“Justice is not being seen to be done – and we’re all the poorer for it”- Research on reporting in criminal courts

Posted on

By Dr Tom Smith.

In January 2018, researchers from the School of Journalism (Phil Chamberlain and Sally Reardon) and the Department of Law (Marcus Keppel-Palmer and Tom Smith) supervised journalism students for a week of observations in Bristol Magistrates’ Court. It took three days before they spotted a news reporter. The students sat through more than 200 cases, with the vast majority going entirely unreported in mainstream media

It’s been a complaint for many years that criminal courts are not being covered sufficiently by reporters. It requires a particular skill set, and too many of today’s depleted newsrooms don’t have the resources to spare for such work. High-profile cases – such as the recent trial of Ben Stokes at Bristol Crown Court in August 2018 – still get attention; but the vast majority of people passing through Magistrates’ Courts do so anonymously. As a result, the public has little idea how, or indeed if, justice is being served fairly and effectively in their local area.

In January 2018, the Society of Editors convened a seminar to consider the problem and launched a working group to consider solutions (see here). Meanwhile Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service has been making efforts to make courts more ‘open’ to the media. At the aforementioned seminar, a number of media executives said that if they had more resources, they would employ the journalists to do this vital job. They directed their anger at organisations such as Facebook and Google, who they accuse of profiting from their labour without putting any money back into the industry. John Whittingdale MP, the former chair of the House of Commons’ Culture Select Committee, has said this issue needs addressing. The National Union of Journalists has also highlighted the lack of court reporting. The consensus therefore appears to be that more coverage of court proceedings is ‘a good thing’.

Yet, for an issue which lawyers, journalists and politicians all agree on, there is surprisingly little analysis of court reporting, and quite a lot of received opinion. Dr Judith Townend (University of Sussex) has written extensively on the principle of open justice and its importance. In 2014, Professor Leslie Moran (Birkbeck University) examined the level of court reporting in the local and national press for one day. He found that a few stories dominated most media reports, rather than providing a representation of the range of cases. In 2016, the Justice Gap’s Brian Thornton (University of Winchester) repeated the exercise, identifying a decline in coverage (see here). This was, he suggested, probably due to the fact that half of local newspapers did not have a court reporter. The limited number of studies so far have looked at the presence and volume of court reporting. This study wanted to identify what was being missed by this lack of coverage. In short: if the objective is to send more reporters into court, what might they find?

The small-scale pilot study in January 2018 saw the research team supervise student journalists, who observed cases in Bristol Magistrates’ Court for a week, recording every case they encountered. They utilised a coding sheet designed to record key details; these were structure so as to include not only basic detail about offence with which defendants were charged, but also other potentially relevant details and factors such as mental health, drugs, and housing. Crucially, the observers gave each case a ‘newsworthiness’ rating. Using criteria developed by Galtung and Ruge, and refined by others over the years, the students judged how valuable a local newspaper would view each story. Various factors contributed to this rating such as the seriousness and location of the offence, how easily the case could be understood by a lay audience, or the profile of those involved. These were rated on a Likert Scale of 1-5, ‘one’ being cases of little interest to the potential audience (i.e. the public) and ‘five’ for high interest. They also recorded if any reporters were present during proceedings.

In what staff at the court said was a relatively quiet week, the study recorded 240 cases. On average, six courts were open each day. Of these cases, the number given a score of ‘three’ or more was approximately 50 (roughly 20% of the sample). Stories in this batch included:

  • a man charged with breach of the peace after sparking a terror alert in a local shopping centre;
  • a man who had taken natural remedies for a cold, finding himself over the drink-drive limit
  • Bodycam footage showing a man who failed to produce his driving licence being punched by police officers

What was also clear was the number of stories about the ‘process’ of justice rather than the substance of the case itself. Mental health issues were a common part of cases, as were drug addictions and social security problems. Defendants were not always best served by the use of technology in court and on a number of occasions were unrepresented during their hearing.

