes, such as money laundering, fraud and human trafficking, are also explored. The book is an important resource to researchers, academics and students in the fields of law, criminology, sociology, economics and ethics, as well as professionals, particularly solicitors, barristers, businessmen and public servants.
In February 2019, Dr Tom Smith spent a week working in China as an expert consultant for a research and training project, entitled ‘Reducing pre-trial detention through improved defence and non-custodial alternatives’. The project forms part of a broad reform programme aimed at improving pre-trial detention practice in the Chinese criminal justice system, by lower detention rates; improving defence rights for suspects; and widening the use of non-custodial alternatives (such as conditional bail). A significant part of the reform programme is the introduction of pre-trial detention hearings (known as ‘official arrest hearings’). These can be most closely compared to a defendant’s first appearance in a Magistrates’ Court in England and Wales (although with a number of distinct differences). At present, these hearings are being piloted in a number of cities across China, with the aim of increasing the participatory nature of proceedings; improving the transparency of the process; and enhancing scrutiny of detention decision-making. The project is being co-ordinated by the Great Britain China Centre (based in London), in partnership with academics from the Centre for Criminal Justice Reform at Renmin University of China (Beijing), and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China (the national agency responsible for regulating criminal prosecution and investigation).
Tom’s primary role in this phase of the project was the design and delivery of training sessions for a variety of Chinese criminal justice professionals, including procurators (whose role is comparable to both a Magistrate and a prosecutor); defence lawyers; and police officers. The purpose of the training was to improve the professionalism of the procurators, lawyers and officers in two pilot cities (Shenzhen, in Guangdong province; and Hefei, in Anhui province). In addition, the training aimed to influence their approach to considering the protection of human rights in criminal justice proceedings by introducing perspectives on best practice in England and Wales, whilst providing a critical insight into our pre-trial detention system. The training sought to equip defence lawyers with knowledge and skills applicable to their role in pre-trial detention hearings, which is essentially an adversarial one. Tom was accompanied by criminal defence lawyer Luke Meyer, a Partner at Tuckers Solicitors in Kent. Together, they co-designed the structure of and materials for the training sessions (lasting a day in each pilot city), combining both academic and practical perspectives. The training covered topics such as the current structure of English and Welsh law on remand (i.e. court bail and pre-trial detention of defendants); insight into day-to-day practice in police stations and courts; a review of existing research on pre-trial detention in England and Wales (largely based on Tom and Professor Ed Cape’s report, ‘The Practice of Pre-trial Detention in England and Wales’); and a series of thematic sessions examining criminal legal aid, the use of video-link technology, alternatives to detention in custody, and impact on vulnerable groups of defendants.
Tom and Luke delivered the first training day in Shenzhen on February 22nd and 23rd, alongside sessions by leading Chinese academics and senior figures from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. On February 25th, they observed an official arrest hearing in Hefei, via video link technology. This offered first-hand experience of the practical implementation of the reform programme, involving a real-life criminal case. The figures involved included two procurators (acting in a similar capacity to Magistrates); a defence lawyer; two police officers (acting in a similar manner to prosecutors in England and Wales); and the defendant (who appeared via video-link). After the hearing concluded, Tom and Luke were invited to ask questions of the deciding procurators in the case as well as the participating police officers. This was a rare privilege: this might be equated to the opportunity to question a bench of Magistrates and a prosecutor about their handling of a remand decision, directly after completing it – something that simply would not happen in England and Wales. This underlines how unusual and important this opportunity was, and provided a significant and unique insight into the progress of the reform programme on the ground. The second day of training was then delivered in Hefei. During both training days, and during associated networking events, Tom and Luke met with procurators, lawyers, academics, and senior local and governmental officials, and answered a variety of questions about English and Welsh law and practice. They were also invited to offer recommendations for continuing the progress of the project.
The opportunity to be involved in this highly significant reform programme was an undoubted privilege. The processes being introduced in China are novel to its criminal justice system, which does not have the same legal traditions and adversarial roots as English and Welsh criminal procedure. The energy and effort that is being directed towards the programme by the various parties involved was impressive and engaging. It is worth remembering that these were two of several pilot cities across the country, involving and effecting thousands of people. Above all, the programme has clear potential for positive impact on the lives of criminal defendants in China, emphasising the protection of human rights, increasing the scrutiny of decision-making, and working towards reduced use of detention before trial. Such goals are shared by many jurisdictions, particularly in light of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which (SDG 16) includes reduction of unnecessary pre-trial detention. This is therefore likely to be part of the long-term agenda for reform in China and beyond. The chance to contribute to this project, by sharing knowledge and understanding of pre-trial detention practice in England and Wales, was a very positive experience. It is hoped that there will be further involvement in this project, as well as a wider strengthening of ties between UWE and China.
Featured researcher: Dr Thomas Smith
Thomas is an in Law and member of the Centre for Applied Legal Research. His research areas include pre-trial detention and bail; disclosure of evidence in criminal proceedings; criminal defence lawyers; access to justice and criminal legal aid.
