My first case – a SSSC case

(Melissa McKillen, Student Advisor and Elected Member, and Ronan Leslie, Student Advisor and Deputy TAP Coordinator)
 

Student advisor, Melissa McKillen, reflects on her first case with the Law Clinic. Melissa considers what she has learned from working on the case and from her experience of representing a client at a virtual hearing. 

 

At the beginning of this academic year, I represented one of the Law Clinic’s clients at the SSSC Fitness to Practise Panel impairment hearing along with my co-advisor, Ronan Leslie. This was the culmination of six months of casework (and all of the interviews, research, phone calls, Zoom meetings and letter-drafting that casework entails), and it would be the end of my first ever case with the Clinic. 

 

For law students, the opportunity to represent clients in forums like the SSSC hearing is invaluable. While hearings in these strange times are somewhat removed from what we might have imagined as we applied to university – this particular hearing took place on Microsoft Teams, rather than at the SSSC’s offices in Dundee – it could well be said that the lessons to be taken from such experiences remain the same.

 

I believe that two of these lessons were particularly important.

 

The first is that the outcome of a case will not necessarily fit into the binary of an outright ‘loss’ or an unmitigated ‘win’. Sanctions imposed by the SSSC are numerous and varied; each is located along a spectrum and may be combined with further sanctions. As far as a client appearing at the hearing is concerned, the imposition of any sanction short of a removal order may fit their definition of a successful outcome; or, a client may consider the imposition of even the lightest of sanctions to be an injustice. Therefore, a client’s conception of a successful outcome, rather than a representative’s own definition of a ‘win’, is paramount. At the same time, however, we as advisors have a duty to manage our clients’ expectations as to what the Panel might decide, so that they might instruct us accordingly.

 

The second lesson is that the representation that the Law Clinic provides to our clients really can, and often does, make a significant difference to the outcome of a given case. As the hearing went on, Ronan and I remarked during several of the adjournments that we felt as though the case was on a knife-edge. It is worth considering, then, how our client’s case might have fared had they attended the hearing without representation. While we are not lawyers, the Law Clinic and our supervisor, Gillian Melville, had equipped us with the acumen and the knowledge to secure the best outcome that we could possibly have hoped for in this case. The experience of representing a client at a hearing in which they stood to lose their livelihood has thrown into bold relief something that previously I had known only in theory: that law clinics such as ours serve to level the legal playing field between those whom we represent, and their opponents.

 

I am immensely proud of the work that Ronan and I did on this case, and I am delighted with the outcome of the hearing. Of equal importance to me, however, are the lessons that I have taken from my experience at this hearing, which I can apply to my next case.

 

Melissa McKillen, Student Advisor and Elected Member

 

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Review: Francisco Sindico, ‘Paris, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development’

Two of the longstanding tensions (on mitigation/adaptation and on loss and damage) in international discussions around climate change stem, ultimately, from the same source: the significant disparities between the Global North and Global South. The enduring principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (one of the highlights from the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro) pre-dates and informs the present COP system, including the new Glasgow Climate Pact agreed just days ago. At the heart of this principle is an acknowledgement that different states have different capacities to respond to climate change, especially while simultaneously developing economically. Indeed, even today, addressing historical emissions and centring climate justice remain contentious.

As many will know, the University of Strathclyde Law School hosts the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, founded by Dr Francesco Sindico, who remains one of its co-directors. With COP26 having just ended its two-week presence in Glasgow, and with the city giving its name to the resulting Glasgow Climate Pact, it seems only fitting to turn to local experts for guidance on understanding and navigating these tensions.

For context, 2015 marked both the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement (130-131). Dr Sindico’s article draws out and expounds upon the linkages between the two, providing excellent background from which to understand how the Glasgow Climate Pact must also weave sustainable development through its text. The importance of sustainable development to ‘mitigating and adapting to climate change’ (131) and addressing ‘loss and damage’ (ibid) cannot be overstated. The wealth of the Global North was built on colonialism, industrialisation, resource extraction, and, yes, slavery; there is a reason why Dr Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is a seminal text in contemporary African studies.

