Competition Time #ULScomp1

So this is our first competition of the Summer (and there will be lots more to come).

So to win Employability Skills for Law Students by Finch and Fafinski (courtesy of OUP) we want you to write us 250 words on your best uni law experience and why.

Use this opportunity to think about your skill set (and this could be great practice for interviews).

Likewise if you choose to pick something a lot of students have done, that is absolutely fine, make it your own, tell us why it has helped you or why it was so good!

Try and think outside the box, but as we said previously there are no wrong answers, and you are more than welcome to pick something everyone has done, just make yourself stand out in your entry!

So here are a couple of examples:

– Have you been to a particularly good networking event? What happened? What did you gain?

– Have you participated in a really good advocacy event? Or did you watch one and felt you gained a lot?

– Is it as simple as getting a particularly good grade in an exam/piece of coursework and it has spurred you on?

– Or have you had that eureka moment where previously you never knew what to do with your law degree – but now you do?

There are so many options and we cannot wait to read your entries!

Email us entries by Friday 8th August and the winner will be announced the following week! Use the subject: ULS Comp 1 and send all entries to Uni-Law-Students@mail.com

So this is a picture of the book you will be winning – it really is an amazing book! And once again a massive thank you to OUP for providing us with a copy for you.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 16.20.06

Good luck everyone!

Rebecca x

(lawyer_inmaking)

Amazing and inspirational – the UK’s first female blind law professor

As any law student knows, studying law requires copious amounts of reading, so team that with a student being blind and it is even more of a challenge.

What is remarkable about Anna Lawson is that she did not let this stop her, and her determination to study has also resulted in her now being a professor at Leeds University.  She has been quoted saying “I absolutely love it”, and she teaches disability law and human rights courses.

Many students moan about how heavy and large the textbooks are, and how there is too much reading – but imagine never actually being able to pick up that book or statute, and then read it for yourself.  Or when you have printed out your cases – imagine never being able to highlight or annotate them.  This is a reminder of how we really do take some of the littlest things for granted!

Anna Lawson credits her parents for their extraordinary effort (alongside her local community in North Wales) in ensuring she fulfilled her potential. They invested so much time to enable her to achieve her dreams and be where she is today.

Anna Lawson, 46, went blind as a child and when lots of other learning methods failed, her father, Bruce, a vet, invested in variable speed tape machines, and from then on her parents were her support network.

When Anna was at school, her mother taped all the art based subjects, and her father all the science based ones.  Weekends were spent making tapes to aid her learning. The next challenge was A Levels, as the increase in workload and reading stepped up a notch, but it did enable Anna to develop her research skills.  Whilst studying for her A Levels, Anna’s parents sent tapes, and she spoke her notes into a second machine.

Anna Lawson achieved straight A grade A levels, and deservedly earned her place to read law at Leeds, which had and has a worldwide reputation for facilities for the blind and partially sighted.  One of the benefits of studying at Leeds was that it had a transcription centre where every book, or article she needed was copied for her.  Anna Lawson’s mother was a law graduate herself .

Unfortunately Anna’s sister Jane had also developed the disease, but with the same support that Anna had received secured a place at Cardiff University and graduated, like Anna did, with a first.  The girls chose not to stop there with their academics, and they both went on to further degrees. Anna Lawson undertook a two-year Master’s at Oxford and her sister a Master’s at Cambridge which they both achieved firsts. Though this was by no mean an easy path to success, as the transcription service at Oxford was very small, and Cardiff did not even have one!

It was then when neighbours and those from their village rallied together to help out the girls.   Their mother turned their house into an informal taping service, which saw the family buying 25 tape recorders, and lots of people were dotted around the house taping.  Some even took the tapes home to complete! Special delivery packages arrived every day for the girls with the material that they needed, whole books, some quite weighty and technical. 

The community did not have to help these girls succeed, but they chose to – and that goes to show that some element of community spirit does live on.

Today, taping has ben replaced by digital working, and Anna can now read everything on a computer, as a speech synthesiser reads what is on the screen.  Due to this advance in technology Anna has now thrown away all of her tapes.  Anna also has a personal assistant, and this service funded by the Government’s Access to Work Scheme also scans texts that cannot be easily read, and her partner David (who is an IT specialist) also helps. 

When reading the article about Anna Lawson, she stated that on a conference trip to China (to promote the human rights of people with disabilities) one of the attendee’s asked to feel Anna’s white stick.  “She’d never felt one before. I was quite disturbed by this — it made me realise that we take access to guide dogs, to white canes, for granted.”  As a result of this, Anna has set up a project, to send white canes to a school for blind children outside Beijing – so not only has she achieved so much in her own right, Anna is now helping others growing up like she did – but often without the support of a dedicated family and friends network.

Anna Lawson, noted that  “I feel I have been extremely lucky. There would have been a lot of people more academically able than me but who did not have that luck, thesupport I had — fantastic parents, the community and the right linguistic tools. I’d not have got my degree, or even started it, without that.”  It shows how much she needed the support of the others, but her desire to achieve played a significant role!

How amazing is this woman – to have achieved so much and under the circumstances.  This should be a reminder to most of us, to follow our dreams, work hard and realise that there is always a solution, sometimes you just need to think outside the box – or ask for help! Most of us have our own day to day struggles, but the fact that Anna Lawson has achieved so much despite being blind deserves some recognition.  These are the sort of people we should be looking up to – someone that strives to achieve their dreams and works hard no matter what happens!

Anna is an inspiration and I am so pleased I found this article about her – more students need to be made aware of the remarkable people we have in the profession, as well as the hurdles they have overcome to make them the people they are today.

Next time you think about moaning about a textbook – remember not everyone has the opportunity to even read them!

Rebecca x

Deputy Editor (@lawyer_inmaking)

© Rebecca Morgan 2014

 

Government may finally be seeking justice for ‘revenge porn’ victims

Government may finally be seeking justice for ‘revenge porn’ victims

By Victoria Anderson

It has been reported that the government is now considering the introduction of a new law to tackle the growing practice of sharing ‘revenge porn’ online. The term is used to describe the act of disseminating intimate or explicit photos or videos, usually after the break up of a relationship. Often these photos will be shared on sites where the victims friends and family can see them, as such ensuring that not only are the photos seen, but also seen by people the victim knows. In the event that the images are shared on other websites, they may be uploaded alongside the victim’s personal details, an act which causes further problems in relation to future employment and the individuals overall safety, since the information can be used by anyone to locate the victim.

The damage that the publication of such images on the Internet can have on an individual’s reputation, both socially and professionally can be significant, in addition to the psychological damage that can result. Some victims have developed conditions such as depression; whilst others have tragically gone on to commit suicide.

It cannot be denied that since the inception of the commercial Internet in the 1980’s the UK government has struggled to deal with the various legal challenges that have arisen as a result of the new technology. Revenge porn is no exception, as the practice currently falls under a number of different laws in the UK, including the Malicious Communications Act 1988, which provides the vague requirement of a communication, usually written, which intends to cause distress or anxiety and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which will normally require more than one incident. Whilst these provisions are technically able to deal with revenge porn, the success of an action is normally reliant on the police force dealing with the complaint, many of which are not experienced in dealing with Internet based offences. The uncertainty in the application of the law in these circumstances is particularly detrimental, since many victims of this crime are understandably embarrassed about the context of their complaint, and as such they are less likely to bring it to the attention of the authorities where they are not confident of a successful prosecution.

Thankfully, we may soon be provided with an updated and specifically targeted offence to deal with the problem of revenge porn. Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary has recently stated that: “the Government is very open to having a serious discussion about this with a view to taking appropriate action in the autumn if we can identify the best way of doing so.”

The idea of a best method for dealing with the issue has since been heavily debated, and recently the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve has met with Canadian authorities so as to allow the UK to assess whether or not to mirror the newly drafted Canadian bill. The bill seeks to criminalise the practice of revenge porn and goes as far as to attach a minimum five-year imprisonment sentence to the offence. To some this may seem appropriate in light of the damage that such an act can have on the victim’s safety, reputation and overall lifestyle; however others have expressed concerns that such a significant prison sentence may lead to the incarceration of young people who have simply made a grave error in judgment. Whilst it is difficult to have sympathy for this argument, it may be sensible for consideration to be given to more flexible sentencing approach in the UK.

With this in mind, regardless of the exact framework of the offence, it would certainly be a relief for many if the current grey area in the law no longer shielded this form of online abuse.

© Victoria Anderson 2014

@VFAnderson

First blog post by one of our guest bloggers!

Hi,

It’s Rebecca here and I am so excited to let you know that I am just about to post our first blog/article from one of our guest bloggers.

It is amazingly well written, informative and something everyone should read, as it is the sort of thing we read about in the papers and news a lot, but probably never quite now the legal standing on it.

Victoria Anderson has an amazing way at writing articles and this was so easy to read and follow, but equally really detailed and shows the time and effort put in to producing such a good article! (follow her on twitter @VFAnderson).

I look forward to receiving more articles and blog posts from all of you that we can publish online, and remember they can be on anything legal based, so that’s current news articles, book reviews, work experience and study tips, areas of interest (the list is endless)… so get writing!

Rebecca x

Deputy-Editor

@lawyer_inmaking

Mooting

So I just mentioned in my about me how crucial it is to develop your advocacy skills, and just build up your confidence in public speaking in general, so I thought this was apt moment to post an article I wrote on my own blog during my #janlawblogpost series.  If you want to check out the original then head over to my site.

Hope you enjoy reading it, and see the importance of developing these skills.

Rebecca (Deputy Editor)

@lawyer_inmaking

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Mooting – a key skill and rite of passage for all law students?

According to an article written by City Law School, “the skills achieved while mooting are life changing”.

As a student who has both mooted, and assissted mooting teams I have seen first hand the benefits.  The confidence you gain standing up and presenting your argument puts you in good stead for your future career (even if that is not in the field of law).  It is however the skills gained and developed during the preparation which are crucial.  Mastering the art of writing a fault proof skeleton argument is necessary, that teamed with the ability of researching significant (and most importantly relevant!) law to back up your argument is vital.  Then you need to present this argument, in a coherent manner and with persuasion.

These skills, are not only important for Mooting, but for law students in general – as a student it is important that when writing essays you do not waste your time reading irrelevant cases, that you can pinpoint the significant judgements and insert these correctly into your essay so that you can persuade the marker and also show that you believe in your argument. (You may never fully believe in your argument but you need to have an opinion either way.  You need to demonstrate to the marker that you have an argument and that you are sticking to your opinion – even when debating the other side).

So Mooting, it is an invaluable skill, and I am so grateful to have been part of the Advocacy Team at Hertfordshire University since I started.  My confidence in public speaking has grown so much, I feel I am able to stand up and present an argument and be put on the spot when the Judge asks me questions.  I know that I can produce a skeleton argument, and then develop this argument further when I am presenting it.  So many law students turn down the idea of partaking in Mooting, because they do not like the idea of standing up and speaking in front of others, but it is something you will have to do in any walk of life, be that talking to clients or representing your client in court.

There are so many internal and external competitions to get involved in, and I think every student should have a go at Mooting.  Not least because as City Law School state, “Among other benefits it helps students to think on their feet.”  They also write that, “Long established as a kind of rite of passage for law students, mooting is where the aspirant advocates of the future cut their teeth.  It gives them their first encounter in a competitive environment with the need to deploy legal knowledge and argument while also facing rigorous challenges from a “judge” (often a real one).