Although the research team only encountered a single reporter, the media did report some of the cases. This was, however, done so without the use of ‘inperson’ reporting; instead, media outlets re-published information issued to them the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on cases which it had successfully prosecuted that week. Whilst this provides a useful indication of the cases heard, there are obvious problems with, in essence, subcontracting reporting on criminal proceedings to the CPS. The ‘list’ of convictions clearly relates to only a fraction of the cases (primarily the most ‘newsworthy’ according to internal CPS standards) and does not account for acquittals or other types of hearing. It is highly unlikely that the list would include any which called CPS competency into question – such those with disclosure failures, missed deadlines, or acquittals. Yet, the team observed cases where the procedural and evidential competence of the CPS (and other parties) was questioned by Magistrates. Ultimately, the nuance of the criminal justice process is lost in this simple ‘guilty list’ approach. A huge slice of public life – impacting on many people’s lives and our perceptions of criminality and justice – is passing by, unreported and uncontested.

We should be concerned by this. The reporting gap cannot be made up by anyone; it requires specialist skills and there are legal penalties should it not be done correctly. A topical example is the case of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (better known as Tommy Robinson). In May 2018, Yaxley-Lennon was convicted of contempt of court after live broadcasting from Leeds Crown Court during a highly sensitive trial of a number of Muslim men accused of running a child sex ring. His primary justification for doing so was the perception that mainstream media were ignoring cases of Islamic men engaged in serious sexual offences, and that in taking such actions he was providing an informative and valuable public service. Whilst one can fairly dispute the true motivations behind these actions and criticise the methods used (and the potential impact on the fairness of the trial), it is arguable that non-specialist laypersons such as Yaxley-Lennon may be catalysed to undertake, in essence, ‘vigilante’ journalism, should they perceive a deficit in journalistic coverage of criminal justice. Whilst a fairly extreme example, this case – which was appealed by Yaxley-Lennon and is currently in the hands of the Attorney General – does demonstrate how a lack of media reporting of criminal court proceedings leaves a vacuum which will, without appropriate action, inevitably be filled by those unsuited to an important, challenging, and sensitive role.

The experience of the study was, generally, encouraging. The research team found Bristol Magistrates Court staff to be polite, helpful, and professional; one magistrate wanted to hear much more about the research project. Another wanted us to look at particular areas where the justice system wasn’t working. At the same time, we were also aware of an incident last year where a citizen reporter was ordered to stop taking notes in court. Anecdotal evidence from around the country has painted a similarly mixed picture of the attitude towards open justice and external scrutiny. With this mind, it is worth highlighting that the general availability of information on the court’s work for the public is poor. There are no transcripts; full court lists are off limits to non-journalists; and mobile phones are treated as weapons of mass destruction (although the aforementioned Yaxley-Lennon case demonstrates the worst fears of court staff in this regard).

Bristol has a vibrant media community. As well as its established daily newspaper, it is home to regional BBC and ITV offices; it has MadeInTV; a vigorous community newspaper (the Bristol Cable); and radio stations, from independents such Ujima to commercial and BBC outlets. There are bloggers, tweeters, and very popular freesheets in the Voice series. Yet the courts remain largely ignored. Subject to funding, we hope to develop (through research and collaboration) ways of increasing court coverage. We also aim to repeat our study across the country and provide a fuller picture of the state of court reporting in England and Wales, and highlight what is being missed. We think it likely that some places will be well served by agencies, trained independent reporters, or traditional media. We hear of others where a reporter has not been seen for years.

Finally, business as usual isn’t going to do justice to justice stories. Simply having more reporters cover the relatively few high profile or unusual cases from the many that pass through the courts each year is not going to add greater understanding or provide better scrutiny. Some stories are about patterns, better understood through data analysis. Some are about social issues which need following up by specialists. The failure of ‘business as usual’ also extends to the endemic opaqueness of the criminal justice system, and its inherent caution in opening up to the outside world. Without doing so – and without addressing the growing chasm left by traditional media – more Yaxley-Lennons may emerge to take their place. Few would approve of this. There are some 300 Magistrates’ Courts in England and Wales. If Bristol is any guide (and, at present, it is the only yard stick we have), each week 15,000 newsworthy stories are potentially being missed by the media and the public are none the wiser. Justice is not being seen to be done; and we’re all the poorer for it.

 

Operationalizing Green Governance: New Policy Strategies for Ecosystems and Resources: Exploring the Commons

Posted on

By Elena Blanco (Environmental Law Research Unit, CALR), Associate Professor of International Economic Law

 

Project: “Operationalizing Green Governance: New Policy Strategies for Ecosystems and Resources: Exploring the Commons” at the Watershed Bristol, 5-6 September 2018.