Dr Sindico’s discussions from section 3 to the end of section 4.1 (133-139) should be mandatory reading for anyone seeking to understand the decisions taken at COP26 and their relationship to the SDGs. In addition to the Glasgow Climate Pact, the plenary session of CMA3 (Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement) adopted a more concrete package for the operation of the mechanisms and rules in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement on mitigation/adaptation. On loss and damage, however, COP26 disappointed, acknowledging the concept, but failing to provide a framework for making it material and meaningful. Ensuring that implementation of COP26 and the SGDs occur both intertwined and in parallel is vital, as Dr Sindico rightly expressed in relation to the Paris Agreement: ‘For this mandate to be successful, an integrated approach to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the SGDs needs to take place’ (140).

It would be impossible to conclude this review without remarking on India’s last-minute amendment of the Glasgow Climate Pact to change the language in paragraph 20 from a phase-out of coal to a phase-down. This is a particular nexus of the apparent conflict between development and sustainability, giving rise to internal issues in sustainable development itself. It is no surprise that Tina Stege, the Climate Envoy for the Marshall Islands, referred to this change by saying, ‘It hurts to see that bright star dimmed’.

Maybe that ends up being the final tagline for the whole of COP26 and the Glasgow Climate Pact. There is something of a star, but like the hope of restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees, it is dim, indeed, and fading. For Indigenous peoples, for small island states, and for vulnerable people globally, the need for coordination on climate change and sustainable development could not be more stark.

Exemplary quotations:

‘If we agree that sustainable development and poverty eradication are central to the SDGs, and also that sustainable development provides the context in which the Paris Agreement operates, it is crucial that the implementation of the Agreement operates in the context of the SDGs.’ (132-133)

‘Loss and damage and disaster-risk management raise a further complexity in the relationship between the Paris Agreement and SDGs. The latter will sometimes point directly, but often indirectly, to other international legal instruments, institutions, and governance schemes that need to be considered when implementing the Paris Agreement. In other words, when dealing with the relationship between the Agreement and the SDGs, a much more complex and sophisticated legal and institutional framework, made up of links and regime overlaps, must be considered.’ (137-138)

‘The Paris Agreement and the SDGs must walk hand-in-hand and support one another.’ (141)

Review by Arün Smith, Student Advisor

Full citation:(2016) 6 Climate Law 130 <https://pureportal.strath.ac.uk/files/47008323/Sindico_CL_2016_Paris_climate_change_and_sustainable.pdf> (Open Access)

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Discussion on The UK Government’s New Immigration Bill – The ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’

(Image from UK Parliament, https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3023)

Student Advisor and TAP Deputy Coordinator, Ronan Leslie, discusses what the bill means and the possible effects it could have to those in need.

The UK government’s flagship immigration bill has recently passed its second reading in parliament and is heading towards committee stage scrutiny. As it stands, the Nationality and Borders Bill contains provisions which seem to contrast with the UK’s international obligations. The stated aim of the legislation is that it will streamline the asylum process and help clear a backlog of cases. However, in reality, it seems likely to make the system more hostile and inaccessible to those in need

Differential Treatment

Section 10 of the bill is entitled ‘differential treatment of refugees’ and, in essence, creates a tiered system of refugees in the UK. A refugee can be treated as ‘Group 1’ if (1) they have come to the United Kingdom directly from a country or territory where their life or freedom was threatened and (2) have presented themselves without delay to the authorities. Additionally, if entry to the UK is deemed unlawful a further good cause condition is to be satisfied. Any person who does not satisfy these conditions is to be treated as a ‘Group 2’ refugee.

Why is this important? Firstly, the bill allows for immigration officers, tribunal judges, and the Home Office generally, to treat Group 2 refugees and their families ‘differently’. Differently, in this context, almost certainly means status as a Group 2 refugee will be treated as an aggravating factor in your claim for asylum, whilst limiting leave to remain given on arrival. But not only this, the bill makes mention of a difference in treatment with respect to section 3(1)(c)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1971, or as commonly known, ‘no recourse to public funds’. This means the bill will aim to stop Group 2 refugees from accessing any sort of welfare funding while awaiting their decision.

