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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My Summer as the The Asylum Project Summer Student

(Francesca Pozzo, Summer Student and TAP Coordinator 2021/22)

Our The Asylum Project (TAP) Summer Student and 2021/22 Coordinator, Francesca Pozzo, talks about her time in the project and and her experience as a Summer Student working exclusively on TAP casework.

The Law Clinic has taught me more than I could have hoped – compassion, ethics, integrity and teamwork. The most valuable insight I have gained from the clinic is into who I want to be as a solicitor. The Asylum Project, which I joined in my first year in the clinic, ignited a passion for helping refugees and asylum seekers progress their cases and hopefully find safety and stability. 

As the Summer Student allocated to The Asylum Project, I have had the opportunity to focus on these cases and undertake consistent work in an area that interests me. It has presented challenges – the law is detailed and case dependent, however I have thoroughly enjoyed this aspect as it has given me a breadth of insight and developed my knowledge in these areas. Being able to dedicate time to our TAP clients has cemented my desire to practice in this area. 

My work has included drafting letters of advice, liaising with other solicitors, researching, calling clients using an interpreter and reading reports and court decisions. Although I am participating exclusively in TAP cases, I always feel connected to and included in the Law Clinic through our daily meetings and coffee breaks. Remote working can be difficult, but the supervisors and Student Directors have done an amazing job of fostering a sense of community in the absence of being able to work together in the office. I’ve also had the opportunity to get involved in summer projects with other students. There is constant support and guidance from Kate, Kathleen, Gillian and Diane, creating a truly great environment in which to work and learn. 

My experience as a Summer Student has strengthened many skills I’ve gained since joining the Law Clinic. It has fostered a confidence in my own abilities through a balance between advice from supervisors and the space to do independent work. It has given me a real insight into what life may be like in practice, and I can only hope to join a working environment half as supportive in the future. To anyone who would like to gain experience and develop their skills, I would fully recommend applying to be a Summer Student – you won’t regret it!

Francesca Pozzo, Summer Student and TAP Coordinator 2021/22

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Summer 2021 – an account from our director, Kate Laverty

(My Hebridean break)

Clinic director, Kate Laverty, talks about what summer 2021 has been like for the clinic so far, and what our summer students and volunteer students have been working on throughout the break.

I find it hard to believe that we are facing another summer working from home – it certainly has it’s pros and cons especially during this blistering heatwave. I can’t complain however as I had a completely energising break in South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

As usual we are continuing to operate a full service throughout the summer and in fact we are often even busier during the summer. Our fantastic team of summer students have hit the ground running. We have a number of general case workers each of them very busy with new and existing cases. These students allow us to continue to represent people over the summer and fulfil our commitments to existing clients many of whom have ongoing employment tribunal proceedings, SSSC hearings or simple procedure actions. We were very fortunate to have the support of Law at Work this year who funded one of our summer interns.

Our two student directors are working away on various matters to get us ready for the year ahead. They have made great headway with our Annual Report, updating the website, working on a new idea for a podcast as well as numerous other tasks.

We were delighted that The Strathclyde Alumni Fund supported a project to get a new Street Law idea up and running and the student assigned to this task has been very productive. She has been working with a number of community organisations discussing the kinds of legal information that would help their members and how best to communicate this information. Our students working on The Asylum Project and the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre have been working on cases, training materials and many other tasks relating to their projects.

Although we have a number of different students in different roles what they have in common is drive and enthusiasm and this is all the more impressive when working from home. We would have loved to have them interacting and sharing ideas in our office environment but working from home has not prevented this from happening. We meet every morning at the very least and it never fails to amaze me how they maintain their motivation and their very positive attitude to clinic work. Each of them is driven to learn as much as they can and contribute ideas about various aspects of the Clinic’s operation and this makes them a joy to work with.

We also have very dedicated student volunteers who, despite their various work, family and social commitments, continue to work hard on their cases and projects throughout the summer on an entirely voluntary basis. We could not do half the amount of work we do without them and they inspire us all. We owe them all a huge thanks.

Kate Laverty, Director

Student Directors: Jordan Hamlett and Rebecca Dyer

TAP: Francesca Pozzo

SWRC: Erin Connor

Street Law: Nicola Maguire

Case Workers: Carly Morrison, Carmen Rowatt, Cara Hope, Mhairi Strachan

Volunteer Students: We wish we could name you all, but a big thank you to all that have, and continue to help throughout the summer.