Neoliberalism has produced multiple, entangled, and intersecting crises that cannot be resolved from within conventional political and legal systems. A liveable, sustainable future requires a fundamental shift towards new ways of thinking and being where the limits of ecosystems and the Earth life systems are respected. As part of this new thinking Bristol was the setting of a second ‘Commons: Law and Politics’ extended two day encounter organized by Elena Blanco (UWE Bristol), David Bollier (Commons author and activist) and Professor Anna Grear (Cardiff).

The workshop addressed the following challenge: how can we transform Western Capitalist crises by using creative ‘legal hacks’ and new types of governance. Watershed provided the inspiring background for an intense two-day practical conversation where seventeen carefully selected contributors from Europe, America and Australia, coming from a range of disciplinary and practice-based backgrounds brought together stories, insights and perspectives. Theorists learnt from practitioners while practitioners were exposed to some imaginative, world-shifting thinking in contemporary scholarship. The relationship between modern capitalist law and the commons was subject to questioning while exploring creative legal hacks capable of inaugurating new patterns of resistance and constructive institution-building for commons-based alternatives.

Areas explicitly discussed included: the relationship and tensions between commons and indigenous cosmovisions; property forms and relations—including relationships concerning land, intellectual effort and the process of ‘invention’; contract as relationality and new rules of exchange, sharing and dissemination; the search for commons-normative market relations and alternative currencies of eco-social engagement; re-imagining law and generating legal hacks to reflect and facilitate each of the foregoing—including the redesign of the corporate form.

The two day workshop was followed by an open lecture by David Bollier – ‘Free, Fait and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons’ on the evening of the 6 September as part of the Bristol Festival of ideas.

This workshop builds on an ongoing research agenda on the operations and legal forms of green governance within the Environmental Law Research Unit, especially a previous “The Future of the Commons” workshop (The Future of the Commons, Blanco, Feb 2018); and Elena Blanco and Razzaque “Natural Resources and the Green Economy”.  A third ‘Local Commons/Green Governance/Circular economy’ event focused on initiatives in Bristol will take place in 2019.

 

Showcasing undergraduate student law research at UWE Bristol.

Posted on

We are pleased to introduce the inaugural issue of the UWE Bristol Student Law Review (UWESLR), edited by Dr Tom Smith.

The future of legal research is, like the legal profession, dependent on our current students. As such, it is essential to both encourage the efforts of young scholars 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. 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.

Dr. Young presents Interdisciplinary Research on Organized Crime Control to the Ministry of National Security, Jamaica

Posted on

By Mary Alice Young:

Dr. Mary Alice Young (Law) and Dr. Michael Woodiwiss (History) are in Jamaica today to conduct a series of evidence-informed research presentations with members of the Jamaican law enforcement and policy making communities (the project has been fully funded by ACE).

Based on empirical research carried out in January 2018 in Kingston (one week before Jamaica’s government declared a State of Emergency in Montego Bay due to a rise in firearm deaths), the two UWE staff will present their research findings to law enforcement officers in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and also in separate meetings to ministers from the Ministry of National Security.

They will also be presenting a preliminary paper for consultation, with a view to informing future policy making in the area of organized crime control in small island and developing states.

Professor Chinkin gives the Annual Lecture of the Welsh Institute for International Affairs (co-sponsored by UWE)

Posted on

By Jackie Jones:

The Annual Lecture of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs took place on 3rd May 2018, co-sponsored this year by the Law School. Professor Christine Chinkin, Director of the Institute for Gender, Peace and Security at the LSE, spoke about the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention: the negotiations, the sticking points and the value added of the newest regional convention to eliminate violence against women and girls. She also mentioned the ongoing campaign to pass a UN convention to eliminate violence against women and girls, which Prof Jackie Jones is heavily involved in – having just published a co-edited book making the legal case for a new treaty (with Prof Rashida Manjoo). Jeremy Miles, AM, Counsel General for Wales, was present to listen to the added value for Wales outlined by Prof Jones – lobbying to encourage Wales to pass legislation complying with the provisions of the Istanbul Convention. Wales is a world leader in eliminating violence against women, passing world-first legislation in 2015 and appointing National Advisors to eliminate violence against women. The entire lecture was recorded by BBC Radio.