I personally could not agree more with the above from City Law School, as it really is a beneficial skill.  Whilst they (in their article) go on to state that Mooting, sorts out the future barristers from the solicitors, I only partially agree.  Whilst Mooting is a reality check on how comfortable someone is speaking in public, this is a skill which can be developed and improved on.  Plus solicitors do need to have confidence in speaking, and whilst someone may try mooting and realise that being in court is not for them, if it improves their overall confidence in speaking and formulating an argument to help their client in an office, then surely that is still a benefit!

The skills required to be a successful mooter are essential for anyone entering any legal profession, and for any law students out there I would highly recommend getting involved – even if you do not enter any internal or external competitions, you will certainly benefit from mooting with and amongst your fellow students!

Rebecca x

#janlawblogpost

About Me – Rebecca (lawyer_inmaking)

Hi,

I’m Rebecca, and I am Deputy Editor of UniLawStudents.  I am undertaking my LLB in a slightly unconventional way (and definitely different to how I had planned, but it all seems to be working out for the best).  Growing up from a young age I always knew I wanted to study law, but circumstances meant it was not possible straight away and so I ended up doing a Foundation Law Degree and then started my LLB (part time) and I am very fortunate to have ended up working in the legal field for most of that.

I am about to start my final year in September and I am really excited, but at the same time will no doubt feel a bit lost after it has all finished.

So, despite working and studying I try and get involved with as many uni events as I can, and co-founded the Bar Society at Herts Uni.  It really is crucial for you guys to get involved in as much as you can (even if you don’t have a role in them) just go along to events, you never know who you might meet!

So, I don’t really remember the moment I decided I wanted to study and then pursue a career in the Law, but I do remember people telling me that I used to talk about when I was 8!  I am really passionate about becoming a Barrister but know that the route isn’t an easy one, and neither is that of someone wanting to become a Solicitor.  Despite working for solicitors for a number of years now, it definitely hasn’t changed my mind on my career choice, but I do know that if I have to wait a while for a Pupillage, I will be absolutely fine sticking with being a Paralegal whilst I wait!

I really enjoy attending advocacy events and it is crucial that you guys do the same, and build up your confidence (not just those of you wanting to be Barristers either, as believe me, Solicitors needs to know how to communicate effectively as well!).

So outside of studying and working full-time, I have a blog which you are more than welcome to check out, and I try and post as regularly as I can.  It is legal based, some bits on what I am up to, and then also current legal news and discussion points.  Feel free to check it out here: lawyerinthemaking.co.uk I also love baking cakes and regularly post photos on twitter, I also have a slight obsession with going on holiday and watching US box sets… I can’t be a legal geek all the time!

So, if any of you want to get involved by writing the odd blog post for us (which you can also put on your CV) then send us a message!  Looking forward to hearing from you, and really excited to see where Sion and I can take UniLawStudents to this year! So keep checking back on twitter @UniLawStudents

Rebecca x

@lawyer_inmaking

So it is the end of June’s #ULStoptips

As promised here is the list of our top tips which we tweeted over the month of June.

This list is by no means exhaustive and there are plenty of others so we will try and do another Top Tips session in a couple of months.

1. Get involved… whether that be law society events, advocacy programmes or external events, have fun and start networking

2. Highlighters will no doubt be your best friend during your law degree, so invest in more than just the 4 main colours…

3. Keep on top of going to/watching lectures and reading, it really makes things easier come coursework deadlines and revision

4. Start compiling revision notes as early on as possible, means you can revise rather than having to produce notes before the exam

5. Get involved in your tutorials/seminars, answer questions etc. Tutors will get you know you and remember you for participating!

6. Advocacy – just get involved! The skills you learn will be beneficial for solicitors and non-legal careers, not just barristers

7. Do your reading, don’t just rely on module guides, you need to do your textbook and wider reading, even cases in full sometimes!

8. You need to make sure you have a life outside of studying law so go out with friends, hit the gym, watch a film and have fun

9. When you apply for work experience, research the firm properly, this is especially important if you get invited for an interview

10. Be organised, this is necessary for any job/degree in the future. If you aren’t already organised, use your degree to start!

11. If needs be use revision guides to give you a basic understanding of a topic AND then use your recommended reading to develop it

12. The more cases you can read in full the better you will get at reading and understanding them

13. Use social media and follow some law related pages such as they have great resources

14. You may not understand a topic for a while but we promise that you will have that moment where it all suddenly makes sense!

15.  Social media is a great tool Use it for legal networking and showing you have a life (outside law), but do monitor what you post

16.  You will hear the word ‘networking’ mentioned a lot throughout your degree, get involved and network as often as you can!

17.  Even if you are set on a career path, get some work experience in other areas or at a solicitors/chambers to use as comparison

18.  Work experience isn’t just about solicitors and chambers, check out court marshalling, in-house departments and other options

19.  Twitter is great for networking, current news and discussions. Get following lecturers and legal professionals etc.

20.  Visit courts and watch some cases, (whether it be Mags or Crown) and drag your law friends along if needs be, you can network!

21.  Remember that you need things to make you stand out; work experience abroad, summer placements, shadowing judges etc…

22.  Have an up to date and relevant CV and a cover letter than you can adapt various aspects of for different applications.

23.  Many employers understand that people have done a lot of work experience, so pick the most relevant bits for your applications!

24. Discuss topics/cases with law friends, they may have a different opinion to you, and this can help your argument and knowledge

25. Try to not write your coursework on the day it is due, if you don’t understand something it is too late to ask! Be organised

26.  Drafting answers to essay questions and problem scenarios is great for revision, (and also improves your writing skills)

27. Note down or flag pages for useful quotes you find for coursework to prevent you spending hours hunting for page numbers!

28.  Attend events run by the Inns of Court and/or various solicitor firms, they are for your benefit and also get you networking

29.  Those law magazines you can pick up at uni, don’t just put them in the bin. Read them! They contain useful info and case updates

30.  Enjoy studying, it won’t always be hard, likewise it won’t always be easy,but make sure you enjoy it, as it really will go fast!

Rebecca x

Deputy-Editor

@lawyer_inmaking

Update

Hi,

It’s Rebecca here, I can not believe it is nearly the end of June already.

I will be posting  a blog at the start of July with all of the #ULStoptips that have been going up each day for the last month, and I really hope you have enjoyed them and found them useful!

That list is by no means exhaustive, and so over the next few months we will be putting up further tips using the same hashtag.

If you would like me to do another ‘one every day a month’ type thing, then let me know, someone had the idea of really useful and must-read books, and I would be more than happy to do that for you!

So now it brings me on to the competition, we are just finalising details now, and plan to run a couple over the summer, so do keep an eye out on twitter for details and get involved.

Thank you once again to everyone for retweeting the top tips, and a massive welcome to our new followers!

Rebecca

(lawyer_inmaking)

#ULStoptips

Everyday during the month of June we are going to be posting a top tip using the hashtag  

Please make sure you check them out and retweet them from 

Also let us know your thoughts on any of our tips, as well as sending some of your own ideas our way!

At the end of the month we will type up all the tips and put them in a blog post for you all to have.

Keep checking back as we will posting some blogs from current students over the next couple of weeks.

Rebecca

Deputy Editor

@Lawyer_inmaking

 

Blogging for us…

Writing articles/blog posts really can make you stand out from the crowd, and as everyone knows law is so competitive that having something different on your CV is crucial!

That is part of the reason you should get involved and write for UniLawStudents.

The other reason is that it will improve your writing skills, as well as forming opinions, and delivering arguments.

Regardless of whether you want to be a solicitor, barrister of something completely different and non-law related, good writing and communication skills are important.

So what are we looking for…

Well this where we are giving you free rein (within reason)

As students you are the best source for knowing what current, former and prospective students want to hear about…

  • tips and tricks for studying
  • work experience
  • current legal articles
  • book/film reviews
  • discussion topics

…and anything law related from a student perspective!

The list really is endless, and with so much going on in the legal world at the moment, there are plenty of topical and current news areas to choose to write about.  Plus let’s not forget that all prospective employers love a bit of commercial awareness.

But you can also write quite light-hearted posts for us…we aren’t just looking for academic based articles!

So get involved and send us a message on @UniLawStudents for more information.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Rebecca

(Deputy Editor)

@lawyer_inmaking

Gibraltar – Finance on Rock Solid Foundations by @PhilipVasquez

By Philip Vasquez, StretLaw Associate

Gibraltar – The Key to Becoming a Leading Finance Centre in a Climate of Dire Economic Straits is The Rock’s Solid Foundations of Diligent Compliance and Regulation.

The Rock

At present, aside from boasting a climate of warm weather and a welcoming community, the iconic Rock of Gibraltar increasingly hones an ideal setting for business and investment opportunities. The rapid transformation of Gibraltar’s progressively powerful reputation for doing international business is rapidly breaking through the carapace of the tarnished business image once associated with the peninsular in the millennium forgone. Despite its trivial size, Gibraltar has fast become a leading entity in international business. At the core of Gibraltar’s emergent success as an exciting and growing international finance centre lies a deep ethic on diligent compliance and regulation.

Financial Integrity

Over the past 15 years Gibraltar has progressed tremendously. Gibraltar’s upward reputation may be described to have dispelled the arduous convoluted misconceptions, as although it was once renowned for being an offshore tax haven, Gibraltar has become an onshore Finance Centre with full EU approval and international accreditation. Gibraltar’s journey to becoming a jurisdiction of full financial integrity is attributable to Gibraltar:

  • abolishing its former ‘tax exempt’ regime;
  • signing 26 Tax Information Exchange Agreements (hereby referred to as a ‘TIEA’);
  • keeping in full compliance with its obligations of the European Union (hereby referred to as the ‘EU’);
  • being recognised by international finance bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (hereby referred to as the ‘OECD’), the International Monetary Fund (hereby referred to as the ‘IMF’) and the Financial Action Task Force (hereby referred to as the ‘FATF’) as being fully compliant with international standards;
  • tightening up its criminal legislation in relation to tax and money laundering.

Tax

Gibraltar’s increasingly new-found status as a jurisdiction for doing business may arguably be attributable to its lucrative tax regimes which boast a 10% corporate tax rate and attractive tax residency regimes whereby income tax is capped at set amounts for high and ultra net worth individuals and executives. Such regimes have been found to be fully compliant with EU obligations and international standards.

Corporate Tax

Gibraltar’s new Corporate Tax rate of 10% commenced in 2011 following the introduction of the Income Tax Act 2010. The Income Tax Act also introduced the advent of the ‘tax exempt’ regime by the 31st of December 2010. Gibraltar’s ‘tax exempt’ regime, based in the Companies (Taxation and Concessions) Ordinance 1967, was a lucrative system of taxation whereby foreign entities were able to be liable to a maximum taxation of £225 in Gibraltar. The ‘tax exempt’ regime functioned on the premise of opening an ‘exempt’ company in Gibraltar. For such companies to be awarded an ‘exempt’ status, there could be no beneficial ownership in the company attributable to a Gibraltarian resident, and that very company could not carry out business in Gibraltar. Such a system also allowed for individuals to avoid inheritance tax and capital gains tax on properties purchased in Spain and Portugal. In contrast to such a system, Gibraltar’s new Corporation Tax is fully compliant with its EU obligations and has been found to be fully compliant to international standards.

Gibraltar Compliant with EU Obligations and its TIEA Repertoire

Gibraltar’s new Corporation Tax has been found by the European Court of Justice to be legal and compliant with the EU, for enshrined in Gibraltar’s constitution is the caveat which provides that Gibraltar holds full financial autonomy over matters of taxation. Gibraltar has also kept to all of its EU obligations, especially those that relate to financial services. But to give examples of such compliance, Gibraltar has transposed the EU Savings Directive (2013/48/EC 3) which gives regard to the taxation on savings income, the Exchange of Information directive (2011/16) which has been recognised by the OECD to be equivalent to a TIEA and most recently the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive to attract Funds managers, which is to be implemented this summer.