Conditions for Group 2 refugees

Condition 1 states that a refugee must arrive directly from their home country. This is concerning not only because this means that refugees who wish to be treated as Group 1 must either fly to the UK legally and directly, but also in regards to a further provision, section 14, ‘Asylum claims by persons with connection to a safe third State: inadmissibility’. This section allows judges to find asylum claims inadmissible if they have a relationship with a safe third country. The bill goes on to detail some very wide conditions that qualify this relationship. Most notably, s14(80C)(4) qualifies the sufficient relationship as having been ‘present in, and eligible to make a relevant claim to, the safe third State’. This condition appears so wide it would see almost all Group 2 refugees have their asylum claims deemed inadmissible, as it is almost certain that a refugee, not arriving directly, will at some point travel through, and may have been able to claim in, what is deemed to be a ‘safe third country’. Whilst ‘safe third country’ rules are already in place as immigration casework guidance this will be the first time they are placed on a stronger statutory footing.

Condition 2 states that a refugee should present themselves to the authorities without delay, a condition which taken alone may seem reasonable. However, further provisions in section 12 of the bill detail the creation of a requirement to make claims at ‘designated places’ selected by the Secretary of State and give relatively broad discretion as to where these might be. Worryingly, it is not clear what level of delay would lead to a contravention of this condition, and whether refugees may be allocated into Group 2 status for simply taking the time to find an appropriate place to claim.

Legality 

The bill, which passed unamended, seems almost certain to face litigation in many areas, not least for its seeming violation of article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention (see legal opinion obtained by Freedom from Torture at https://www.freedomfromtorture.org/sites/default/files/2021-07/Nationality%20and%20Borders%20Bill_second%20reading%20briefing_Freedom%20from%20Torture_0.pdf ), and contravention of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Marrakesh Compact) which prohibits regression of asylum laws (see https://rli.blogs.sas.ac.uk/2021/09/08/from-the-consultation-for-a-new-plan-for-immigration-to-the-nationality-and-borders-bill/).

What shouldn’t be relied upon, however, is the notion that litigation will save us from the intentions of this bill once implemented. The impacts will be felt by a great many already vulnerable people and there is a risk that quashing aspects of it through litigation may create a backlash, feeding the culture war, and potentially triggering a removal of Britain’s obligations to other international treaties.

Conclusion

In the bill’s introduction, the Home Secretary states:

‘The rapid intake of asylum claims has outstripped any ability to make asylum decisions quickly meaning caseloads are growing to unsustainable levels’

The  solution to clearing the backlog should not, however, be one that makes more cases inadmissible, especially given that there are other ways of clearing the backlog whilst still complying with international obligations (see https://www.unhcr.org/uk/609123ed4.pdf).

There are many provisions to fear in this bill (such as a section that seems to outlaw the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) from saving drowning migrants in the channel) and it is encouraging that many organisations are seeking to challenge it. In the meantime, we should continue to help and support as many people as we can before this bill makes what is already a merciless process a whole lot worse.

Ronan Leslie, Student Advisor and TAP Deputy Coordinator.

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review: Goldburn P Maynard, Jr, ‘Black Queers in Everyday Life’

For those of us who straddle the transatlantic divide, front foot cautiously stepping onto these islands, back foot beginning to lift from the lands of Turtle Island (colonised as North America), October itself marks a month of intersections. In the UK, October is Black History Month, marked in February on the other side of the Atlantic; conversely, there, October is LGBT History Month, marked here in February. This week’s review seeks to honour Black queer/trans communities, exploring the tensions that result from failing to forever recognise the multiplicity of intersecting and overlapping identities.

Following on from the last review, it is important for me to situate my own social location here: not only do I straddle that transatlantic divide, but questions of racialisation and sexuality are always close to my heart as a queer person of colour. I acknowledge, however, that my racialisation is not the same as that which Black people experience, and for this reason, Dr Maynard’s words should take priority over my own. I also acknowledge that I will forever be in the intellectual, cultural, and moral debt of the trans women of colour who laid the ground for me.

There is an uncomfortable parallel at the beginning of Dr Maynard’s* piece given the events of this October. He begins by situating his analysis in relation to the previous Dave Chappelle ‘comedy’ special Sticks and Stones, in which Chapelle ’suggest[ed] that queers were all powerful’ (139). Chapelle’s most recent special The Closer took aim at trans folks in particular, exposing anew the tensions in ‘being asked to choose’ (142) between Blackness and queerness, something altogether impossible. The acceptance accorded to queer life over the last 20-30 years has been driven by ‘[a] form of “queer liberalism”, which co[n]signs racism to the past and erases the voices of people of colour’ (142), in effect, sanitising queer life into a whitened sepulchre of itself.