Professor Chinken speaking next to WCIA banner

Dr. Philippe Karpe attends Centre for Applied Legal Research as Visiting Scholar

Posted on

By Noelle Quenivet:

Between 10 February and 10 March 2018 the Centre for Applied Legal Research hosted Dr Philippe Karpe as Visiting Scholar. Dr Philippe Karpe is a senior legal researcher and international expert working for CIRAD, a French agricultural research and international cooperation state organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions. Worldwide there are 850 CIRAD researchers assigned in 40 countries involved in an array of projects. Dr Karpe is currently posted in Nairobi, Kenya. Invited by the International Law and Human Rights Unit and the Environmental Law Research Unit it was a pleasure to have him with us. Dr. Karpe took part in a wide range of teaching and scholarly activities offered by the Bristol Law School, as well as pursuing his own research on indigenous people and the management of natural resources.

By education Dr Karpe is a public international lawyer who studied at the universities of Nancy, Paris 10 and Strasbourg in France and holds a ‘habilitation à la direction de recherche’ (Accreditation to supervise research) – a French post-doctoral degree allowing him to supervise PhD students. Besides supervising PhD candidates at CIRAD he also teaches at the universities of Strasbourg (France) and Hokkaido (Japan). The bulk of his work however consists in planning and running projects with and for international organisations (eg United Nations Development Programme-UNDP, World Bank), NGOs (eg Rainforest Foundation Norway, Organisation des Nations Autochtones de Guyane-ONAG) and other stakeholders applying his expertise on governance and rule of law, including indigenous peoples’ rights (general and particular rights, especially land rights, forest’s and carbon’s rights, forest users’ rights, women’s rights), socio-environmental safeguards, sustainable forest management, rural and forest land tenure (including for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance on Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security-VGGT), participative management of lands (including the use of artificial intelligence), participative mapping, institutional arrangements and stakeholder commitments (civil society, forest communities, etc.).

Dr Karpe led workshops on three modules (‘Natural Resources’, ‘Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility’ and ‘European Environmental Law and Policy’) offered on our LLM programmes. In each of these modules he shared with the students his extensive knowledge and practical expertise in the relevant fields. He brought law to life by using concrete legal problems he had been confronted with in his own field work.

For example, in the module ‘Natural Resources’ led by Prof Jona Razzaque Dr Karpe produced real forest legal texts that were enacted by regional, national and local public authorities. The students could thus see how forests are protected (or not). This helped the students to better understand the practical application of the law as well as its (sometimes unintended) consequences on local populations.

In the module ‘Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility’ the students were asked to engage in a discussion on ethical aspects of activities carried out by multinational enterprises using real contracts that were agreed upon between indigenous people and organisations. Passionate discussions in this workshop run by Dr Karpe and Dr Sabine Hassler on (for example) the protection of traditional knowledge in India and the protection of the intellectual property rights of the indigenous peoples ensued.

This inquisitive and practice-oriented type of engaging with the students was again displayed in the workshop on the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the module ‘European Environmental Law and Policy’. Together with the module leader, Christian Dadomo, Dr Karpe challenged the students to analyse the current CAP reform and its interface with the environment and, more largely, the future shape of the society. He notably discussed with the students the negative and positive connections between agriculture, the society and the environment (eg pollution, deforestation, drying up of rivers, etc) and how the reform of the CAP deals with these issues. Dr Karpe’s visit was a great asset to our practice-led and student-centred teaching culture on the LLM programme at UWE.

Throughout his stay at UWE Dr Karpe also took the opportunity to attend a number of external engagement events organised by CALR such as the Brexit and Corruption talk by Dr Lorenzo Pasculli and the Brexit and Trade Relations panel discussion. As a scholar working often far away from European legal issues he particularly enjoyed this insight into one of the most commonly debated issue in the UK: the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. In this context, he sincerely enjoyed the great variety and quality of the different UWE’s opportunities to develop and enrich the knowledge on many scientific and political vital present concerns.