As a matter of fact, Gibraltar has signed 26 TIEAs with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom and other major OECD Member countries such as Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA.

Gibraltar Recognised as a Highly Compliant Jurisdiction

In addition to Gibraltar’s EU compliant nature and numerous TIEAs, the Rock’s purged image has been recognised by internationally accredited bodies. The IMF has repeatedly held Gibraltar’s regulatory and supervisory practices in banking and insurance, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regimes to be meeting international standards and to be ‘at the forefront of the development of good practices’. Over the same period, Gibraltar has pledged its commitment to transparency by implementing all of the recommendations contained in the OECD’s report of 2011, duly placing Gibraltar on the white list of jurisdictions which are compliant with the OECD’s internationally agreed tax standard.

Gibraltar has not only become a beacon of compliance, but Gibraltar has also become a pioneering jurisdiction in regulating financial practices, for it has placed itself in the European pilot scheme for automatic exchange of information. In addition to being compliant with all of its EU and international obligations, Gibraltar has increasingly taken a hard-lined approach to criminalizing tax and money laundering practices.

Gibraltar’s Hard Line against Tax Evasion & Money Laundering

Gibraltar’s commitment to curbing illegal tax evasion and monetary laundering practises may be evidenced in recent measures taken to criminalize such conduct. Tax evasion, for example, is an indictable offence in Gibraltar under the Income Tax Act 2010 section 67(3), which holds such conduct punishable with a maximum prison sentence of 7 years. Since 2008, Gibraltar has also shown its willingness to eradicate illegal tax conduct by opening itself to letters of request from other Member States in order to exchange information on criminal tax matters. Most recently, the Government of Gibraltar reiterated its firm view by stating that ‘tackling tax evasion and fraud is rightly a global priority’ and that it wishes to commit to such an ethic by cooperating with the United Kingdom and other EU member states, including Spain, as well as its TIEA signatories. Gibraltar is also presently preparing the ground for the implementation of the United States’ FACTA model to counter tax evasion by US residents using foreign accounts.

Hard Line Against Tax Evasion

In addition to Gibraltar’s hard line against tax evasion, legislation has been in place since 1988 to counter money laundering, mostly apparent in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1988 and the Crime (Money Laundering) Act 2007 which ensures compliance with EU requirements. The credibility of Gibraltar’s diligence to money laundering is evident in the Financial Action Task Force’s review of 2000 (hereby referred to the ‘FATF’) which classified the peninsular as a co-operative jurisdiction which was ‘close to complete adherence with the 40 FATF recommendations’. Gibraltar’s Financial Intelligence Unit was also formally admitted as a full member of the Egmont Group, the international network of Intelligence Units which strive to improve cooperation between Units in order to fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, in 2004.

Conclusion

Gibraltar’s ascent to a reputable jurisdiction of high financial integrity has evidently been achieved through a rapid and evolutionary trajectory of legislative regulation, international compliance and the diligent criminalization of certain practices. There is no secret to Gibraltar’s enviable success as an international finance centre. Apart from being able to host a high quality of life with almost 300 days of sunshine, Gibraltar’s financial regulatory and compliance repertoire are rock solid. Gone are the days of questioning Gibraltar’s integrity, for now in 2013 all aspects of Gibraltar’s business follow legal frameworks and procedures, therefore negating any suggestion that Business in Gibraltar is unregulated. Truthfully, as in the words of Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, “the culture of compliance is an essential prerequisite of how we do business in Gibraltar”.

© Philip Vasquez, 2013

Legal Work Experience Diary: My 5 Days Worth by @memszie a @warwickuni student

By Mems Ayina

The majority of law students will, or at least should, engage in legal work experience. No one will get it for you, unless you win it, so you have to actively seek it.

Work experience can go either way; it has the potential to put you off having a career in law or may encourage you to work harder than ever to become a lawyer, but you certainly have to do it to appreciate it.

My experiences are varied; sometimes, after a hard days work, I leave certain firms wanting to hit my head against a wall because of the boredom and the lack of organisation with regard to my supervision. Others, such as HowardKennedyFSI (this diary entry) leave me feeling very positive indeed.

My previous experiences suggest that work experience duties range from photocopying, making tea and fetching solicitors’ sandwiches. Whilst I pin all those on the ‘negativity-board’, photocopying is a reality in practice. Surely you’ve seen those huge archive boxes wheeled to court? Yes, solicitors have to photocopy that material!

Some firms have more engaging programmes, but all work experience is good because it gives you first-hand experience of how a firm operates, even if it is at the sidelines. Nevertheless, work experience is vital to show your passion and drive in the battle to become a lawyer and is highly recommended that you undertake it.

So last week I carried out work experience in a law firm in London. I was extremely apprehensive about going as my last experience was not the greatest. This programme however was structured and has a played a large part in my understanding of the type of firm that suites me. This is critical to realise, because your TCs will be shaped by such experiences.

Monday

The first day of anything can be pretty nerve-racking. As I do not live in London I had to take the train and underground to get to the firm, which was an alien experience! All I can say is that I will not be ‘Miss Travelling’ to London every day. Everyone must have thought I was a tourist as I got my bag stuck in the underground doors on many occasions (don’t laugh!), and was walking around in a confused state trying to understand the meaning of the different coloured lines on the underground map.

I finally arrived (on time of course – don’t be late) and was pleasantly surprised. The layout of the firm was unexpected. My experience warned me law firms in London could be extremely big, this building however was warming and not intimidating. The group I was in consisted of 8 people from various backgrounds.

One thing I really do enjoy about work experience is that you meet people who are going through the same process that you are. All of us are waiting on results, all of us want to study law at university, and all of us understand the competition to be successful in law is fiercer than ever. Now ABS and Legal Apprenticeships are with us, how long will the traditional model of entry to profession survive? I’m not convinced at this stage what the future of law will be, and even now there are a lack of TCs. By the time I’ve finished my degree and the LPC, students whom have opted for a legal apprenticeship will be earning and in a job. I however, will be doing my best to get an interview!

We were introduced to some of the partners and the CEO who gave great advice about a career in law. We then had an in-depth discussion with the trainees. This was enlightening as all the trainees were all extremely different, they did not fit a typical mould. The firm itself does not discriminate in relation to the university you attend, as long as you have people skills and fit the job description.

Tuesday

The second day involved various activities. What I found most interesting was the Supreme Courts tour. We were able to sit in the courts while trials where taking place and I found this absolutely fascinating. We were also given a tour and a talk about the reasons why the Supreme Court was established and discussed some really interesting cases. In the afternoon we were separated, each of us visiting different parts of the firm. From what we were told, the work experience programme wanted us to understand the different departments and the mechanics of running a law firm. I was sent to the post room and really enjoyed myself. Being able to speak to individuals that have been in the firm for a long time demonstrated various benefits of working for a mid-sized firm.

Wednesday

By this point we had moved our location, as the firm has just gone through a merger there are still two different sites. This site looked more like the law firms you see in law programmes on television, it was extremely shiny and had cool furniture. Again we were split up and visited various departments. One of the departments that I really enjoyed was employment law (who would have guessed?). I was actually given tasks that made me think and allowed me to research topics. I thoroughly enjoyed this and look forward to studying it more in depth at university.

Thursday

Another activity that we all took part in was the London Legal Walk. Through the hustle and bustle of London streets, we were transported into a world of peace, with beautiful gardens and stunning architecture. There was no shouting and no buses honking their horns (I really did appreciate the peace). We were shown the Inns of Courts and taught about the traditions of each Inn. Though none of us wanted to be barristers, I was particularly interested in how the role of the barrister and solicitor is merging. I am extremely interested in being a solicitor-advocate, as I feel you have the best of both worlds. But from the tour it seemed that some barristers are concerned their profession may be threatened by solicitor-advocates. Also, more firms are increasingly using their own in-house lawyers.

Friday

Usually at this point in work experience I am glad that the experience is over. However this was not the case for this firm. In our groups we presented various presentations to some of the trainees and partners. I found this particularly helpful as advice was given on how to improve my performance and gained tips on what could be better next time. I really did learn quite a lot and saw various faces of law that I did not expect. For example, the marketing and business development aspect is extremely important for the firms overall reputation.

Would I recommend it?

As I said in my opening paragraph, you have to do it to appreciate it, and it is required if you are to be taken seriously by firms when applying for a TC. Overall I would say that it was definitely a worthwhile experience and do not regret it. When making an application for open days, vacation schemes and training contracts I will bear in mind this experience as I can use it to help answer all those questions!

I have more legal work experience lined up with bigger firms later this year, and I have now started my political internship, which I am enjoying very much.

If you are a school-aged student and need advice about applying for work experience, please just ask away in the comments section below and I will be more than happy to help.

© Mems Ayina, 2013

NB: I have been accepted into Law School at the University of Warwick!

Going, Going, Gone: Qatada and the HRA by @TheLegal_Eagle

By Craig Chappell 

Going once, going twice, sold

Or in this case, gone to Jordan, yes, Abu Qatada has been deported after nearly a decade in Britain. Now that he has gone, the UK government, as reported many months before, and in particular our Home Secretary, Theresa May reportedly wants to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 to prevent a repeat of this saga.

50 Shades of Grayling (again)

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has also claimed that a future Conservative majority government would scrap the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the ECHR in domestic law. Theresa May, the home secretary, has reportedly been working on the plans for the Tories’ next manifesto.

London School of Economics

Answering questions from students and others at the London School of Economics on a Wednesday evening as part of a conversation chaired by Prof Conor Gearty earlier this year, the UK’s most senior female judge has said her fellow justices would “regret” any decision by a future government to repeal the Human Rights Act. I completely agree given the fundamentality of the act and its impact on every single person in the UK. Lady Hale, deputy president of the UK’s Supreme Court also said that withdrawing from the human rights court in Strasbourg would require Britain to leave the EU (something the Tories are also pondering).

It seems that this government is intent on ending its long-standing union with the EU and we should be worried. The HRA gives the following rights:

Article 2: Right to Life

Article 3: No Inhuman treatment or Torture

Article 4: No Slavery

Article 5: Right to Liberty

Article 6: Right to a fair trial

Article 7: No Charges For Retrospective crimes

Article 8: Right to privacy

Article 9: Freedom of conscience

Article 10: Freedom of Expression

Article 11: Freedom of Assembly

Article 12: Marriage and the family

Article 14: No Discrimination

Righty, Lefty?

These rights apply to all, not just the high-profile individuals apparently being used as an example to repeal this act. Repeal with that I hear you ask? The answer to this seems to be a UK Bill of Rights but one must ask, won’t a Bill of Rights have to include most of the provisions of the HRA anyway given their importance? The last Bill of Rights is hundreds of years old (which can be seen here).

This has been pondered by The Commission on a Bill of Rights, that was an independent Commission established by the Government on 18 March 2011. The Commission concluded their work programme and submitted their final report to the UK Government on 18 December 2012. The Commission have since disbanded.

See their conclusions here and here.

Criminals Charter

One of the things you will have seen on the website above is that the HRA legislation has not been universally popular. Some have branded it a “criminals’ charter”, following suggestions that it had been abused by various litigants. Now, I am inclined to disagree because, although the Qatada case has been controversial (as my following comment may be) we simply cannot send someone to a country where evidence obtained through torture is used because this can be unreliable. A long battle – yes. Abuse – that depends on how strongly you view Human Rights.