The pressure Dr Maynard feels invokes the precise social circumstances that gave rise to Kimberlé Crenshaw’s percussive contribution of intersectionality to the legal field (and expanding more broadly thereafter). While ‘[i]n activist communities, the struggle against police brutality has served as a convergence between anti-racism and queer liberation efforts[, t]here is a disconnect between the activist streets and some […] individual responses’ (144-145), not to mention the concerted attempts to demonise intersectionality and Critical Race Theory.

The final line of Dr Maynard’s piece is this:

‘I hope we move forward on this because microaggressions within minority communities are that much more painful and traumatic for the individual to recover from.’ (145)

I could not agree more, and as the Sheku Bayoh inquiry begins in earnest on 18 November, we have much to keep in to mind.

Black lives matter. Black queer lives matter. Black trans lives matter. All Black lives matter.

*Dr Maynard is Assistant Professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University.

Exemplary quotations:

‘As white gay men began to climb the respectability ladder, queers of color were left behind. Parts of the queer community have contributed to the perception that “queer” equals “white,” by offering a safe, assimilationist version of queerness that increasingly stands in contrast to its more diverse beginnings.’ (142)

‘The activists seem to be clear on Black queer lives mattering, but I continue to worry about what happens outside of these spaces.’ (144)

‘A place to start is to explore some possible explanations for the phenomenon: (1) gaps in our teaching of intersectionality (e.g., not providing enough or the most illustrative examples); (2) a mismatch between the theory and some perceived reality that at times you do have to choose between identities (3) some resistance to theory in general because of its association with intellectuals and academia; (4) an almost inevitable reproduction of hierarchy that should be expected; and/or (5) real fears about the loosening of the Black coalition and its implications.’ (145)

Review by Arün Smith, Student Advisor

Full citation: (2021) 30 Tulane Journal of Law and Sexuality 139 <https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A669352064/ITOF?u=ustrath&sid=bookmark-ITOF&xid=f8c5d8b7>

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Exploring the lack of legal challenges to legislation on self-directed support

The Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law, at the University of Strathclyde, working with Strathclyde Law School postgraduate students and student members of the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic,  partnered with In Control Scotland in order to undertake research pertaining to the implementation of self-directed support (SDS). In Control Scotland is a charity which promotes the development of self directed support(SDS)in Scotland. SDS gives individuals who are eligible for social care choice and control over the delivery of their care.

The research was motivated by an apparent lack of challenges relating to SDS since the Introduction of the Social Care(SDS) Scotland Act 2013.  The primary aim with this research is to identify  if, and if so where, there are barriers to complaints and remedies in SDS. For these purposes, the views of professionals such as law centre solicitors, advocacy workers were sought and 15 interviews were conducted.

The Law clinic’s Ifueko Joy Okungbowa was part of the research team and this report outlines their findings. 

Student researchers on a recent project examining the implementation of self-directed support share their findings, with a focus on legal representation and legal processes. The research team members were Law Clinic student Ifueko Joy Okungbowa, PhD student Charmaine Gittens, LLM Human Rights Law students Clare Gallagher, Saskia Harper, Sayali Walavalkar, and Jamie Walker. The research team was supervised by Mr Douglas Jack and Dr Elaine Webster from the Law School.

Challenging the implementation of the (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013?

Self-Directed Support (SDS) is governed by the Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. It gives those who are eligible, and are in receipt of social care support, power and control over the delivery of their care. The aim of the Act is to place human rights at the heart of social care delivery and thus fulfil the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). As a result, the 2013 Act was hailed as transformative legislation.

However, several years on since the enactment of the legislation, there was a gap in knowledge regarding the implementation of the Act by local authorities. Were individuals making complaints about local authorities’ implementation of the legislation, and what was the outcome of those complaints? Were there barriers to making complaints and, if so, what were they? Why did it appear that there was an apparent lack of high profile legal challenges?

These are the questions that motivated a research project and report produced as a result of a year-long collaboration between the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law (including postgraduate students from Strathclyde’s LLM in Human Rights Law), students from Strathclyde Law Clinic, and In Control Scotland, a third sector organisation working to improve the system of self-directed support. A series of interviews with advocacy and advice agency staff and law centre staff in the Scottish central belt, led to three key findings.