Dr Karpe had the opportunity to deepen his present academic research especially on Harmony with Nature, the Commons, the indigenous peoples and the farmers by collecting many references and academic articles on the UWE’s virtual library and by daily discussions with colleagues on a variety of topics, some of them relating to research methods and methodology (eg epistemology, social-legal studies and critical legal studies). Furthermore his stay at UWE gave him the opportunity to consider some new academic concerns such as conflict, war and the humanitarian legal framework.

On two occasions Dr Karpe presented his work to UWE staff and students. At a first event he shared with us his practice-based research and at a second reflected upon his work as a lawyer in the field. A roundtable on ‘The Future of the Commons’ was organised on 28 February 2018 to discuss the definition of the concept of the ‘Commons’ and develop the ‘Commons Thinking’. Dr Karpe’s intervention focused on his own experience of the commons in the African context.

For example he was once confronted with what appeared to be an odd situation in a village. The local population did not seem to be related or linked, the concept of society did not seem to apply either and it appeared that each person was working for him/herself. A positive, classic lawyer would have undoubtedly failed to realise that there was something beyond that and that in fact these individuals were connected by a common, shared ‘space’. Dr Karpe then questioned whether the concept of the commons was an answer to this practical/technical problem which could be turned into a political concern. He posited that current values do not conform to aspirations of justice and that contemporary laws do not help support, protect and promote the life of individuals who live in such a situation. Yet, as a lawyer, his job is to establish justice between people and to find solutions to concrete technical as well as political problems. Thus in his view the concept of the Commons appear to be the most suitable tool. However, when trying to write the law of the Commons the lawyer faces the harsh reality of having to acknowledge that law simply is not the most appropriate tool. For example, law is usually split in different areas such as contract law, family law, property law, etc and yet the Commons transcend these separations. Also the Commons are a ‘space for development’ as they create opportunities for changes and evolution. This all makes it difficult to freeze the Commons into law.

Dr Karpe argued that for him it was crucial that human rights be at the centre of all these activities. Law should be created around human rights. He also challenged the vertical relationship of law whereby constitutional law sits at the top of the hierarchy of any national legal system. Whilst he admitted that this might sound revolutionary as lawyers struggle to understand law in anything but hierarchical terms and categories he emphasised that only a horizontal understanding of the law could avoid corrupting the Commons. As he explained his support for the Commons he however warned that the concept of the Commons might in specific contexts be used as a new form of colonialism enabling State and organisations, for example to deny rights to indigenous people on the basis that under the principle of non-discrimination and shared access to resources no special rights should be given to them.

Last but certainly not least Dr Karpe gave a talk entitled ‘Has the Wandering Lawyer Reached his Destination? – The Adventures of a Lawyer Working in the Field’ which gave him the opportunity to reflect on his work. It was an enlightening talk as Dr Karpe shared with us over 25 years of research in Cameroon, the Central Republic of Africa, Madagascar, Democratic Republic in Congo, Gabon, etc. He kicked off this presentation by asking ‘What am I? What is my purpose as a lawyer?’. Looking at the type of jobs he usually carries out he acknowledged that his work tends to touch upon a range of topics (eg weddings, contracts, etc) though it does focus on forestry. Yet, as a human being he questions what his real role is. For him, he should be promoting justice and more specifically social justice.

As a result he does not question the abstract internal coherence of the texts, the content of texts or their effectiveness and efficiency as such. Rather, these are only steps in this research work. The basic research question is ‘under which conditions may the lawyer contribute to improving the living conditions of the local population?’. The objective is thus to understand how law can contribute to improving the living conditions and ensure the protection of a certain idea of a community of life. For this, four assumptions must be made: 1) laws and rules may contribute to social change and lawyers are thus useful; 2) laws and rules have a political function; 3) there is a community of life and 4) the function of laws and rules is to guarantee social peace. Likewise Dr Karpe conceded that there were a number of challenges: 1) working with disadvantageous groups such as indigenous people, rural women, etc; 2) the status of users’ rights in developing countries and 3) the status of peasants. All these challenges relate to various aspects of vulnerability and deprivation of rights. With this in mind the lawyer must think about how he can have a positive impact on society.

In Dr Karpe’s eyes the most suitable way to understand societies and to then be in a position to support them is to conduct extensive research in the field. This means using involved, immersed and applied research techniques so that a concrete and continuous contact with the relevant people can be established.