The statement given by May states she was glad that the government’s determination to remove him had been:

“Vindicated…this dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country…I am also clear that we need to make sense of our human rights laws and remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport… we are taking steps – including through the new Immigration Bill – to put this right.”

Deportation is a fundamental right of the UK, it can and does secure the UK from threats that are constantly evolving and advancing, but the process must be followed and, in my opinion, it is a fair one. All people must have the same rights, regardless of who they are or what they have done. You can view the timeline of the Qatada case here.

I’m interested in your views on this – feel free to comment below…

© Craig Chappell, 2013

How to Enhance Your Employability, by @ChristianKamali

By Christian Weaver

The Problem

So you are a law student, one could assume (rightly or wrongly) that you are known to ‘bend the odd ear’ about how hard your degree is, how your job prospects are slim and how you have no time to socialise. You may have even dropped the odd “you wouldn’t understand, your degree isn’t like law.” The problem is your employability skills are not what they could be. I’m here to give you a solution. A solution that will help improve your studies, give you more free time and enhance your employability.

The Solution

In exchange for 5 hours a week, you could become a young people’s mentor. What an audacious comment I here you mutter, am I not reflecting the painstakingly busy life of a law student? Yes, but read on.

I can confidently say that embarking on a mentoring program was the best move I made during my first year, and yes, I too am a law student. In this short blog, I’ll explain what I perceived to be the biggest benefits of mentoring.

Firstly, my time management greatly improved. An old proverb states, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I had a set time to see my mentees. If I was late, the session was off, as students had lessons to attend. Planning my time in advance was therefore crucial. Vaguely designating a week to my coursework research was no longer an option, it now had to be between 4-6pm every Wednesday or Friday or not at all. My mentoring had given me other commitments to contend with.

Think About Others

Mentoring also gives an incredible insight in to the lives and perspectives of others. In a society becoming more diverse, having the ability to communicate with people from different social classes and cultures is all the more important, especially important for prospective lawyers.

Finally, as law becomes an ever more competitive area, it is imperative that a prospective legal professional attains as much wider experience and in turn employability attributes as possible. There are few better ways of demonstrating the rhetorical ‘I have excellent interpersonal skills and commitment’ on your CV, than by proclaiming that every week you carried out hour long one-to-one mentoring sessions with five very different mentees.

In Conclusion

You can derive a great amount of motivation by seeing the efforts of your mentees. Furthermore, mentoring is no longer a hard area to get into, with opportunities increasing. The benefits of mentoring are endless, with this blog illustrating the mere tip of the iceberg. If you have a genuine altruistic nature and passion in helping others, deciding to become a mentor could be one of the best decisions you make.

© Christian Weaver, 2013

If you would like to blog, we always consider new work. Send your proposal here.

Whole Load of…Shambles: ECHR and the Government by @TheLegal_Eagle

By Craig Chappell

The 9th of July was a remarkable day; the ECHR ruled that whole life terms, without any parole review, are unlawful in their nature. The Government’s position on whole life terms is, per my blog title, a whole load of…shambles.

Vinter

The appeal itself was brought by Vinter, who stabbed his wife in February 2008, but subsequently means that the cases of Bamber, who killed his parents, sister and her two young children in August 1985, and Peter Moore, who killed four gay men for his sexual gratification in 1995, will also be considered.

The court ruled that their sentences amount to inhuman and degrading treatment, which is an absolute right under article 3 HRA 1998, per the European Convention on Human Rights. The judges’ decision means the Government will now have to amend the law to ensure it complies with human rights legislation, under article 10 HRA, or face challenges for release by the convicted murderers.

*Floodgates open*

This is extraordinary because it means that the 49 prisoners who are now serving ‘whole life terms’, which currently prohibit any review of parole, may make a challenge to the Government, too, or launch appeals for release. Those prisoners include the notorious Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper; Ian Brady, the Moors murderer; and Rosemary West, the “House of Horrors” serial killer.

There are, however, no prospect of any one them being released imminently, if ever.

The Justice Secretary can free the prisoners only on compassionate grounds if they are terminally ill or seriously incapacitated. David Blunkett, the former home secretary who introduced the life tariff system has said:

 “In 2003 we changed the law so that ‘life’ really meant life when sentencing those who had committed the most heinous crimes… I pushed this through Parliament in response to the overwhelming demand of the British people for clear, transparent sentencing and for certainty that what starts out as a clear and unambiguous punishment will in the end be carried out… Whatever the technical justification the Strasbourg court may have, it is the right of the British Parliament to determine the sentence of those who have committed such crimes, and for democracy – which chose such a sentence many years ago as an alternative to capital punishment – to have the will of the people implemented… To do otherwise can only lead to disillusionment, mistrust of, and a dangerous alienation from, our democracy itself.”

Serious Crimes

I bold the three above sentences because they are most interesting. Yes, the public want certainty and the public do want those convicted of the most serious crimes to suffer, often through the abolished death sentence, and never be freed. This is not the issue. The issue is that people can change, however far-fetched that seems of some of those currently serving life sentences, and that a review is needed to ensure that the best course of action is being taken. Yes, it is the right of the ‘British’, I shall assume he means Westminster given devolution means we don’t have a ‘British’ Parliament, to determine the sentence of those who have committed heinous crimes but by joining the EU we gave away some of our right to do that and EU prevails over domestic law. If that is to be changed then we would be in unchartered waters.

Whole life terms have been heavily criticised long before this judgement and now it seems that the Judiciary is on a direct collision course with the Executive and Parliament because it cannot implement the will of Parliament when such a sentence is now effectively deemed incompatible with our international obligations. And EU law prevails over Domestic law. This is decidedly even more serious than the recent Qatada case.

50 Shades of Grayling

Chris Grayling is, predictably, furious with the decision. He said that the ruling would leave the original authors of the European convention on human rights “turning in their graves” and also that it reinforced his determination to curtail the role of the Strasbourg court. “The British public will find this ruling intensely frustrating and hard to understand,” he added. It seems that the Tories are going to put up a huge fight, Theresa May will use this to justify leaving the ECHR, I presume.

They are my initial thoughts as I have yet to read the full judgement. What do you think? Should whole life terms means whole life or is review a fundamental right of prisoners?

© Craig Chappell, 2013

Diary of a Law Student: ‘Typical Tuesday’ by @TheLegal_Eagle

By Craig Chappell

I thought some of you may wish to know what a ‘typical’ day at law school is like? Well, it is typically different for everyone, as we experience law school in a number of different ways. This, however is my ‘Typical Tuesday’:

6am: *sigh* time to get up and commute to law school. This is made more dreadful by the landslip that has caused the train line to close and buses to replace them. Great.

8:50am: Quick stop at McDonalds for a tea before heading in for the first session. Nearly trip someone over with my suitcase full of folders and books. Hope I don’t get sued…

9am: First session: Constitution and Administrative law consolidation. Today’s topic – Constitution.

10am: Second session. Constitution and Administrative law tutorial. *Double sigh*. Too early. Today’s topic – Separation of Powers.

11am: An hour break. Well, I say break but there is far too much reading to complete. Working lunch it is then.

12:15pm: Third session. The dreaded (same for you?) EU tutorial. Today’s topic – Direct, Indirect Effect and State Liability. *Triple sigh*.

1:15pm: Quick catch up with peers before listening to a podcast for International Trade. Today’s podcast is on insolvency. *No sigh*. I like Business law J

2:30pm: International Trade tutorial. Today’s topic – Implied Terms. What more can I say?

3:45pm: International Trade lecture. Today’s topic – Passing of Property. Strangely, very interesting.

4:45pm: Head to the train station for the train home. Consolidate today’s learning on the way to make use of free time.

7pm: Home. *loooooooooooooooooooong sigh and fall onto the bed*.

Wednesday? Day off! Well, working from home. Thank the Lord.

Keep an eye out for my random musings as I study over 2 years (accelerated route) for my degree.

© Craig Chappell, 2013

 

Law School: First Year in a Nutshell, by @Surabhix3 cc @CardiffAward

By Surabhi Bhandari, Cardiff University Law Student

When Cardiff Law School offered me a place in their 3-year undergraduate course, my friends and family, all self acclaimed academic gurus, started warning me about life at law school. Amongst many other things, they mentioned sleepless nights, no social life, and acceptance of library as my primary home. Terrified, as I already was, of going 43856923 miles away from my home to a new country, the fear of studying something as difficult as law, added to my apprehension.

But I decided not to be defeated. Initial orientations and workshops provided me with a well-developed structure of lectures and tutorials along with contact details of all my tutors and professors, something I hadn’t always had access to in my school in New Delhi, India. Happy that I had everything organised, I went through 6 months of last-minute tutorial preparations and sleepy lectures. Yes – that was my first year.

I always thought tutorials were a piece of cake and lectures could just be heard right before the exam until I actually got to the month of March. And BAM! I was absolutely clueless about how to prepare for a month full of fear and torture. I spoke to many peers and got many tips but I was always so unsatisfied. My tutors pointed out that they’d gone through my questions several times in tutorials and that I should refer to my notes. Little did they know that I hadn’t taken tutorials too seriously. I kept freaking out for an entire month. After all, I was a scholarship student, how could I not worry about scoring well (should’ve thought about that before).

I went to all revision lectures and workshops, tried filling up flashcards, re-listened to all the recorded lectures, spent hours in the library, spent a LOT of money on take-out food! I gave up vast amounts of my sleep, switched my phone off for the better part of the day, cribbed endlessly on social media about how law school didn’t let me have a life, and spent hours crying and fretting.

All I wanted was to pack my bags up and run back home. But giving up has never been my thing and I kept working. 3 of my exams were pretty okay while Contract gave me terrible dreams of re-sits.

But hey guess what? I passed ALL and got a low 2:1, overall. I was so happy that I went around jumping all over my house. However, a lot of thoughts hit me after my result. All the warning about sleepless nights and no social life did prove to be true. But had I studied the entire year, I would’ve actually scored a LOT better without days of anxiety.

Well, this is my account of first year, but those of you entering law school I have a few tips:

  • BE CONSISTENT

Now this is really important. Don’t procrastinate in law school. Go to all your lectures and if you miss them, make sure you listen to the recorded one THAT DAY ITSELF if this is possible. Never miss any tutorial. Your tutor will indirectly give you some amazing tips for exams, note down everything he/she says!

  • LISTEN

Always listen to your lecturers and tutors. They will always want you to know what to expect in the exam beforehand. Make sure you’re all eyes and ears when you attend your sessions. During lectures, listen more than you write, don’t make notes on everything your lecturer says! It’s important to properly understand your subject before you start preparing for an exam.

  • MAKE A TIMETABLE

And not just for revision, but throughout the year. Make a study schedule before you reach the revision schedule months! Allot a set of hours for tutorial prep and readings in your whole day and the rest for other activities. And follow it!

  • KNOW YOUR REVISION STYLE

Again, this isn’t a revision tip. It’s a year-round study tip. Plan out how to study or revise. Know which way suits you best – whether it’s making notes, flashcards or mind-maps. Plan it all out and EXPERIMENT so that you know the best learning style before revision for exam begins.

  • PAST PAPERS

They are lifesavers – trust me. Make sure you start looking at past papers from at least second semester. Plan model answers and get them approved by your tutors. This will give you a first-hand experience on writing your answers during exams.

  • TAKE BREAKS

Take out time to relax, be with friends, watch a movie etc. Don’t spend hours in your room or library without taking out sometime for your friends or yourself. Relax and rejuvenate, but DON’T get too carried away.