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University of Strathclyde Law Clinic’s TAP Coordinator, Murray Kemp, Writes About his Time in the Law Clinic

(Murray Kemp, TAP Coordinator 2020-21)

Before we say goodbye to University of Strathclyde Law Clinic’s, Murray Kemp, he writes about his experience working with refugees before joining the Law Clinic and his time as the The Asylum Project (‘TAP’) Coordinator for 2020-21.

Before I joined the clinic, my interest in the asylum process was kickstarted by coverage of the “Refugee Crisis” back in 2015. Although the crisis was merely a high point in what has been a constant stream of people arriving into the UK, the intensified media coverage inspired me to help, so I spent 3 months volunteering with a kitchen project in Patras, Greece.

Once I began my degree, and long after the media spotlight had left, I made a commitment to continue helping the types of people I previously encountered in Greece. As I had always wanted to use my degree to help people and not just line shareholders’ pockets, partly inspired by Meadow in the HBO series, ‘The Sopranos’, I thought that volunteering at an inner-city law clinic seemed like a good place to start. I joined the clinic and took up several cases, but my main focus was ‘The Asylum Project’ (TAP). It was great to get involved, and under the guidance of Jordan Hamlett and Kudakwashe Chinyani, I met my first two clients.

Little did I know that these would be the last clients I met in person. News of a strange virus sweeping through a city in China began to move into my periphery, and before long COVID had hit and we were put into lockdown. This brought new challenges for TAP. Firstly, the training program needed a new format. Previously it had ran as a one-off session, which although informative, limited the amount of people that could join the project. With the help of summer student, Lauryn Dawber, we made a new, pre-recorded training session that meant people could join the project whenever they wanted. A steady stream of volunteers trickled into the project thereafter, and our casework team had great success, with two successful claims in one year meaning 6 people attained refugee status.

The next big challenge was how to do the forum theatre, an interactive public education session that had previously been shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As students were prevented from meeting up, the options were either performing the theatre on Zoom (which was met with universal reluctance) or me whipping something up myself. After roping together a few flatmates and restructuring the script, we filmed a 20-minute-long movie on Snow White entering the UK asylum system. The show debuted at the online fair known as the St Andrew’s Fair Saturday, where it was met with much applause.

Altogether my time at the clinic has been inspiring and a lot of fun. It has been difficult not being able to speak to people face to face, but at least I got one short, sweet semester in the clinic office. I am excited to see how the new EU Immigration IACs work out, and how TAP continues to provide such a valuable service. As the UK Home Office ramps up its Hostile Environment policy and slides deeper and deeper into authoritarianism, the new recruits have their work cut out for them. But then again, the Home Office do not seem to be having much success in Glasgow these days, so I’m sure they will find a way.

Article by Murray Kemp, TAP Coordinator 2020-21.

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Now that the 2020-2021 Academic Year is officially over it’s time to welcome the 2021-2021 Executive Committee.

Over the past month, interviews took place to recruit the Law Clinic’s 2021-2022 Executive Committee. The Law Clinic received applications from students from all years with all candidates showing great enthusiasm.

Students are imperative to the operation and running of the Law Clinic and it is the Executive Committee who take the reigns in guiding the Law Clinic. This years interviews identified key individuals who will be at the core of the running and development of the Law Clinic, especially during this time of continued uncertainty.

Our Elected Committee Members remain in post until the next AGM which is normally in October.

Commenting on the new Executive Committee, Law Clinic Student Directors had this to say:

Rebecca Dyer (Student Director) said:

“After an extremely rewarding and invaluable experience as a Student Advisor, Firm Coordinator and Deputy Student Director, I am elated to be taking on the role of Student Director. Being part of the Law Clinic has been the highlight of my university career, and as the 2021-2022 Academic Year marks my final year of academic study, this role signifies the end of my journey and will allow me to give something back to the Law Clinic. To outgoing Executive Committee members, I cannot thank you enough for all of your hard work, support and contributions to the Law Clinic, as well as your passion and drive in providing access to justice. I wish you all the very best for the future! To new and existing Executive Committee members, I am delighted to be working with you all, and I very much look forward to collaborating with you in the year ahead. I am extremely confident that this new Executive Committee will ensure the Law Clinic’s future development overall, always keeping our passion for providing access to justice at the centre of our mission and reaching as many people in need of our service as possible.”