Dr Karpe also stressed that the nature of the field obliges all actors to adopt an interdisciplinary approach and so he works with economists, anthropologists, biologists, pharmacologists, etc, bearing in mind that each person brings his/her own views and perceptions of the situation and that all these views as well as methodologies need to be integrated into one’s work. Does that mean that the lawyer disappears? Dr Karpe stressed he remains a positive lawyer (one that is trying to find the best solution to a problem that affects people), a humanist (there is no doubt a need for empathy and humility in these circumstances) and a ‘questionnaire’ (a person who asks questions) and thus a ‘wandering lawyer’. In his opinion this ‘wandering lawyer’ has a fundamental political and moral obligation to remember, think, defend and realise the key destiny of a lawyer: social justice. As a result he/she must revise his/her vision of the law, its essence, substance and form. Four main research themes derive from this stance towards law and the role of the lawyer: 1) the commons, the harmony between nature, humanity and values (justice); 2) the nature and the content of the law (juridicity); 3) the tools for implementing the law and 4) the methodologies of knowledge of law.

Dr Karpe presented some of the results of his reflection, explaining that the law should not be in the form of specific provisions, that the new ‘Common Law’ should correspond to a right of communion, a transcendental right and that the new Common Law must correspond to an idea, that of a community of life. Under the Common Law individuals enjoy the same rights and there is no hierarchy of rights. That being established, Dr Karpe questioned the way law is created, articulating the idea that law is often crafted by a certain type of persons for a certain type of person and for a specific objective and that consequently law may not be really that ‘common’ in fact.

As Dr Karpe left UWE he had made contact with many colleagues in the Bristol Law School and hoped to be able to involve these colleagues in his work. He proposed to establish an opened think-thank on the Commons, the Wandering Lawyer, Law and the Juridicity, named: “the Rainbow Team”. Discussions were also had about future collaboration notably in the form of common projects relating to the protection of the environment, biodiversity and conflict. It was with regret that we had to let Dr Karpe go back to his work as it was such a pleasure to talk to him on a variety of topics.

 

Guest Talk – Dr Jane Rooney: Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Armed Conflict

Posted on

By Noelle Quenivet:

The International Law and Human Rights Unit of the Bristol Law School welcomed on 14 March 2018 Dr. Jane Rooney, Lecturer at the University of Bristol, who presented a paper on ‘Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Armed Conflict’. Dr. Rooney began by explaining that she was challenging the commonly held view that human rights law (and the European Convention on Human Rights more particularly), subject States to a higher threshold than international humanitarian law.

Continue reading “Guest Talk – Dr Jane Rooney: Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Armed Conflict”

Dr. Tom Smith gives evidence to the Justice Parliamentary Select Committee

Posted on

Dr. Tom Smith submitted written evidence to the Justice Parliamentary Select Committee on March 31st, regarding their inquiry into issues with criminal disclosure.

His submission drew on research he conducted with Emeritus Professor Ed Cape regarding pre-trial detention in England and Wales (link below):

http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/28291

In his submission, he argues that evidence from the research suggested defence lawyers have significant issues accessing full and timely disclosure prior to bail hearings in criminal courts. The evidence has now been published, and is accessible here:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/justice-committee/disclosure-of-evidence-in-criminal-cases/written/80714.html

Law Student Research Report on Rape and Sexual Assault

Posted on

On 20th March, a student authored research report was presented to Rowan Miller, who is CEO of SARSAS (Somerset & Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support). The authors are all undergraduates on the LL.B Sexual Offences and Offending: Criminal Justice Responses module. Each year, student volunteers from the module research and write a report for SARSAS staff which explains topical legal policy issues and reforms. During the presentation, Rowan noted how useful and impactful the report will be for her staff and that previous research reports had been widely read by people from across the sector.

The report is an excellent example of how students, working with academic colleagues, can engage with the world outside of UWE and apply specialist, socially useful knowledge to the work of local organisations.

The report authors are: Karishma Boodhun, Charlie Ellis, Abigail Laborero, Hayley Lewis, Molly Mackenzie, Momin Mohamed and Annabelle White.

The report was edited and fact checked by Phil Rumney, Ed Johnston and Anneleise Williams.