One was that, while  complaints processes were generally clear and not all participants saw complaints processes as unsatisfactory, there was an overwhelming view that these processes are problematic: inconsistent, unpredictable and dependent on various factors, including geographical location, and the individual receiving the complaint. North Lanarkshire stood out as having a relatively proactive approach, but this was not matched across the other local authorities examined in the research.

On the human rights dimensions, while the 2013 Act aimed to place human rights at its heart, the research indicated that there is still a lack of awareness and detailed knowledge of human rights and the relevant legislation that promotes and protects them, including, but not only,  the UNCRPD . Despite this, there was some suggestion that where complaints processes are framed around human rights, this could improve responses from local authorities. The research indicated that human rights law is generally under-utilised, yet it could be valuable to bring human rights to the forefront of implementation practices.

Limited availability of free legal advice

Finally, the research showed that if an individual wishes to escalate a complaint, beyond the local authority and complaints to the Ombudsman,  there is a demand for legal expertise, including within the free legal advice sector. This demand does not appear to be being met. The research suggested that the free legal advice sector in the central belt has limited experience of challenging decisions of local authorities under the 2013 Act.  Indeed, the research team’s efforts to recruit research participants from this sector had limited success, which was an early sign that there was a gap in this respect.

Both advocacy organisation and law centre staff participants commonly noted there are not enough solicitors with particular knowledge of the 2013 Act and its requirements. Interviewees further observed that some solicitors practicing in the field are reluctant to take on, or are prevented from taking on, SDS-related cases, due to  a lack of available legal aid funding. The lack of access to legal representation was further identified as one of the key barriers to a judicial review in relation to the failure to properly implement the 2013 Act. A further issue was that, even where legal advice was available, interviewees demonstrated that there is a lack of knowledge of these services among individuals claiming SDS.

The solicitors who did participate in the research painted a picture of limited access to legal representation. They identified low availability of specialised or knowledgeable solicitors, as well as issues related to the funding available for legal representation.

Human rights principles in practice and legal redress

Individuals, then, face barriers related to legal support and the legal process, which compound the other – structural, knowledge-related, and relational – barriers.

Clearly, improved implementation of SDS is the aim, as this will reduce the likelihood of recourse to complaints processes, and pursuing legal challenges must remain a last resort. As we know, of course, and as has very recently been shown in the case of Lennon v NHS Highland and Another in the Court of Session, even getting claims into the courtroom may not deliver the outcome that an individual is seeking. Nevertheless, we also know that formal legal channels for holding public authorities to account are an essential part of protecting individual rights (although human rights dimensions need to be recognised in the first place). Avenues of redress must remain accessible to all.

View the full report and a short briefing paper.

Review: Sophie Rigney, ‘Creating the law school as a meeting place for epistemologies: decolonising the teaching of jurisprudence and human rights’

Notwithstanding the aggressively academic title adopted by Dr Rigney – something I am in no position to criticise given the titles of my own works – this is an insightful and honest exploration of decolonising the curriculum in practice. It asks crucial questions about place and pedagogy, and it offers an excellent example of reflexivity, something not only relevant to all Law Clinic members, but also to a wider public genuinely interested in understanding what it means to ‘think of law as a dialogue’ (516), emphasising decolonisation.

Dr Rigney is explicit in the first part in situating her geographic, legal, and social locations, while navigating the meanings of place and space in a legal-academic context. As a settler (i.e non-Indigenous person) from nipaluna, on muwinina lands (now constituted/stated as Hobart, Australia), and an expert in International Law, she rightly does not shy away from questions of Eurocentricity, sovereignty, and settler colonialism. Indeed, she recognises that her role in decolonisation is ‘to practise being in discomfort and [to be] humble in a state of unknowing’ (509). She affirms that the multiple senses of ‘unsettling’ (510) are at the heart of decolonising.

In 2019, at the University of Dundee, she taught a module called ‘Justice, Law, and Human Rights’. She sought to bring the decolonial conversation into a particular Scottish space, following on from the work of other British scholars, like Dr Foluke Adebisi. Her reflections on attempting to pierce the imperial heart are profound and timely, and they should prompt important conversations about place and pedagogy here at Strathclyde, with legacies of slavery only minutes away.

Exemplary quotations:

‘[W]e must know what the law is; understand that as people trained in it, we are partly responsible for how it manifests or changes; and acknowledge the various harms enabled or caused by that law, as well as its structural conditions and what it makes possible’ (506).

