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.

Bristol Law School launch inaugural UWE Bristol Student Law Review (UWESLR)

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This week the Bristol Law School proudly launched the inaugural issue of the UWE Bristol Student Law Review (UWESLR), edited by Dr Tom Smith, which showcases undergraduate student law research at UWE Bristol.

The future of legal research is, like the legal profession, dependent on our current students. We believe it is essential to both encourage the efforts of our students and to assist in the development of their research and writing skills.

This publication intends to do so by showcasing outstanding examples of research by undergraduate Law students at UWE. This fulfills twin objectives: to reward their endeavours by sharing their work with a wider audience, and to demonstrate to both their peers and others the quality of the research produced by our future academics and lawyers.

This issue includes three articles; these are based on the submissions of undergraduate students as part of the final year Dissertations module for the Law and Joint Awards programmes.

Annie Livermore writes about the use of surgical and chemical castration in the treatment of sex offenders; Amber Rush writes about the regulation, reintegration and rehabilitation of child sex offenders; and Georja Boag writes about the identification, protection, support and treatment of victims of human trafficking. All have produced excellent and engaging pieces of research, and should be congratulated for their efforts.

The Review represents part of an ongoing effort to make students a part of the academic research community within the Department of Law at UWE Bristol. The research culture of any university should reach beyond the individual and collective activity of professional researchers; students should feel part of the scholarly environment in which they are learning.

It is hoped that the Review will help to create an unbroken chain between academic and undergraduate research. In doing so, researchers can pass on their expertise and experience to the next generation of scholars, and students can better develop their skills.

We hope you enjoy reading it! The full  UWE Bristol Student Law Review (UWESLR) is available to read and download here.

Bristol Law School students attend annual Eid on the Wharf party

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On 28th September a diverse group of law students from Level 1 to LLM responded to the opportunity to attend an annual Eid on the Wharf party hosted by Clifford Chance and the Association of Muslim Lawyers (AML).

Koser Shaheen, Chair of AML, offered free tickets to UWE law students to attend the networking event at Clifford Chance’s Canary Wharf offices.  Facilitated by Dr. Zainab Kahn, interested students worked together to prepare for the trip.

First year LLB students Kashif Imambaccass and Lizzie Greco-Turner reflected on their experiences:

“Having only been studying at UWE for two weeks, this was our first law networking event. We were awestruck walking into the imposing thirty floor skyscraper at Canary Wharf that houses Clifford Chance. Once we arrived at the venue, we were greeted by fellow UWE students, ranging from second year LLB to LLM students.

The opportunity to network with 250+ city professionals, who were very impressive leaders in their field, gave us an invaluable insight into what a legal career in law entails.

The highlight of our evening was interacting with Halim Uddin, an associate at Clifford Chance. Uddin was down-to-earth and friendly, willing to answer all the questions we had on the work required to become an elite lawyer.

In addition to the networking, the Eid party exposed us to a number of Islamic speakers and entertainers.  We felt humbled listening to an address by Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park Mosque, who recently received the Queens Award for Voluntary Services.  Also on top of the list of entertainment was the engaging and often funny speech by Lauren Booth, referred to as one of the most ‘fascinating Muslim Personalities of our time’.

As Law is often portrayed as an exclusive profession, it was refreshing to network with a diverse team of lawyers from a wide range of backgrounds. Thanks to our lecturer Kathy Brown, who believed in us; we have obtained a drive to excel, to work harder and pave the way to becoming the very best of who we are. Now, the idea of working for one of the ‘Magic Circle’ firms, seem slightly less daunting.”

In accordance with the inclusive nature of the activity, travel was funded for the students by the Bristol Law School.

 

Student blog post: On the basis of the Article ‘Port of Rotterdam Reveals Scale of Brexit Challenge’ discuss the legal issues relating to non-tariff barriers and trading standards imposed on imported goods.

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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: Victoria Meller

One of the most discussed phenomena of recent times is the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, i.e. Brexit. While the exact implications of Brexit will only become apparent once the UK officially leaves in 2019, the departure will undoubtedly have consequences on the economic relations of the UK with the EU as well as with the rest of the world.