  • KEEP IN TOUCH

Last but not the least; keep in touch with people who you think are important. For e.g. your tutors or peers and second/final year students. Take revision tips from dependable peers but don’t follow them blindly. E-mail your professors or tutors even for the slightest doubt; take NO chances with your results. Don’t pester them, but show them that you’re serious about your degree.

I hope I’ve made first year a little less terrifying for some of you. Law school is difficult, but as long as you know what you’re in for, you’ll be on your way to becoming prospective Harvey Spector’s!

© Surabhi Bhandari, 2013

Surabhi blogs at the Cardiff University’s Employability Website

My Training Contract Journey: Step 2 by @TheLegal_Eagle

By Craig Chappell

*Deep breath* So, mark the day, 5th July 2013, the day I pressed ‘submit’ on the majority of my training contract applications (there are 2 outstanding due to a query I am making).

I am now officially on the hunt for an elusive training contract with the firms to whom I have applied.

*Braces for (rejection) impact*.

This journey hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations. When I first began researching for contracts late last year my immediate thought consisted of ‘Craig, you have no chance, after two years of law school you’re going to find yourself in the one place you never wanted to be – the dole queue’.

But as The Fray once sang, ‘You can never say never’. Or, if you’re a ‘belieber’, Justin Bieber also sang a similar phrase. So I decided that, whilst I am prepared for the worst, a rejection is not the end of the road.

Tailor Made

I have selected seven firms, which I have fully tailored. Now, I can hear some of you gasping after reading that sentence either because you are applying to many more than that and think I have made a very ‘un-strategic’ (not a real word) move by applying to so few, or because you haven’t applied to as many as that (?). It is all about you and your personal preferences. I know some people who have told me they applied to more than 10 firms and still didn’t get a contract but hey, who knows what fate has in store for me.

One thing I found helpful was that most of the applications were similar in structure so I got through the basic sections, such as ‘work experience’, ‘education’ and ‘interests’ quite fast. I have spent several months then tailoring the applications to each firm. It is important to show you are genuinely interested in the firm and would genuinely be proud to be an employee of the firm.

No Fear?

The biggest obstacle for me was, and still is, my fear that my applications aren’t good enough and that they will all opt for first class students. Now, whenever anyone tells me that I am ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’ I always refute that. ‘Smart’, to me, would be someone who gets 95-100% in all of their exams, which I have not. I am confident that I am perfectly capable of a career in law; it is all I have wanted to do since Year 10, but ‘smart’ I am not.

All I can do now is sit and wait. Within the next several weeks and months, I hope to be able to utter the words ‘I have a training contract’ to you and give you an insight into my journey through assessments days, interviews and the general selection process, minus the firm secrets and confidential information. I shan’t be doing what one person did, as reported in the legal news recently, and set up a website revealing such details!

Top Tip

Spend time tailoring your application to your firm, incorporating recent deals they have been involved in into your answers and stating why you’re capable of such work. Also, choose firms that you are genuinely interested in, recruiters aren’t stupid and will know if you’re just applying for the sake of it.

I wish you all the best of luck in your own personal TC journey – please do let me know how you get on via the comments section below or on Twitter.

© Craig Chappell, 2013

My Training Contract Journey: Step 1 by @TheLegal_Eagle

By Craig Chappell

So, I have recently finished the first year of law school. Because I am on an accelerated course of 2, rather than 3 years, this means I have to apply for the elusive TC’s by 31st July this year (2013) *GULP*.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I will be blogging my TC journey in the hope that it both interests and helps you in your own journey and, maybe, allow you to make the decision on whether or not to become a lawyer.

Firms

I have chosen to apply to a handful of firms including; Hogan Lovells, Irwin Mitchell, Walker Morris and Bond Dickenson. I have applied, primarily, for their Leeds offices (I love this city) but also their London offices (I equally love that city).

Applications Completed

I cannot stress enough that you complete your application well ahead of the traditional 31st July deadline to give yourself enough time to proofread. There is nothing worse than grammatical errors in a professional, legal application or CV. Especially since such errors made in practice, on a contract for example, can have a drastic effect.

Top Tip

Remember, when the following word starts with a vowel, it is ‘an’. For example: An interesting concept. When the following word starts with a consonant, it is ‘a’. For example: A lively concept.

What is next in my journey? Well, at the moment I am awaiting results certification by the BPP exam board, which are due out on 28th June. I will then be inserting those into my applications and pressing submit. *GULP*.

Read Part 2 here.

© Craig Chappell, 2013

The LPC, Legal Apprenticeships and CILEx (If I knew then, part II) by @FayePhillips5 cc @CILExLawyers @LynneSquires

By Faye Phillips, StretLaw Associate

If you ask someone what an apprenticeship means to him or her, they’re likely to say ‘brickie’ or ‘plumber’. Now, they ought to be saying ‘future lawyer’. Sound odd? Well it is the reality, especially given the onset of alternative business structures (ABS).

I have to admit I didn’t know much about legal apprenticeships. I only heard about it recently from friends at university who were concerned if the high price paid for their LPC was worth it when school leavers now have the opportunity to work and learn at the same time and progress towards legal executive roles. LPC graduates I spoke with were concerned about this new scheme, having just gone through the costly traditional route.

So I decided to do some research about the new legal apprenticeship and the long-established CILEx route that surprisingly many students are not made aware of early on or are actually dissuaded from pursuing.

Legal Apprenticeships

With the increase in tuition fees many young people today are put off going to university. The costs for aspiring solicitors are even more of a concern with increased undergraduate course fees and the added cost of the LPC. Legal apprenticeships are intended to make legal careers more accessible to those with talent but without the resources to shell out thousands of pounds with no guarantee of securing ‘that’ elusive training contract. The legal apprenticeship also aims to as diversify legal training, reflecting wider changes taking place in the legal profession, such as the recent growth of ABS.

Anyone wishing to become a legal apprentice must be 16 or over, not in full-time education and not a university graduate. It’s free for under 25s who secure one before August 2013 and after this date it will continue to be free for under 19s. The majority of apprenticeships thereafter will be at least part-funded by employers for 19-24 year olds, while some will need to apply for an advanced learning loan which ranges from £300 to the full cost of the apprenticeship (which varies from one employer to another). However, the total cost of an apprenticeship will be far less than a one-year’s worth of university tuition fees.

Different Levels

There are 3 different levels of legal apprenticeship catering for those who are new to law as well as people working in the sector who wish to professionalise their skills further. CILEx has participated in the development and implementation of legal apprenticeships, which form a government-funded pathway, which enables progression into a fee-earning paralegal role and work as a chartered legal executive.

Level 2 intermediate apprenticeship in legal administration:

This is designed for school leavers and legal secretaries. It takes around a year to complete and is free to those aged under 19. For people aged 19 and over, it costs £750 plus VAT. Many employers will partly fund these fees.

Level 3 advanced apprenticeship in legal services:

This apprenticeship is due to become available in autumn 2013. It is suitable for school leavers and support staff in the legal sector wishing to become paralegal fee earners. They can choose a practice area in which to specialise. Level 3 takes 18-24 months to complete.

It will be free for those aged under 19 and the government has also pledged to pay 50% of the apprenticeship fee for level 3 apprentices aged 19-24.

Level 4 higher apprenticeship in legal services:

This is a new undergraduate level apprenticeship developed by four partners; Damar Training, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and Skills for Justice, with the project is being funded by the UK Government via the National Apprenticeship Service. It is suitable for those who have already completed the level 3 apprenticeship or the CILEx level 3 qualification. Apprentices ‘earn while they learn’ and also study for a technical certificate which covers broad paralegal knowledge as well the specialist expertise in the apprentice’s chosen practice area.

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx)

CILEx is the professional body representing around 20,000 trainee and qualified chartered legal executive lawyers.

CILEx offers a unique route to a legal career and becoming a qualified lawyer without a requirement to having a law degree, although law graduates and graduates with non-law degrees can also qualify as a lawyer through the CILEx route.

In my experience, students have the idea that the status of a solicitor is superior to that of a CILEx. However that is just a preconception as CILExs are increasingly on a level playing field with solicitors as they can now become advocates, partners in law firms and judges, so there is no reason why they should be perceived as having a lower status than solicitors.

A chartered legal executive is a qualified lawyer who is trained to specialise as an expert in a particular area of law, whereas solicitors have a broader, more general legal training.

The CILEx route to obtain a law qualification should be considered as an alternative to the traditional route by school leavers, graduates, legal support staff, mature students and those who already have family commitments.

The Advantage of CILEx

A big advantage of the CILEx route is the cost, which is significantly cheaper than the LPC fees for students aspiring to be solicitors. Students who already have a qualifying law degree gained within the last seven years can study a Graduate Fast-Track Diploma, which usually takes around a year to complete part-time and costs £2,400 or less. And there’s no need to secure a training contract. Instead you will need to complete a five-year qualifying period of employment (working as a paralegal while studying counts towards this).

The drawback, as the The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) research report (June 2013) highlights, is that for those CILEx Fellows who may want to later qualify as solicitors having to take the LPC carries risks as well as costs, they provide:

“[I]n its current regulatory form [the LPC] is for most a major cost and time barrier, and without a prior offer of a qualified solicitor’s job at the end of it, it is no surprise that this route appears unattractive to the majority of those [wishing to re-qualify]. LETG response to Discussion Paper 02/2011”

Legal Career Awareness

Perhaps schools and universities need to do more to make students aware of the alternative routes and give non-biased advice about the pros and cons of opting for a non-traditional pathway into a career in law. But that said, schools are under-resourced and universities are businesses, so where is the attraction for either to do so? Answers on back of a postcard, please.

© Faye Phillips, 2013

Follow me on Twitter @FayePhillips5

Connect with me on Linkedin uk.linkedin.com/pub/faye-phillips/46/5a6/257/

The LPC: If I knew then, what I know now…(Part I) by @FayePhillips5

By Faye Phillips, StretLaw Associate

So the end of the LPC is here, exams are over, no more dreaded revision timetables! However, after a few days of feeling lost with no more studying to do, reality kicks in; time to find a job. Most of my peers have been successful in securing Paralegal positions but will they get a training contract at the end of it and how long will they take to get there?

Paralegal work varies a lot from firm to firm and ranges from offering simple case support to career paralegals that conduct their own caseload. With the oversupply of LPC graduates in comparison with the amount of training contracts available, will paralegal roles only be accessible to those with LPC qualifications?

Some would say anyone funding the LPC himself or herself without having a training contract secured is foolish, but for many it is the only option. Besides, not everyone wants to work in a medium to large-sized firm which funds LPC students’ fees. For those with a desire to work in a high street firm, helping their local community, self-funding the LPC is often the only option.

Over Qualified Paralegals

The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) research report (June 2013) is a joint project between the SRA, the Bar Standards Board and the Institute of Legal Executives and Professional Standards (IPS). It has been described as “the big shake-up of the legal profession” and is a response to the “unprecedented degree of change” currently experienced in the legal sector.

Regarding paralegals roles, the report states “data from the LETR research point to the emergence of a variety of new ‘non-legal’, hybrid and ‘technician’ roles that are being developed within both conventional and alternative business structures.”

Legal Work Experience

Also with “the glut of graduates without training contracts and pupillages has meant that in-house providers have had no shortage of individuals willing to take on short-term positions as a means of getting some [legal] work experience”.

The report goes on to say “the arrival of ABSs in the legal market was seen by respondents as providing more opportunities for paralegals, but with possible knock-on effects for existing firms and training contracts.” For example one solicitor said, ‘with the advent of ABSs I see that there will be fewer training contracts because they will have less of a necessity for qualified solicitors. There’ll be higher use of paralegal in that context.’”

Paralegals/Call Centre Workers?