Jordan Hamlett (Student Director) said:

Firstly, I would like to say a big thank you to the outgoing Executive Committee members, including but not limited to last year’s Student Director, Karen Yuill, and I wish everyone the absolute best in your future endeavours. Secondly, it isn’t easy to put into words as to how excited I am for the upcoming year and to work with the new Executive Committee members and the members who retained their position for another year. All the members on the Executive Committee are incredibly passionate about providing access to justice, and I do not doubt that the new and remaining members will significantly contribute to the progressing of the Law Clinic so that the clinic can provide access to justice to a broader community.”

The 2021-2022 Executive Committee is made up of the following people:

Student Directors: Jordan Hamlett and Rebecca Dyer

IAC Coordinator: Cara Hope

Deputy IAC Coordinator: Alanna Sommerville

Online Project Manager: Laura Hart

Training Officer: Mhairi Strachan

Deputy Training Officer: Sophie Rook

CCU Coordinator: Caoimhean Mac Dhorchaidh

Prisons Project Manager: Gregor Henderson

Deputy Prisons Project Manager: Katie Gardener

Firm Coordinator (Firm A): Nicola Maguire

Firm Coordinator (Firm B): Carly Morrison

Firm Coordinator (Firm C): Martin Gallacher

Firm Coordinator (Firm D): Carmen Rowat

Firm Coordinator (Firm E): TBC

Firm Coordinator (Firm F): Daniel Leyden

SWRC Coordinator: Erin Connor

The Asylum Project Co-Coordinator: TBC

Funding Officer: TBC

Communications Officer: TBC

Elected Committee Members:

  • Ronan Leslie
  • Laura Nicol
  • Karen Lee-Johnston
  • Youssef Abdul Azeez
  • Rosie McIntosh
  • Adriana Cavallaro
  • Ashlie Henderson
  • Jonathon McNamara
  • Caitlin McAllister
  • Peter Akehurst

University of Strathclyde Law Clinic: Carer’s Group Blog Post

Law Clinic Student Advisor, Laura Nicol, writes about her experience providing Strathclyde Carer’s Group with two information sessions on Power of Attorneys and Guardianship Orders alongside fellow Student Advisor, Darya Burton.

(Law Clinic Student Advisors, Laura Nicol and Darya Burton)

Over the past two weeks, Darya Burton and I were given the chance to provide Strathclyde Carer’s Group with two information sessions on Power of Attorneys (POAs) and Guardianship Orders (GOs). The group had received similar information sessions in the past from previous clinic members and they were keen for further sessions as long-standing members of the Carer’s Group often spoke of how good and useful it had been.

Darya had a little experience with the subject matter from her working in a law firm and I had basic knowledge. However, we worked together to produce fresh PowerPoint slideshows by utilising previous PowerPoints we had in our database, extensive research and consulting supervisors. These two PowerPoints broke down the essential information in regard to POAs and GOs.

We decided to split the sessions into two, as the subjects are already easily confused and discussed as if they’re interchangeable which they aren’t. We thought this would also help separate the two in the listeners minds as there was also a lot of information in each presentation and we thought it a bit much to absorb all at once.

For those who are unaware of the difference between POA and GO, POA can only be granted by someone who has capacity, and only usually ‘kicks in’ once they have lost capacity (often described as an ‘insurance policy’). Whereas a GO is the process you have to go through to be able to make a decision on another person’s behalf if they have either already lost capacity, or never had capacity as an adult. Both POA and GO are governed by the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and there is also a useful guide to the act which can be found here if anyone is looking for further information:

The presentations were received very well and brought up some very interesting and important conversations within the group. We thank the group for having us and we are glad they enjoyed it and found it useful. Their feedback was that:

“Both Laura and Darya were excellent, they presented very well with clear slides and information and were more than able to answer any questions which were sent their way. All in all a really great couple of sessions which all attendees found useful and informative”.