The focus of this blog post is on the effect of Brexit on trading standards, i.e. tariffs and non-tariff barriers on imported and exported goods. I will examine the challenges that UK businesses and consumers might face.

Tariff and Non-tariff Barriers

Tariffs are external taxes paid on imported and exported goods as they cross the border whereas non-tariff barriers are trading requirements on goods, such as certain quality certificates which need to be shown at the border, or quantitative measures such as quotas. States usually prefer to pay tariffs to abiding by non-tariff barriers as the latter can limit or prevent a certain type of product from entering a State.

One fundamental principle of international economic law is the principle of non-discrimination. It is imposed by the World Trade Organization on all its members and consists of two components: the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment (Article I GATT 1994) which states that each trading partner must be treated equally and the national treatment (Article III GATT 94) which stipulates that foreign goods shall be treated in the same way as national goods. Exceptions to the principle (Article XIV) include preferential treatment towards developing nations (which goes against MFN but is for the greater good of disadvantaged nations) and being part of a regional free trade agreement. The UK, as a member state of the EU, is part of the single market and customs union, which operates as a tariff-free trade zone and applies the national treatment principle within its borders though it does discriminate against non-EU goods but is allowed to do so as it is a regional trade agreement.

In light of the article by Acton (Financial Times, 28 December 2017) this blog post highlights specific issues relating to the import of agricultural goods into the UK as it is claimed that 70% of imported food comes from the EU.

Price Rises

If the UK is unable to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU, then Brexit will result in the UK adopting the universal WTO tariffs as well as having the EU common external tariff of 2.3%  being imposed on it. This may result in price rises on foods such as fruits, vegetables, and wine which cannot be produced in the UK and are primarily imported from other EU States. As demonstrated in the table below, tariffs on e.g. dairy produce might rise to 39.9% on EU exports and 39.4% on UK exports. The higher prices would be caused by not only higher tariffs being placed on imports from the EU but also international imports entering the EU before reaching the UK. As the article explains, the latter situation is likely to happen since the UK does not have sufficiently large ports in comparison to EU ports such as Rotterdam.

 

Source: J Protts, ‘Potential Post-Brexit Tariff Costs for EU-UK Trade’, Civitas, October 2016, available here.

Double Control

Goods imported from outside the EU will go through a double border control which will inevitably cause delays. This will have the greatest impact on goods which rely on the just-in-time production system, such as food manufacturers (e.g. Kellogg’s). The just-in-time inventory system relies on manufacturers producing enough to meet demand, and only storing a limited amount of excess goods in inventory. Hence quick delivery onto shelves is essential. Double border control will mean double tariffs and non-tariff barriers such as certifications. This will affect the time they reach consumers and thus create costs for businesses.

As for non-tariff barriers, these will have huge implications on agricultural goods, as they are subject to stricter regulations and sanitary standards because of their public health consequences and fragile nature.

Non-tariffs 

Non-tariff barriers are believed to be 2-3 times the cost of tariffs on goods. With that in mind, sanitary standards and rules of origin (see Article IX GATT) of exported goods should remain strict for the UK post-Brexit. This will be to prevent the UK from acting as a ‘back door route for goods into Europe’. Since the UK will no longer be an EU member it may decide to relax trading standards, e.g. allow imports of chlorinated chicken which is banned across the EU. However, I think that the UK will nonetheless uphold most of the EU trading regulations and replicate them into its domestic law. This is because the majority of those regulations were voluntarily upheld by EU member states, as opposed to being imposed on them. In addition, as aforementioned, the UK does not possess sufficient ports for trading and so will likely continue to rely on EU ports. 

Source: Michael Acton ‘Port of Rotterdam Reveals Scale of Brexit Challenge’, Financial Times, 28 December 2017, available here.

Uncertain Future

Regardless of the many challenges that may initially arise due to Brexit, I think the UK could possibly benefit in the long run from withdrawing from the EU as it will no longer be restrained by the EU in terms of product standards and consequently be able to negotiate free trade deals on its own terms with any State and freely decide which tariffs and trading requirements to impose. I believe the UK will learn to adapt to this new set of circumstances, but only time will tell.