Will paralegals get the respect they deserve or will they be viewed as the ‘mill workers of the legal profession’? Many are already employed to ask the right questions for PI firms, will the legal profession become more diverse or more diluted?

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The report talks about “significant, growth in graduate paralegals, as a consequence of oversupply from the BVC/BPTC and LPC.” It notes “for the employer it provides, with limited training, a relatively high skill set at significantly below the cost of a conventional trainee.” But it’s “less attractive for those performing the role, and concerns about lack of training and exploitation were raised in focus groups and discussions.

On the other hand, the report highlights, “[paralegals] are not necessarily a long-term solution for particular businesses. Firms also need as one solicitor respondent stated, ‘permanent paralegals who have no ambition’, or as one barrister put it, ‘technicians who are prepared to do something 100 times over and over again and are happy to be really good at that for 50 years.’”

The report recognises that “technician” may describe what some low-level paralegals do, but emphasises that other paralegals do work at an “equivalent level to members of the regulated profession.”

We’ll Take You (If you have a decent degree)

One solicitor said in an on-line survey: “we would rather take graduates (any degree from a decent university) without any of the (pointless and extremely poor quality) legal qualifications (GDL/LPC) and train them ourselves to meet the precise requirements of our clients.”

Question to Consider

What about making a training contract a prerequisite for enrolment on the LPC? Perhaps many would think twice about embarking on a professional course at such high cost with such little chance of a career. Or should we scrap the ‘over supplied’ LPC altogether in favour of legal apprenticeships?

(More about alternative routes in Part II next week)

© Faye Phillips, 2013

Follow me on Twitter @FayePhillips5

Connect with me on Linkedin uk.linkedin.com/pub/faye-phillips/46/5a6/257/

Legal Practice Retraining Part 2: I Got The Job! by @WaringLawyer

By Rachael Waring

After two years of retraining (out of personal injury and into private client) I finally take up my first paid position in my new discipline – yay!

The firm I will be working for is a real heavy weight in terms of private client in the North-West so I couldn’t be happier. They are to a degree, taking a punt on me and initially I am only signing a temporary contract — with salary to match. Nevertheless it is a foot in the door and who knows I may be heading up the department in 10 years time!

Ultimately I don’t know what’s in store for me or how long it will last but I do know that I will get great training and I also know that I will give it 110%.

The first article I ever wrote for Stretlaw (ULS now host the blogs) was about my retraining and it was entitled ‘think again and then some’ (republished yesterday). This is still very much the advice I would give to any one considering it.

It’s been a long road with people telling me ‘you’ll struggle’ and recruitment agents saying ‘I can find you some PI work if you’ve got nothing in six months’. It can be heartbreaking at times as it seems no one has any faith in you. You need to have the courage of your convictions and a bit of money to back it up. I have to accept that it may not be the salary I was quite hoping for and it may all end in a few months but I’ll be no worse off for it and I will come away (if I do come away) with a great firm on my CV and an up to date reference to boot.

This process has been a bit like when I was searching for a training contract, my Godfather said to me then ‘you only need one firm to say yes’ and it’s so true.

My advice would be to leave no stone unturned, use every opportunity to network; work in a posh coffee shop or an upmarket supermarket? Don’t be afraid to tell people what you ‘really’ do.

I am sad to be writing my last article (for now) for ULS but I am just so happy that it’s the one I’ve dreamt about writing since I penned the first.

Good luck to you all #ifyouwantitbadenoughyoullgetit 🙂

Now, I must get down the shops and buy some new work clothes!

© Rachael Waring,  2013

Legal Practice Retraining: Think Again & Then Some by @WaringLawyer

This piece is dusted off from the archives as it was Rachael’s first blog (February 2012) and is referenced, sadly, in her last for us tomorrow :(. On the plus side Rachael finally got her dream job, so we’re all very happy for her.

February 2012…by Rachael Waring

I’ve always had an interest in Private Client, specifically Wills, Probate and Estate Planning since studying it as an elective on the LPC back in 2006. At the time Personal Injury was buoyant and when you’ve got an LPC loan to pay off, it’s hard not to go where the jobs are. I prospered at my firm and they eventually offered to train me (with secondment) which of course I grabbed with both arms…and legs.

Upon qualification my heart still wasn’t in Personal Injury, I moved to a different PI firm but alas it was PI (and not the firm) that was getting me down.

Then in 2010 I saw my opportunity; I had a baby and took a year ‘off’ (anybody who moans about the maternity laws in this country, just take a look at America’s and you’ll realise how lucky we are.) So when my evening’s permitted I read text books in Wills, Probate and Estate Planning and listened to recorded (and occasionally live) CPD courses to keep up to date.

Finally in the summer of 2011 when I officially left my previous employer I started looking for work experience and thankfully, I was very successful. For the firms that said yes 5 said no; which if I’m being truthful, I couldn’t quite get my head round. Here I was offering my services unpaid and they said no!

Quite often it was the person on reception who barely gave me chance to explain myself properly but sometimes it was firms ‘strict work placement’ programmes that thwarted me. Law firms are often thought of as inflexible and not able to adapt to change. I would think ‘if they can’t be flexible with a week’s work experience how are they ever going to cope with the ramifications of the LSA’?

This is my brief contribution to retraining, as you can see there are rejections along the way and some firms will not even consider your application. I have however made some great contacts and am really positive about the future.

If you do decide to retrain, just remember it is not an easy decision to leave your current practice area, which in all likelihood is probably paying the bills, and quite comfortably too.

© Rachael Waring, February 2012

Wimbledon’s Weary Wednesday and Potential Liability? by @PhilipVasquez #Wimbledon

By Philip Vasquez, StretLaw Associate

Britain’s Sporting Events Putting the Great into Great Britain

So, it’s a great summer for British sporting events isn’t it? We’ve had the last ever Cricket ICC Champions Trophy being hosted in England and Wales over the month of June, where I was fortunate enough to watch a few games down at Cardiff’s Swalec stadium. We’ve also been graced with the Lions tour of Australia and soon we will have the return of the Ashes later on this summer. Most recently however, we have been graced with the presence of the grand slam event of Wimbledon.

Ace!

Now, I am not a big tennis fan myself but I love watching it when I can. I just love watching sports in general as I love the exhilarating unpredictability and how nature and the weather can play a big part in sporting outcomes. Most recently people may recall the ICC Champion’s Trophy Final between India and England being put down to a Twenty20 match instead of a 50 over One Day International (ODI) because of the rain. India only won by 5 runs and it was great to watch despite the final showcasing an almost completely different type of cricket experienced throughout the tournament, for it showed a game of agile IPL style Twenty20 cricket as opposed to a strategic game of dot balls and power play where the most runs (usually) come in the first 15 and possibly last 10 overs of the game. Personally, I found it pretty ironic that the advent of one of the last ODI tournaments went away with a Twenty20 match, for the world of cricket is moving away from its test matches and ODIs, emphasised by the abolishment of the Champions Trophy, and towards Twenty20 cricket. Anyway, I digress!

Weary Wednesday

However unfortunate the event, Wimbledon has also been plagued by its own slips (pun intended), allegedly resulting from the slippery conditions of the courts. I watched most of the games on ‘Wet Wimbledon Wednesday’ and, apart from seeing the world’s greatest players such as Nadal and Federer get knocked out, I saw the allegedly dangerous surface take its toll over a total of seven players in one day, including Tsonga and Sharapova. Maria Sharapova, The World #3 according to the WTA, was heard in her game against M. Larcher de Brito telling the umpire that the court was ‘dangerous’ to play on, although this has been denied by Wimbledon. The slips and the surface have taken a total of 7 injuries, resulting in the highest ever amount of recorded injuries at the tournament in a single day. Could the players sue the organisers of Wimbledon for negligence of the court surface, resulting in injury, loss of amenities and projected loss of earnings?

The likelihood is that they probably wouldn’t be able to. But lets skim through the reasoning…

Watson

Injuries commonly occur during sport and the mere occurrence of an injury doesn’t automatically mean that a sports participant can successfully sue someone for damages. It has been a few years since I last touched Tort law, but I’ll do my best from memory. I only remember one sports tort case and that was the Watson boxing case:

Watson, now severely disabled, successfully sued the professional sport’s governing body, the British Boxing Board of Control, for a breach of their duty of care

What distinguishes sports liability from ordinary civil liability is the fact that sport participants voluntarily agree to purposive risk-taking for the sake of the sport or activity in question. Therefore, if the usual negligence principle of civil liability were to apply, then every rugby scrum or ruck would probably result in a class of claims!

Scrum

For those who may not know, the general rule of negligence in English law is dictated, mainly, by the case of Donoghue v Stevenson. This seminal case on civil liability and social responsibility is mostly renowned for being the snail in a bottle case. The facts of the case involved the claimant having a ginger beer and finding a snail in their bottle. The case resulted in the construction of the ‘neighbour’ principle and modern negligence whereby, generally speaking, one would be liable for another’s loss, even for one’s own unintentional wrongdoings, if is reasonably foreseeable that someone would be affected by such wrongdoing. What would be seen as wrongdoing is dictated by a potential duty or general standard of care. What a duty or standard of care may be, may be dictated by agreed terms or by speculating on what an average, reasonable person (erstwhile referred to as the ordinary person on the Clapham omnibus) would do, or not do, under the same circumstances. That is pretty much general liability in a nutshell (sort of).

Maccy Dee’s Cheeseburger

In sports therefore, a duty of care of a sports association, club, organiser and even other players is likely to be ‘higher’ and more difficult to satisfy than ordinary civil liability, as what would be ‘reasonably foreseeable’ in the circumstances of the sport may see that certain injuries are foreseeable in the sports arena, where they would not commonly be seen in… lets say a high street (unless you consider getting elbowed in the head when going for a header or a kick in the ribs as ‘reasonable’ when you’re popping down the shops to get your free Maccy Dee’s cheeseburger 🙂 ).

However, could poor surface conditions on a tennis court be reasonably foreseeable in a tennis match? Possibly and probably, especially on grass pitches in England… they’re likely to be slippery aren’t they? According to the court staff, the surfaces at this year’s Wimbledon have been the same if not drier than last year’s conditions.

The standards of the court can be read here. Furthermore, as the risk of some injuries in sport is to some extent highly unpredictable, it is reasonable and probable that the organisers of Wimbledon have an allocation of risk by contract and/or waivers for liability over tournament participants, with participants own insurance likely to cover such injuries.

Occupiers Liability

The next avenue by which Tennis players would be unlikely to have grounds for negligence against Wimbledon would be by considering Occupiers Liability (statutory). Occupiers Liability generally speaking places a duty on a person in control of land, to protect from harm all those who enter onto the land premises. More specifically, the degree of care required is what is reasonable ‘in all the circumstances of the case’. Therefore, the slippery surface of a tennis court is something which may be reasonably foreseeable in the case (especially given that not all courts are covered and it’s in England!).

Scotch Egg

Just to skim some of the case law which may be said to be somewhat analogous to the facts of the present slippery Wimbledon environment, one would be able to see how a slippery surface of a tennis court would be likely to be an expected aspect of the premises and something which players conscientiously volunteer to possibly encounter. In the case of Simms v Leigh Rugby Club the court held that the statutory duty of care did not require an occupier of a rugby field to eliminate the dangers in playing on a field that met the usual standards. It also held that a rugby player is deemed to accept those dangers for the purposes of the act of rugby. In Scotland, an indoor tennis case of Connelly v Whitbread PLC [2012] CSIH 51 involved surface conditions and footwear where a claimant allegedly suffered injury and loss. The inner house of the Court of Session (highest court in Scotland) held that the claimant had failed to prove that he had sustained loss, injury and damage through the tennis premise’s fault and negligence et separatism (a fancy way for saying ‘and separately’) breach of statutory duty. Furthermore, it was held that the sheriff (the top Scotch Egg, i.e. one of the thirty or so highest judges of the Scottish courts) could not properly hold that the tennis premises knew or ought to have known that there was a real risk of foreseeable injury to a tennis player wearing the incorrect type of tennis shoe on that particular (carpeted) surface, and there was not really any evidence to support such a conclusion.