For other clinic members who find themselves doing a presentation in the future here are useful pointers;

  • Use it as a learning experience – researching things you don’t know about will only help your research skills and knowledge.
  • Keep the slides simple – remember that who you are presenting to may know little about the law and that is probably why you are doing a presentation for them.
  • Avoid using green, pink or red fonts or backgrounds – these colours in particular often make it harder for people with dyslexia to read and view the information.
  • Use clinic resources where possible – there is always usually something on the database which will be helpful!

Laura Nicol, Student Advisor at the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic.

The Scottish Government Introduce The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019

Members of our Prisons Project and Criminal Convictions Unit write about the introduction of The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 by the Scottish Government.

For the citizens of Scotland, with previous criminal convictions, Tuesday the 1st December 2020 was a landmark day. In an attempt to support ex-offenders, on the path to employment, the Scottish Government have introduced The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019.  This legislation amends provisions within the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and will result in fewer convictions appearing on Disclosure Scotland checks, for people applying for jobs.

So, what is a spent conviction? When a court hands down a sentence, that sentence will appear on the offender’s criminal record. Depending on the nature of the offence, the offender, when applying for a job or a disclosure, is required to disclose any unspent criminal convictions. Unspent convictions are those convictions that have not yet reached the defined time period outlined by law when the offender no longer needs to disclose his/her offence(s) to an employer/ future employer.

So how does this legislation change things?

For non-custodial sentences the disclosure changes include:

  • For community payback orders, a reduction from five years to 12 months or the length of the order, whichever is longer;
  • For fines, a reduction from five years to 12 months;
  • An admonishment or absolute discharge will no longer need to be disclosed.

For custodial sentences, disclosure periods will be:

  • For sentences up to 12 months, the length of the sentence plus two years;
  • For sentences between 12 and 30 months, the length of the sentence plus four years;
  • For sentences between 30 and 48 months, the length of the sentence plus six years.

Offenders aged under 18 at time of conviction have the additional period reduced by half.

Over the next year these changes will have a major impact on the daily work of Strathclyde Law Clinic Prison Project Outreach Programme.  This programme sees law clinic volunteers interact with prisoners at Scotland HMP Low Moss Prison.  The programme helps educate and prepare prisoners for life after prison, including helping on the path to employment.

Speaking about the legislative developments in this area, Prison Project coordinator, Emelia Connor welcomed the positive steps, “”Having been involved with the prison project for the past 4 years and worked closely with HMP Low Moss, I am so relieved to see this change to the law and the positive impact it will have on ex-offenders. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the prison and informing as many ex-offenders about this momentous change to the law.”

The introduction of the new legislation has also been widely welcomed across the political, economic, and voluntary sector.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf highlighted the need for change: “Parliament agreed that current disclosure periods are too long. Employment and the skills, opportunities and hope that it brings, can support routes out of offending, thereby contributing to safer communities.”

‘Pressure Group Scotland’ believes it will have a positive impact. They see the Act as “good for business allowing access to a wider talent pool and the removal of some hiring barriers, employers in Scotland will be able to recruit more widely than ever before.”

Phil Martin is the founder of ‘Ex Seed’, a support service network for people with convictions. He believes the changes are long overdue, “I am pleased with the changes in Scotland of the Management Offenders Act 2019 which allow people to gain their freedom from the shadow of disclosure a little earlier than would have otherwise been the case. It is important that we give real weight to the “ex” in “ex-offender” so that it is not just individuals who see themselves as changed, but society which also allows people to leave their mistakes in the past and move on to live crime-free and fulfilling lives.”

Indeed these changes form part of a wider cultural change in society towards Ex-Offenders. In recent years, well known high street brands and corporations like Virgin Trains, Greggs, Timpson and Marks & Spencer have initiated programmes to rehabilitate ex-offenders and bring them back into the workplace.

Figures last year, for the Department of Justice in the UK, showed just 17% of ex-offenders get jobs upon release from prison, and of the 17%  around 9% are less likely to reoffend.

The new legislation forms part of a wider UK strategy in this area. In 2017 the UK Civil Service reaffirmed its ambition to become the most inclusive employer in the UK by 2020, through the publication of its ‘Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.’ More recently, in 2018, the Ministry of Justice published their ‘Education and Employment Strategy’, to create a system where each person with a criminal record is set on a path to employment from the outset.