Student blog post: On the basis of the article ‘Can the ICC Probe End Duterte’s Deadly War on Drugs?’ (by Richard Javad Heydarian in Al Jazeera, 14 February 2018) critically discuss the legal issues relating to the involvement of the International Criminal Court in the Philippines.

Posted on

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 blog by: Baharan Shabani

Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ is a controversial issue that has been going on and is still happening in the Philippines. According to Human Rights Watch (see relevant section on the Philippines in World Report 2017) it has brought the country to its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship in the 1970s under Ferdinand Marcos. Phelim Kine describes the situation in this article. Since June 2016, under Duterte’s presidency, more than 7,000 deaths were caused in suspicious ways; masked, civilian-clothed men or even the police took alleged drug takers into detention and then reported of their deaths in an inaccurate way by stating that the individuals had been killed in self-defence (see here). Although responsibility was accepted for 2,615 of these killings, there seems to be great reluctance to admit responsibility for the other killings.

Duterte is of the opinion that leaving the Rome Statute will make it impossible for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to continue its investigations into these acts. However, theoretically, this will not be the case. Indeed, even after the withdrawal, the ICC will legally be able to bring this case forward.

In his article Richard Javad Heydarian questions the ICC’s ability to end Duterte’s killings. On 17 March 2018 the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute as Duterte was convinced that, as a result, the ICC could in no way interfere with his political actions anymore. To determine whether this is true the ICC’s jurisdiction needs to be examined. It is based on four criteria: the person in question (ratione personae), the substance of the case (ratione materiae), the location of the crime (ratione loci) and the time of the act (ratione temporis).

Based on Article 25 (3)(b) of the Rome Statute which deals with individual criminal responsibility Duterte can be prosecuted as natural persons pursuant to this Statute are individually responsible for committing a crime within the jurisdiction of the ICC by ordering, soliciting or inducing such crimes, as it is the case with Duterte. The fact, that he is a Head of State is, according to Article 27 ICC Statute, irrelevant.

The crime that he is being accused of is a ‘crime against humanity’ under Article 5(b) ICC Statute which is further explained in Article 7. All elements of Article 7 ICC Statute must be fulfilled. The act is ‘murder’ under Article 7(a) ICC Statute. It can be said with confidence that, because of Duterte, a large number of individuals have been killed. Second, the killings have been carried out in a widespread and systematic way. Third, such killings were an intended conduct as he often confidently defends his actions (Cyril Arnesto, ‘Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearance in the Philippines as Crimes against Humanity under the Rome Statute’ (2008-2011) 4 Asia-Pacific Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law 305-331).

If a crime takes place on the territory of a state that is a party to the Statute (Article 12(2)(a) ICC Statute) then the ICC can carry out its investigations. At the time the investigations started, this requirement was fulfilled because the extra-judicial killings only took place in the Philippines.

That being said, the problematic issue is time. Indeed, will the ICC still be able to investigate Duterte’s crimes? Article 127 ICC Statute states that the withdrawal is effective one year after the declaration of withdrawal. For the Philippines that would be March 2019. This is certainly a spark of hope for the ICC. For example, the investigations into acts committed in Burundi, the first State that withdrew from the Statute in 2016, continued for another year. These investigations are still taking place and can be found on the ICC’s website under the current situations. The timeframe in which Burundi was part of the Statute gives the court jurisdiction over it for that particular time (Situation in the Republic of Burundi).

According to the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, her office will investigate the crimes committed by Duterte after the start of his presidency in July 2016 and will include all the killings until March 2019. However, it should be noted that to initiate official investigations the Prosecutor will need, according to Rule 50(5) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, to seek authorisation from a pre-trial chamber.

Student event: Start of the Year Careers Forum

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After a summer filled with sunshine, we’re holding a welcome back careers event next week as part of induction week. The Start of the Year Careers Forum will shine a light on opportunities for graduate jobs, placements and internships with leading legal and non-legal employers from the South West and across the UK.

The forum will take place on Wednesday 19th September from 10am.