‘Decolonisation is a process, and because it is rightly radical, it is also discomforting and must challenge current assumptions, denials, and power imbalances. [It] should be material [and meaningful], not metaphor’ (515).

Review by Arün Smith, Student Advisor

Full citation: (2020) 54(4) The Law Teacher 503 <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03069400.2020.1827821>

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My Summer Working with MOJO and the CJP

Student Advisor, Alasdair Flett, continued volunteering for the Clinic and their Criminal Justice Project (CJP) throughout the summer. The CJP works alongside the Miscarriage of Justice Organisation (MOJO) who provide training for the students. Up until summer the project had been carried out online, but during the summer and continuing into the new semester, students dedicate one day a week to attend the MOJO offices to carry out their work. 

While the academic semester ended with exams and assignments in May this year, Law Clinic work carried on, and to my delight, just as Glasgow returned to life, with pubs opening up again and tentative summer plans being made, the brand-new Miscarriages of Justice Organisation office resumed its work in person.

After a year of remote learning, it has been a much-welcomed breath of fresh air to be back in an environment where it is possible to put a question to the room spontaneously or get instant feedback or clarification on a hypothesis before committing valuable research time.

That and, of course, the chance to meet people in the flesh who’d hitherto existed only as a rectangle on Zoom.

The recently renamed Criminal Justice Project is a branch of Law Clinic students who work closely with MOJO.

MOJO is an organisation with two main divisions: casework to overturn Scottish miscarriages of justice; and aftercare for former prisoners who have had their convictions quashed.

My interest in the work of the CJP was initially principally about the advanced criminal law training offered by MOJO’s in-house solicitor. This training included a thorough and comprehensive overview of criminal procedure in Scotland from arrest to interview, trial, prison and parole.

The detail was daunting and eye-opening in equal measure. Where the first-semester course in Criminal Law that all LLB students take is enough to spark an interest, it was, for me, only here where I appreciated what is at stake for society and the human consequences of how our justice system is run.

While the machinery and the principles are impressive and perhaps in some measure intimidating, you can only truly grasp how such attitudes and in-built biases (presumptions) of the system interact when you read the case files, and that is what volunteering for MOJO provides you access to in abundance.

Reading appellate judgements is a cornerstone of legal education. They will teach you how a judge thinks, what material is likely to impress and what can be dismissed i.e. legal relevancy. Judgements are the chapters of Ronald Dworkin’s chain novel that speaks with a single authorial voice. What you don’t get to see on West Law and Lexus Nexus is the cacophony of appendixes: draft material, notes, maps, timelines, interviews, drawings, phone calls, letters, emails, photographs, footage, newspaper cuttings, expert reports, medical records, lab results etc. etc.

To criminal lawyers immersed in them, that’s what a case is: not a post-it note maxim with a neat legal rule but an a-thousand-page file with one sentence’s contradiction that might turn a lost cause into a winnable appeal.

Finding that single slippage in the account or procedural irregularity may take several hours of indiscriminate trawling. This time is simply not compensated for by current legal aid levels and inevitably leads to a certain number of miscarriages of justice every year in Scotland.

It’s not an issue many people are aware of, and some may even accept it as a price worth paying to keep conviction rates high. Of course, innocent convicts are the collateral in this approach, which some may accept with a shrug and a no-smoke-without-fire mentality.

While only political intervention is likely to change the criminal justice system for the better, the work of MOJO can and does change the lives of individuals who are the personal victims of its errors. The wrongfully convicted, alongside the justly, are vilified by the press and society at large, and so MOJO’s work can often appear thankless. Yet, on an educational and human level, it is immensely beneficial.

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Global Alliance for Justice Education Conference – Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Three of our clinic members were able to attend the latest Global Alliance for Justice Education (GAJE) conference: Jordan Hamlett, Cara Hope and Rhonda Wheate. Not only did they attend the conference but they also presented and ran a workshop on empowering students and clients simultaneously through remote representation which fitted in with the theme of the conference: Turning Challenges into Opportunities. Read Jordan, Cara, and Rhonda’s accounts on the conference to find out more about what GAJE is, their workshop and their thoughts on the conference.