Saga (not that Proton car)

Although the scots law case does not seem to apply as well to the present facts of the Wimbledon injury saga, one may be able to infer from the general drive and feel of the general principles of negligence regarding playing surfaces and sports participation, that tennis players kind of know what they are getting themselves in for when they signed up for the tournament…and a slippery court is kind of expected. If not, players would claim their money of the slippery surfaces of the many cup finals which were initially witnessed at the new Wembley once it was re-built.

That’s it, I’ve had enough…

No one likes to see players have to retire a game through injury, so why can they not just cover most of the courts to allow play to continue during the rain? I mean, it’s the British summer, surely they were expecting the rain? Such injuries can be avoided.

Paddy Power

However, leaving mother-nature do its work over sporting events holds the vulnerability of even the best of athletes and provides room for unpredictability and surprise in sports. I mean, Sharapova, Nadal and Federer (albeit the latter 2 not out through injury) all out in the same day? It provides great platforms for upcomers to climb the ranks. It also provides a great platform for great betting odds (Editor: ULS do not condone gambling 😉 ). On that note, I think Paddy Power before Wimbledon started on Monday were offering a refund to all Men’s singles bets if Murray won Wimbledon! Now that most of Murray’s main anticipated competitors out of the picture, it would be great to see that happen! Sorry Paddy…

Ace No.2!

But anyway, unfortunately for the players who got injured due to the court surface conditions, I doubt any of them would be able to make any type of claim. It would just be unheard of. Though, that said, with the single’s prize money at £1,600,000 for both men and women, claiming a slice of that as compensation for loss of potential earnings would be Ace!

© Philip Vasquez, 2013

I passed my first year law exams! What have I learnt thus far? by @BexxHatton

By Bex Hatton, Junior StretLaw Associate

For my first blog, I’ve decided to write about what I have learnt during my first set of University exams and to give a few tips on exam success.

Anxious

As a law student I was very anxious about my first set of exams at University, not unlike other students, you may have felt the same. I found it a big step from A level exams and discovered that you cannot leave revision until the last-minute; otherwise you will fail which could have a knock-on effect on your studies if you then fail the re-sits.

Many of us students suddenly feel the need to either watch all of our TV shows or clean our rooms constantly during the exam period 🙂 , however it is something we MUST break out of! Giving up at least a month of our time to prepare and revise thoroughly for our exams is all that’s needed to ensure good marks.

Reading: where do I start?!

Law exams are unlike any other exam I have ever sat, as we have about 20 books to read and around 100 cases and Acts to get to grips with for one exam. We are also expected to write 3 good answers in around 2 hours (which sounded impossible to everyone at the beginning of the year) however IT CAN BE DONE with help from lecturers in revision sessions and by starting revision early.

Many Law students I spoke with regretted starting revision last-minute, as there is so much knowledge that needed to be learnt and it definitely cannot be acquired the night before!

My first set of exams has definitely been a learning curve and others expressed similar views. If I could give only one piece of advice to a fresher it would be this; preparation is everything, prepare and revise for exams earlier.

Tactics

I spoke with a couple of my peers and asked what they did to prepare and these were the most popular tactics: –

  1. Practise papers (go to your local library and speak with the law librarian)
  2. Attending to and prepping for every workshop and lecture (not just the ones you think will come up in the exam!)
  3. Using sticky notes/flashcards to memorize case names and acts (get your mates to test you)
  4. Creating study groups to cover all topics (as No.2 – don’t cherry pick!)

Brain Food

What is also important whilst studying for exams is a good night sleep and nutritious brain food! Sounds obvious/crazy? Well it’s true. As we all know, the exam period is very daunting and nerve-wracking, so in order to pass, we must be in tip-top condition.

Professor Gary Slapper recommends good brain food; so if it is good enough for Gary, consider it sound advice!

It is said that the top three brain foods are:

  1. Porridge (or any other whole grain cereal)
  2. Fish
  3. Fruit

It is also recommended that students stay away from all junk food whilst studying, as they are known as ‘brain-blocking’ foods!

Re-sits?

If any of you feel you didn’t do so well and fear the possibility of a re-sit, DO NOT GIVE UP! A re-sit is not the end of the world. As long as you did your best, that’s all that matters. Learn from any mistakes, re-sit and pass, and head into your next year with some great knowledge on what to do to achieve good results for years two and three.

I hope you enjoyed my first blog for UniLawStudents and found it helpful in someway, if you have any other revision and exam tips, please comment below J

© Bex Hatton, 2013,

Junior StretLaw Associate: University of South Wales

Commercial Awareness for the 21st Century Lawyer by @ValiBG

By Valya Georgieva, StretLaw Associate

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‘One thing that becomes obvious when talking to lawyers is that most of them really enjoy their legal work […] the nitty-gritty of working through problems and finding solutions […] the complexity, the history and the mystique associated with the law […]’[1]

What is it that they do not like? Marketing: promoting themselves and their firms services; relating to their clients.[2]

These are some of the observations made by LBC Wise Counsel’s CEO, Paul Gilbert, writing in 2002. At the end of his first book, Head2Head,[3] he comments on the progress made over recent years by lawyers who have realised that service is about more than knowing the answer. ‘It’s […] about realising value; value for the lawyers and value for their clients.’[4]

Ten years after his first book, Gilbert’s message remains the same: ‘The essence of becoming a great lawyer is realising that it isn’t about you’ – it is about being able to work inside your client’s head.[5]

This represents one of the key elements of ‘commercial awareness’ for today’s lawyer. It means understanding the business needs of clients and tailoring your advice to those needs. It means understanding how the current economic and financial climate affects your client. It means understanding what motivates your client; the pressures that drive them and the issues they face.

Achieving this goes well beyond keeping up to date with current affairs. Above all, it means listening to the client’s needs; being aware of their need for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and knowledge of the market place in which their business operates.

Another element of ‘commercial awareness’ which is essential for lawyers’ success in the legal profession involves understanding the business environment in which the law firm operates. This means having a good grasp of what drives the firm as a business forward. It involves, above all, understanding the pressures facing the legal profession, realising the importance of client relationship management, and being able to reduce cost whilst preserving or increasing profitability.

The legal profession is going through a radical transformation and only those with a business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit will be able to survive and thrive in the new legal world. There are a number of factors which are driving the transformation forward and every lawyer needs to be able to adapt and seize the opportunities that are opening up.  These factors include, but are not limited to: (i) the economic recession which has affected the client’s perception of cost and value; (ii) the de-regulation of the legal services which has increased competition; and (iii) the increasing impact of information technology on the way that the legal industry operates.

(i) Clients’ perception of cost and value: the More-for-Less challenge

Despite the recent easing in market concerns over the debt crisis, businesses are still facing the pressures of recession. The economic downturn has considerably changed the attitude of clients who are now shopping around for better quality at a lower cost.

This has created a new challenge for law firms which now have to endeavour driving down the cost of their services, whilst driving up their value.[6] This is what Susskind identifies as the ‘More-for-Less’ challenge.[7]

What this means is that today’s lawyers must be more aware of their clients’ business needs than they have ever been. This is a great challenge for the traditional lawyer who is under an increased pressure to move away from charging on an hourly basis and to offer alternative fee arrangements to their clients.

(ii) De-regulation of legal services

The second biggest challenge facing the legal profession, as identified by the Law Society,[8] is competition for businesses.

This is unsurprising in light of the radical reform the legal profession is undergoing following the Clementi Report 2005 and the subsequent Legal Services Act 2007. This reform was intended, in Lord Neuberger’s words, ‘to disrupt the status quo: to advance the cause of consumerism, and to breed innovation and radical change’.[9]

Some of the key competitors of today’s traditional law firms include Alternative Business Structures (ABS), non-solicitor legal service providers and in-house lawyers.

If the legal profession is to continue to exist, it must evolve and embrace the opportunities created by this radical reform.[10]

What this means is that lawyers of today and tomorrow need to be, above all, entrepreneurs. They need to start thinking about new ways to make themselves more attractive to potential clients as well as potential investors. They need to rise to the challenge and catch up with their competitors whose services would often be a lot cheaper and more accessible. This would inevitably entail being commercially aware and having a genuine understanding of the clients’ business needs.

(iii) Information Technology

The final key driving force of change within the legal market is the growth of the Internet, which is, in Professor Christensen’s words, a truly disruptive technology, with the power to transform a market and the way it works fundamentally.[11]

Information technology, if used properly, has a significant potential to render the systems used by law firms more efficient by reducing both time and cost required for a task to be complete.[12] One example of the increased use of technology can be seen in the growth of legal outsourcing and off-shoring. Such developments have the potential to benefit both law firms and their clients.

In addition, the growth of social media, not only as a communication channel but also as a powerful business tool, provides new opportunities for lawyers to promote themselves and their firms. With every new tweet, retweet and blog post, clients and consumers are becoming even more empowered to make a choice about their legal service provider in today’s client and consumer centred world. At the same time, lawyers are given the unique opportunity to reach out to their clients and relate to their needs by listening to what they have to say on social media.

In this era of unprecedented technological change, lawyers need to be more open-minded than ever in order to embrace the opportunities offered by the Internet to the benefit of themselves and their clients.

Conclusion

In his most recent thought-provoking guide for young and aspiring lawyers, Richard Susskind endeavours to predict what the legal industry of the future will look like. The key message throughout his book is that tomorrow’s legal world bears little resemblance to that of the past and that ‘tomorrow’s lawyers will need to be more in tune with tomorrow’s clients.’[13]

Today, more than ever, lawyers need to display entrepreneurial spirit by embracing change and adapting quickly. Above all, this means having a genuine interest in the commercial world and understanding its effect both on their firms’ businesses and the ones of their clients.

The above change drivers are only a few examples of the radical transformation lawyers are currently facing. Awareness and understanding of these issues is essential for ensuring that the legal sector survives and continues to thrive.

Being commercially aware is not something that can be achieved over the course of days, or weeks, or even months. It is something that lawyers need to start developing at a very early stage, even before they enter the legal market. Only then would they be in a position to succeed and do well in the new brave legal worlds. Only then would they be able to ‘tune in’ to the business needs of their clients.

Note by Editor-in-Chief: ULS offer certified training to law students looking to expand their knowledge on commercial awareness via StretLaw Ltdask us for more information.


[1] P Gilbert, Head2Head. Client relationship management: The client’s view (Lightning Source 2002).

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] P Gilbert, The tale of the old badger, the young fox and the wise owl (Braiswick 2012).

[6] Gilbert (n 5).

[7] R Susskind, Tomorrow’s lawyers. An introduction to your future (Oxford University Press 2013).

[8] The Law Society, The Legal Services Industry – Part 1 – Overview (Law Society Publishing 2013).

[9] Lord Neuberger, Tomorrow’s Lawyers Today – Today’s Lawyers Tomorrow (80 Club Lecture, Association of Liberal Lawyers 2013) http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/docs/speech-130219.pdf accessed February 20, 2013.

[10] Legal Services Board, The future of the legal services: emerging thinking (Conference paper 2010) < http://www.legalservicesboard.org.uk/news_publications/publications/pdf/14_june_conference_papers.pdf> accessed February 18, 2013.