The forum will consist of a mixture of employer stands and breakout sessions with short talks. Expect:

  • Employer stands with information and freebies.
  • A chance to meet and hear from legal and non-legal employers from the South West and across the UK. All of the attending employers recruit law graduates.
  • Insights into working in different job roles and sectors.
  • Tips to help you stand out in application processes for placements and graduate jobs.
  • A window into the future of how technology and other trends are changing jobs and industries.

Whether you want to become a solicitor, a barrister, or do something else entirely, this event is designed to appeal to all law students with a wide variety of interests and ambitions. It will give you the chance to talk to non-legal employers and find out why they value and recruit law students. There will be law firms present, as well as a wide range of other employers who are interested in your skills as a law graduate.

These employers have an interest in speaking specifically to you. Employers signed up include:

WHEN & WHERE: Wednesday 19th September, 10am-2pm, Floor 3 in the Business School. This will show in your timetables.

This event is aimed at second and third years in the Faculty of Business and Law, and we will be issuing a full programme shortly. Keep up to date on Twitter @UWELaw.

Don’t miss out!

Introducing the Trailblazer programme: Free CPD for Bristol Law School alumni

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Bristol Law School are offering our alumni a pioneering and exclusive complimentary professional development programme, relevant across disciplines, regardless of when you graduated.

Launching in September 2018, our Trailblazer Programme will blend face-to-face sessions with webinars and social events. You will be motivated to maximise personal impact, boost effectiveness and develop leadership skills.

Facilitated by experienced academics, seasoned practitioners, and inspirational speakers, this programme echoes the mantra of learning by doing what is integral to our Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School.

Who is it for?

Offered exclusively to UWE Bristol alumni on a complimentary basis, this is a chance to continue the learning that you began when you were a student. The programme enables you to take advantage of your lifelong connection to our expertise and community.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this programme, however places will be offered exclusively to UWE Bristol alumni from our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

Content

The programme incorporates four face-to-face sessions alongside online learning through webinars and two social events per a cohort.

Session 1 – Leading Self for Personal Effectiveness: Learn how to adapt your behaviour and actions when dealing with different individuals, tasks and situations. Acquire the skills to deliver exceptional performance, authentically.

Session 2 – Leading Others for Impact: Practical tips on creating high performing teams focusing on; healthy team dynamics, influencing and communicating.

Session 3 – Coaching and Mentoring: Transform your personal management style in this practical session by developing your coaching and mentoring skills to enhance performance and encourage self-exploration.

Session 4 – Design Thinking: Experience the creative process of finding new and transformative solutions to problems whilst also generating innovative ideas and opportunities.

Webinars: Webinar topics will be decided at the start of the programme to ensure these are relevant to the current business environment.They will be available live or pre-recorded.

Graduation: Graduation event for the year’s cohorts.

Professional accreditation

We are seeking to get this programme approved by the CPD Certification Service, meaning you will receive a certificate to demonstrate your CPD hours through completion of this programme*.

The growing network of participants will benefit from lasting relationships with likeminded professionals.

*subject to approval being granted.

Places for the course are limited to 40 participants per cohort. For more information and to apply for your free place, please see here.

Pro-bono works: Employability success for students

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Marcus Keppel-Palmer, Director of Pro Bono, reflects on the experiences of some recent Law students who have worked in the UWE Pro Bono Unit:

Employers, Law firms particularly, view students who have undertaken Pro Bono work very favourably. Not only does participation in Pro Bono show commitment by students to a legal career, but it also gives valuable opportunities for students to develop their lawyering skills beyond the classroom. Additionally, the virtues of working on real life cases adds a layer of “real work” with its need for teamwork, time management and communication skills. The Business Advice Clinic has operated a team this past year advising members of the Network for Creative Enterprise based at three sites in Bristol and one in Bath. The experience has proved valuable to the students who worked in this pressurised environment, and they have all been able to use the experience to obtain employment at the end of their courses.

The team consisted of mainly LPC students, Lucie, Henry, Matt, Ryan, Gabriel, Edwin, and one LLB student, Siddique. Lucie has obtained a training contract with Foot Anstey and her experience with the Business Advice Clinic played a part in her obtaining this role. As she commented: “The drop-in sessions at Spike Island, Watershed, The Guild and Knowle West Media Centre have provided students with excellent exposure of working with clients, and has assisted in the development of start-up businesses (many of which are UWE graduates) across Bristol and Bath.”