Jordan Hamlett – Clinic Student Director and Student Advisor

To be able to attend, let alone present, at this year’s GAJE Conference alongside Cara Hope in June was nothing short of a surreal experience. I must note that it would not have been possible without the support and assistance from the Law Clinic’s Director and supervisor, Kate Laverty, the Clinical LLB Director, Rhonda Wheate, and the Law Clinic’s supervisors, Kathleen Bolt and Gillian Melville.

The GAJE Conference draws staff and students involved in law clinics around the world and legal practitioners interested in access to justice to congregate to discuss challenges and opportunities concerning access to justice. To present, at the GAJE Conference, on the Law Clinic’s student advisors work relating to their representation of clients at Scottish Employment Tribunal, Simple Procedure, and Scottish Social Services Council proceedings was unbelievable. Those that attended our workshop were amazed to hear that our students represent at court and tribunal proceedings, which indicates that it truly is a testament to our students’ hard work and dedication to providing access to justice.

It was truly an honour to present on the Law Clinic’s student advisors’ hard work, and I hope that our workshop entices other law clinics in the UK and around the world, if they aren’t already, to support and encourage student representation at tribunal and court proceedings to promote access to justice.

Cara Hope – IAC Coordinator and Student Advisor

Access to justice forms the core of the Law Clinic, and something which I am personally passionate about. As such, I have been a member of the Law Clinic for 2 years and undertake the Clinical Scots and English degree. The opportunity to attend the GAJE conference was awe-inspiring, let alone the opportunity to present. Working with Jordan and the supervisors of the Law Clinic, we put together a proposal for a workshop based on empowering students and clients simultaneously through remote representation. This interlinked with the theme of the GAJE Conference this year, Turning Challenges into Opportunities, and with the significant impact the COVID-19 impact has had on justice in the past year.

Our workshop followed a made-up scenario of the process of a client using the Law Clinic services, through an initial interview and representation at a full hearing which happened remotely. Participants in the workshop met the client and two student advisors, who faced additional challenges working entirely remotely on the case start to finish. Difficulties with the client, the Judge and technology brought up several obstacles in front of the advisors and we asked the participants to think about how best you could ensure the students, the client and the supervisor assisting the case could become empowered. This included delegation and supporting each other using new techniques and innovative ideas to overcome the barriers of remote representation.

Our workshop was well-received by the participants, who were impressed that as students we conduct all representation for clients ourselves. Keen to hear how we had embraced the opportunity and challenge of remote representation in the past year, Jordan and I discussed our individual experiences and what we have learned from others in the Clinic.

It was a unique and exciting opportunity to exchange ideas and to think critically about what our experience had taught us, passing our learned knowledge onto others. Presenting as a student, we had a very different outlook on the features of the conference as the majority of presentations were by supervisory staff of clinics across the world, and they were keen to hear our perspective. Overall it was an amazing experience and I would recommend anyone interested in clinical education to attend if possible at the next conference in a few years.

Rhonda Wheate – Strathclyde Law School Lecturer and CLLB Coordinator

From an academic perspective, the GAJE conferences are unique in so many ways. Naturally they fulfil all the usual reasons for large academic conferences – Networking, keeping up with the latest developments in the field, learning about innovations, gaining an international perspective – but they always deliver far more than just this. The colleagues and students who participate in GAJE conferences share a vision for access to justice! This brings together people who are inherently interested in helping others, keeping an open mind, and finding creative ways to solve the many problems that beset people all over the world who are trying to access their right to justice.

GAJE papers, presentations, workshops, discussions and participants always amaze me with their enthusiasm, passion and wide-ranging interest, and this year was no different. We found that colleagues were again impressed by the fact that the Strathclyde Law Clinic is truly ‘student led’. Our students meet with clients, prepare casefiles and paperwo{“type”:”block”,”srcClientIds”:[“b3bca6ce-1acc-4915-a042-cbb1b6310cab”],”srcRootClientId”:””}rk, deliver advice and representation, and make the decisions about how our Clinic is run. It is testament to our dedicated and energetic students that we are able to achieve this, and it bears repeating at every GAJE conference: Access to justice can be and is delivered by students, helping the most vulnerable members of our community. It was a delight to see Jordan and Cara demonstrating this at GAJE this year, and to again be so well-received and admired for the excellent job they and the rest of our students are doing in the University Strathclyde Law Clinic.