Over the last week or so, football has been the focus of much negative press attention stemming from incidents of fan/player altercation. In Scotland, Glasgow Rangers captain James Tavernier was approached by a spectator in a game versus Hibernian. Shortly after in England, Aston Villa player Jack Grealish was hit from behind during a game against Birmingham City. The incident involving Jack Grealish was highly reported across the media and perpetrator, Paul Mitchell, was subsequently sentenced to 14 weeks imprisonment.
The defendant was charged with battery contrary to s 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the football-specific offence of ‘pitch encroachment’ contrary to s 4 Football Offences Act 1991. As the blog by The Secret Barrister helpfully outlines, the maximum sentence for battery is 6 months, and taking in to account the guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and the then entitled one third deduction, the magistrates could have gone to 17 weeks. The maximum sentence for ‘pitch encroachment’ is a fine. Therefore, 14 weeks was certainly the top end of the scale and on the face of it, the sentence appears stern. Moreover, the defendant was also handed a 10-year Football Banning Order contrary to s 14a Football Spectators Act 1989.
On a note regarding the sentence handed down to Mitchell, many police officers took to Twitter to highlight the swift justice ( just a little over 24 hours) and the severity of the sentence when compared to those who assault police officers. For example, a defendant recently convicted of assault under the 2018 Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Actwas fined £120 and ordered to pay £50 compensation to the police officer he punched (see here). It has been suggested (in the absence of Sentencing Remarks) that the severity of the sentence handed to Mitchell was driven by the need for a deterrent, a legitimate aim of sentencing. Clearly, police officers may have a point here in asking where the deterrent is for those who assault officers going about their job. It is hard to imagine that a similar attack away from a football stadium would have resulted in a 14-week custodial sentence.
Despite the severity of the sentence, it is the knee-jerk and, to quote Stuart Hall, ‘short, simplifying and brutal’ media coverage and commentary that often follows disorder related to football that has been concerning. Following the incident involving Grealish, The Guardian reported that ‘football is urged to protect players’ whilst ex-footballer and current England Women’s manager Phil Neville drew the comparison to tennis player Monica Seles who was stabbed in the back during a tennis match in Hamburg in 1993, outlining his fears that if things do not change ‘a player will end up stabbed.’ The idea of fences returning to the stands was also mentioned and ex-footballer David Cotterill went one step further and suggested that armed police were needed at football matches to assist stewards. Whilst ex and current footballers are well within their rights to worry about their safety, some of the reporting and suggestions that the media give credit to are clearly ill-thought and nonsensical. Indeed, the media has often contributed to the moral panic that ensues when incidents such as this occur at football.
Emma Poulton has argued that the ‘hysterical headlines, emotive language and graphic imagery’ that often follow football related disorder contribute to the public viewing all fans of football as ‘hooligans,’ again, a concept that lacks a universal definition and is a construct of the media whom use it to cover an array of behaviour within the football context. What follows, and is true in this instance, is then an outburst for ‘collective punishment’ and headlines such as that in The Guardian that football needs ‘to do more’ to protect players or that armed police are necessary. Indeed, when alcohol was seen as a partial cause in 1985 to the Heysel Tragedy, again, fuelled by newspaper headlines, Parliament were quick to pass legislation that criminalised alcohol possession in direct view of the pitch. In similar vein following the Grealish incident, one media outlet published the opinions of a police officer who believes that cocaine is now a cause of much disorder at football.
Regarding Grealish, some perspective is clearly needed. The individual who attacked him was acting alone. Moreover, football fans are heavily policed and regulated in terms of legislation. As noted above, ‘pitch encroachment’ is a football specific offence and The Home Office’s own statistics demonstrate that arrests for ‘pitch encroachment’ are minimal; 188 arrests in 2015-16; 204 in 2016-17 and; 191 in 2017-18. I would argue many of these arrests take place during times of goal celebrations and not spectators running on the pitch to attack players. Moreover, and taking into account the millions who attend football, this is clearly a minute percentage. This was an isolated innocent and one that does not warrant the knee-jerk responses and ‘hysterical’ headlines that have followed.
It must not be forgotten that football is not unique in attracting disorder; many other sporting and social events attract disorderly behaviour, yet very rarely, if at all, do they attract such stigmatising or emotive headlines or suggestions. A prime example of this would be disorder at horse racing (see disorder involving 40-50 people here) or the 71 people arrested at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival for various offences ranging from drug offences, ABH and possession of an offensive weapon. The point here, is that football is targeted by the media and some members of society in a manner that no other events are.
Clearly, the media and commentators play a role in how football and its fans are perceived. The moral panic that ensues football is unique, in that no other sporting or societal event attracts such condemnation; condemnation that has led to an abundance of football-specific legislation being implemented. Therefore, and despite the media soundbites, football is heavily protected. There is no need to return to fencing in front of the stands, and clearly no need for officers at football to be armed. Statements like this by the media are irresponsible and indicative of what football and its fans have had to witness since the mid twentieth century. The result is a moral panic and a tarnishing of all spectators who pay a lot of money to watch football. As commented by Chief Superintendent Owen West of West Yorkshire Police, ‘one person did an idiotic and criminal act.’ This should not be forgotten, and you cannot legislate for the actions of one mindless individual.