Matt obtained a job with Reynolds Porter Chamberlain before completing his LPC. He commented on his experience in the Clinic: “The NFCE Business Clinic has provided fresh challenges on every occasion. For a law student, pursuing a career as a practising solicitor this has been an extremely beneficial experience. In the sessions, we have dealt with a remarkable range of issues and have tackled any problems head-on. From another perspective, I strongly believe that the advice we have provided has positively impacted the businesses and people, we have been able to reach. And for me personally, it has been very fulfilling to give back to Bristol and its exciting entrepreneurial community.”

Siddique, as the only undergraduate found himself working with LPC students, but settled in well as he gained in confidence. He has set up his own sports agency business and has used the experience of advising similar businesses at the BAC to inform his decisions. Siddique commented: “I feel BAC has enabled me to develop a different skill set in comparison to placements that I have done. The reason for this is because unlike other experiences BAC puts a lot of responsibility on myself and other students. This means a substantial portion of the legwork such as interviewing clients, researching their problems and coming up with solutions was left to us and then later double checked by supervisors. Additionally, the focus on providing business advice to a range of business is different from other Pro Bono schemes. Finally, BAC also provided me an opportunity to develop practical skills to work in a variety of commercial environment as client’s issues range from intellectual property law to contract law. I believe moving forward BAC will help me greatly as it has shown me the various ways in which law interacts with the world and demonstrated the different avenues of work aside from becoming a barrister or solicitor.”

Ryan obtained a legal team assistant position with Burges Salmon and he attributes his experience at the BAC to assisting him with coming over as a credible candidate in interviews. Ryan commented: “The Business Advice Clinic provided me with invaluable experience which helped develop my understanding of a number of commercial areas, as well as my confidence. From the outset you are given real responsibility from conducting the interview right through to providing the advice. Having this experience has been a real benefit in interviews. It has helped me back up my commercial interest which is always a difficult question to answer and has enabled me to draw on real experience of the potential legal issues businesses can face.”

Although Edwin, as a Malaysian student, is concentrating on obtaining a Masters, he is still looking for ways to work in the UK. Henry, howver, has taken a job overseas. He is currently working as a paralegal with International Law Firm Dentons in Qatar and is considering an offer from the firm to undertake a training contract over there. Gabriel has, like Siddique, used his Pro Bono experience to go into a career analogous to the legal profession but not directly in private practice. Before graduating from the LPC, Gabriel attained a role at Leidos, the defence and aviation company. Gabriel said: “Interacting with clients and being able to help them with their legal issues was the most rewarding aspect of the Pro Bono and the most practical for my legal career. Being able to learn from my supervisor and my peers was also very insightful and helpful.” And in assisting his employability, he commented that “In Employment Interviews I was able to use my past experience such as conducting client interviews, researching legal documents and drafting legal contracts in Pro Bono for my job interviews. It was very useful in explaining the experience that I obtained and how it made me a stronger candidate for the role”.

Certainly the experience of this group of students in the Business Advice Clinic has shown how the quality Pro Bono experience offered by UWE can translate directly into the workplace upon finishing a course. But working in other Pro Bono activities is equally valuable in terms of employability. Cameron, who this year has headed up the Bristol Musicians Advice Service, is using his industry knowledge with an Events and Entertainment company, whilst Jason who ran the Anti-Death Penalty Group this past year is working in an in-house legal department.

Both Ryan and Gabriel advise all UWE students to do Pro Bono activity. Gabriel says that “Doing Pro Bono work opens up avenue in terms of people you meet and legal issues that you encounter, is great for your CV as well, and you get to meet different people from your class”, while Ryan commented specifically on the BAC: “I feel that all future students would benefit from participating in the clinic. It will build confidence, help develop essential skills for interviewing & advising, further understanding of the potential legal issues a business may face and provide exposure to a wide variety of businesses.”

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

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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.

The African Prisons Project: Student blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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