 

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The Scottish Women’s Right Centre and my time as a summer student

(Erin Connor, Summer Student and SWRC Coordinator 2021/22)

SWRC Coordinator and Summer Student, Erin Connor, talks about the work she and other advisors undertake for the collaborative project, the SWRC, and her time as a summer student for the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic.

Summer 2021 marks my second year as a summer student, and the second year carrying out my role remotely! Having thoroughly enjoyed being a summer student last year, I was keen to be part of the team again this summer.

As the volunteer coordinator for the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC), the majority of my day is spent on work for this project. The SWRC is a collaborative project providing free legal information, advice, representation and advocacy support to self-identifying women in Scotland affected by violence and abuse. The SWRC is a partnership project between Rape Crisis Scotland, the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic and JustRight Scotland. During term time, I am a part of a team of Clinic student advisors who assist solicitors with casework, legal research and administrative support. Therefore, my role as this years SWRC summer student, is to continue this work throughout the summer.

As all the summer students are currently working remotely, JustRight Scotland have kindly provided me with a work laptop to use over the summer to allow me to assist with casework. Working for the SWRC has not only been incredibly rewarding as I am helping the solicitors to assist women in need, but very beneficial to my studies as well. In addition to carrying out legal research and casework, I have been exposed to various court documents such as defences and summons which has greatly improved my understanding of different court processes. I have also gained an understanding of the process involved in an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and assisted with research for a response to a Scottish Government Consultation among many other things. I have even assisted the SWRC solicitor to pull together my first sizeable court bundle – which, as all Clinic students know, required a lot of time getting to grips with Adobe! JustRight Scotland and the SWRC have been immensely supportive, and it has been a great experience to work with them for the summer.

One of my favourite things about being a summer student is the Clinic environment. Although I have missed being in the office and seeing my fellow advisors in person, the positive atmosphere has been replicated remotely. Despite working primarily with the SWRC, I have still felt connected to the Law Clinic. We have daily team meetings with the students that are working that day, allowing us to provide an update on our capacity and workload and any personal updates as well. In addition to this, the Clinic have held virtual coffee breaks throughout the week for students to meet to catch up which is a great opportunity to meet other Clinic students. These interactions allow us to feel like we’re still working in a team, even though we are physically apart.

Through my role as a summer student, not only have I learnt many new legal skills, but I have been able to have a conversation with and get to know some of the Law Clinic team that I wouldn’t have otherwise and fostered some new friendships. I would encourage any student who wants to develop their skills in a positive and friendly environment to apply!

Erin Connor, SWRC Coordinator 2021/22

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The Prison Project – an update from our coordinator and deputy coordinator

Our coordinator, Gregor Henderson, and deputy coordinator, Katie Gardener, talk about how the Prison Project has evolved during the pandemic and what they are currently working on to develop the project. 

The Coronavirus Pandemic has been difficult for everyone, and it has had adverse effects on the work the Strathclyde Law Clinic Prisons Project could carry out. The Pandemic halted a significant part of the work the project could do, with project members prohibited from entering the prison. This resulted in the project being unable to provide our weekly presentation, where we inform prisoners of their employee rights and the way in which their sentences can become spent. This was particularly significant as important and long-awaited changes to the law occurred in 2019 and 2020. To continue to help in any way that we could, The Prisons Project liaised with the prison to consider alternative ways of providing the presentation remotely. However, with the lack of internet and resources this could not be facilitated.

Whilst The Prisons Project’s work has been curtailed by the Pandemic, we have continued to work in the background developing and innovating the project to help reach its audience.

  • The Presentation shown to prisoners has been updated with the new law of the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019.
  • The Project has worked on developing a leaflet with the condensed information available from the presentation which will hopefully be available to prisoners interested in learning of their rights and details of the ways their conviction can become spent.
  • There has been talks of developing an IAC specialising for ex-offenders to help them in their current situation after prison.

Whilst some of this work is still in the early stages The Prisons Project is happy with the progress it is making. The Prisons Project is hopeful that these actions will help us reach a greater audience to inform them of their rights.

Furthermore, with Prisons Project Coordinator Emelia Conner graduating the project will move forward with the new Prisons Project Coordinator (Gregor Henderson) and Deputy Prisons Project Coordinator (Katie Gardner) who aim to continue the excellent work Emelia has carried out.

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