[11] C Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma (Harvard Business School Press 1997).

[12] Lord Neuberger (n 9).

[13] Susskind (n 7).

Trials and Tribulations of A Levels: My Journey into Law School by @MemsZie

A Levels – Where should I start?

I think I can say for quite a range of people that A Levels may be one of the most challenging and nerve racking experiences you go through in this life. The myths and stories that I heard when I was younger about the difficulty and the perplexity of A Level subjects haunted me.

Hard work = success

It was not until I started sixth form that the concept of hard work and success became the key. I, like thousands of teenagers, went through the headache of not knowing which subjects to take, which qualifications to take and where to take them. I knew that a law degree was something I was interested in but wasn’t sure how to get there. There are no typical A level subjects to consider for a law degree. Students have been able to take law at university with A Levels in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, English, Politics and so on.

Russell Group

One thing that I would be conscious about is that some universities have a preference in subject choice and this should be taken into account. If you are considering applying to a Russell Group University such as Oxford or Cambridge (sometimes referred to as ‘Oxbridge’), I would highly advise you to research what they ‘like’ their applicants to have as a prerequisite. For example, certain universities differentiate between ‘hard and soft‘ subjects and this has the potential to affect offers from law schools as some prefer you NOT to have studied law before you study it at degree level.

Where should you study?

Another thing to bear in mind is that the institution you study at is important. I decided to change to a different sixth form as I knew that they had a specialised knowledge in the subjects I was taking. This is a scary step as you are not only leaving friends and teachers, but you are thrown into an unknown world in which you are alien. It would be lying to say that it was not difficult to move, however as time went on I became more confident and pushed myself outside my comfort zone which is a great trait for an aspiring lawyer.

A level or AS level?

Choosing your A levels and qualifications however is only one step into your journey. You now need to do well in them! As I am writing from personal experience, all my desired universities were in the top 20 in the league tables. This meant that high academic achievement was imperative. I cannot stress the importance of AS Level as it not only acts as cushion for your qualification but it also determines your place in law school. A majority of the highest law schools ask for A*AA-AAA which shows the rigour and the competition to get in. Therefore, putting all your effort in is extremely important. Organisation and motivation are one of the many ingredients that you need to do well and achieve your grades.

Legal work experience

However, sometimes grades are not just your passport into university. Participating in extracurricular activities and carrying out relevant work experience is something that makes your application stand out from the rest. If you are an AS student I would recommend researching and contacting firms asking for work experience – be bold! Given you don’t have much time on your hands, keep it relevant to your goal (e.g. law firms for law students). In year 12, I completed work experience for a week in Foot Anstey, a law firm in Plymouth (I live in Kent by the way!) and this year I have secured two work experience placements in highly ranked law firms.

Spread your wings

It is important to have relevant work experience on your CV, however it is not only law related work experience you can get involved in. For example, I have an interest in politics and I wanted to explore this further. I did so by carrying out work experience in the House of Commons with a political think tank and becoming a part of the cabinet in a local youth party. The possibilities are truly endless – be creative!

Worth it in the end…

In conclusion, as vigorous and as painful as the process sounds to get into law school, it is truly worth it at the end. I personally would not have found my passion in politics and law if I had not taken government and politics and sociology in my A Levels. Take subjects that make you want to think outside the classroom and shape you to be a better individual. The competition is fierce to get into a leading law school, but once you are there you know it is because of the hard work you put in.

© Mems Ayinla, 2013

https://twitter.com/memszie

Comment by the Editor-in-Chief, Gary Lee Walters

I really like this post; it shows commitment to the legal profession at an early stage. Mems clearly knows what she wants and is not afraid to go out there and get it, being bold will serve Mems well – great stuff!

Gary

Barbwire Tension, TFEU, Tax & UEFA – Poolside Musings By @PhilipVasquez

By Philip Vasquez, StretLaw Associate

So, the time has come for me to write my first blog for UniLawStudents. I thought I’d keep it pretty casual today as I’m by the pool…

Philip by the pool

‘Oscar’ Thanks bit…;)

I’ll firstly like to take the opportunity to thank Gary for getting in contact and getting me involved as an Associate of StretLaw (Employability Specialists), the ‘big sis’ to ULS. My blogs here at ULS and my position as an Associate at StretLaw will be in keeping with the ethos of both organisations. For my blogs I will be drawing from personal experiences which I have accrued throughout my journey of my Law & Sociology (LLB) Degree at Cardiff University and prospectively as from September (subject to passing my final exams) through the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course, the essential post-graduate prerequisite if you want to become a Barrister) at City University, London. I hope I will provide useful insights and advice for law students, and non-law students, who are set to achieve various personal goals whilst studying.

Who am I?

As many people reading this blog will probably have no idea of who I am, I thought I’d take this first blog to allow to introduce myself and what I’ll be writing about. I’m 21, interested in socio-historic, political and legal issues of constitutional importance (to put it quite broadly). I am also a musician, I’m into digital and film photography (owning a few Digital & film SLRs) and I’m quite into my sports (Working out, squash, cricket, sailing, football, rugby etc). I could go into loads of detail about what I like doing in my spare time, but I’ll let you gather more about me through my blogs, or you can just follow me on Twitter @PhilipVasquez.

I’m a little bit different…

What makes me a bit different from other law student bloggers might be the fact that I’m not from the UK but I’m still British (I can see frowns of confusion!). Spanish is also my second language (but I’m not Spanish!). This means that I live and study in the UK but I live at home during the summer. As I write this I’m by a pool in Sotogrande, Spain, only a 30 minute drive from my home in Gibraltar. If you haven’t heard about Gibraltar, well it is a small peninsular with only 6.8 square kilometres of land mass attached to the European continent on the very southern tip of Spain via a narrow lying isthmus.

Gibraltar has been British for over 300 years since it was captured by Anglo-Dutch forces in 1704 and officially ceded by Spain to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Gibraltar’s present estimated population of 30,000 has since been subject to continual political aggression from Spain, reaching a notable apex between 1969 and 1982 where Spain had closed Gibraltar’s only land frontier to mainland Europe as well as severing all communications and trade links via mainland Europe. Today the physical divide in nations is sharply demarcated by a fence about 7 feet high, topped with mean barbed wire. The border was opened partially to pedestrians in 1982, and fully to vehicles by 1985 but notwithstanding the reopening of the frontier, the border is continually a source of political tensions. This results in a perpetuation of strengthened and conflicting local identities between both Gibraltarians and Spaniards.

TFEU

If you’re interested in knowing more about Gibraltar, I will be publishing a sociology essay later this summer via Cardiff University, discussing Gibraltarian culture and identity in relation to the frontier with Spain. But, as law students, some of you might be wondering ‘how can a physical frontier exist between two European Nations? Wouldn’t that be a breach of Art 26 TFEU?’  You’d be right to ask such questions, as the existence of physical barriers to trade and free movement principles of the EU are against the Schengen agreement and fundamental aspects of the EU today.

VAT?

A straight answer to your question would be that Gibraltar is a member of the EU, but it is not a member of the Customs Union. Therefore, Gibraltar is not subject to the strict barriers of the free movements principle of the EU. Therefore, as you may have guessed by now, this means that Gibraltar doesn’t pay VAT. Instead, here in Gibraltar we set our own import duty rates (Breach of Article 28 / 30 TFEU? Nah… we’re not part of that, either 😉 ) and Corporation tax is only at 10%. If you think this is interesting, I plan to touch upon Gib’s unique trading and taxation systems in upcoming blogs. It is however due to Gib’s fairly unique laws which have got me interested in legal issues.

UEFA

Strangely, the story of where I’m from and my identity have a considerable play in my outlook on things. Gibraltar’s history and culture also tell a continuing story of the success of perseverance, in David and Goliath proportions. Most recently for example, Gibraltar has finally been admitted into UEFA, following an ongoing struggle against Spain’s political veto in involving Gibraltar in European Football, at the Courts of Arbitration.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on enough about Gibraltar for now. The reason why I’ve introduced all of this is because many of my blogs will involve some element of Gibraltar law over the next few months, as I will be back home for the rest of the summer. Over the next few months apart from these blogs, I also have a few personal projects planned which involve writing and publishing, one of these projects includes my involvement as president of the Gibraltar Law Students Association. Also, In August I will also be doing a month’s work experience at a local law firm which I look forward to be writing about.

Thirty Park Place, Chambers

I hope this has served as a good introduction to the large amount of blogs you will be receiving from me. My next blog will involve a lunch I had arranged with barrister David Hughes of Thirty Park Place, Cardiff. David has previously practised in Gibraltar and honed his advocacy in a number of public and constitutional cases. Having read about his involvement at the Gibraltar bar, his enthusiasm for Gibraltarian politics and the fact that he is presently practising in Cardiff, I felt compelled to try to meet up with him to discuss some ideas and fire some questions. Fortunately, he was kind enough to accept a quick and interesting lunch at Café 37.

Taking the Bull by the Horns

A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to email a barrister who I don’t know, to go for lunch. Most people probably wouldn’t do it, but no one’s going to hold your hand and give you everything you want in life, you’ve got to do the legwork. You’ve got to be bold sometimes to get what you want in the long run, and you’ll probably need to do things others probably won’t (because they may have the connections) or they probably would not be willing to do (because they’re not committed enough).

No limits…

Don’t set yourself limits… go and try and get what you want, who is anyone to tell you otherwise?

See you soon, my beer is getting too warm!

© Philip Vasquez, 2013

Fresher Madness – Time to Take Stock by @RoadToAdvocacy

By Sion Evan, StretLaw Associate

I want to write a blog. I want it to be dramatic, fiery and different to all other law student blogs. But what do I write about? Finally, two weeks after finishing my first year of university, I am sitting on a train back to my home town of good ol’ Chippenham, so here it is…

As clichéd as it sounds, I have decided to write a blog based on my experiences as a first year law student. Simple enough? Apparently not, attempting to fit a whole years worth of learning, fun and excitement into one blog is hard enough, never mind the man opposite me snoring on the train. A distraction? Not really, and the noise not indifferent to some heard whilst in the law library…

I was terrified to start University; I had been completely confident and looking forward to being an independent student and living the true student lifestyle. But when I looked at UCAS and ‘Accepted’ popped up on my screen, I panicked, like really panicked.

The chorus of ‘Your dad would have been so proud’ didn’t mask the fact that I was bricking it about pretty much everything the university experience had to offer. Looking back on it now, I was a true idiot. This year has been the best year of my life, it has given me more than I ever could have expected and I know I now look back on that terrified 18 year old and think ‘why did I ever feel like that?’

The first few weeks of the year were hectic; fresher’s fare, nights out and introduction lectures, it was a whole load of information to take in, never mind a hit on both my liver and my bank balance. But after a few weeks it does settle down, and it became a lot more chilled; with reading until 9 and then to the pub on the corner for a pint or two with other law students attempting to justify the drinking because we’ve been reading for 4 hours and prepping for the next days seminars.

After settling down at university the work truly started to mount up before Christmas. 5 pieces of coursework as well as public speaking assessments became 90% of my time outside of lectures. The other 10% consisted of eating and numerous trips to the local supermarket for fresh air and cans of red bull. It wasn’t an easy time, but after a week or two, managing my time became a lot easier and my work ethic increased. I found myself becoming a whole lot more efficient than I had been previously, and particularly after the Christmas break my desire to get things done became overpowering and I found myself enjoying, of all things, public law coursework (don’t laugh 😉 ).

Despite my increase in enjoyment for studying, my motivation at rowing-training, which I had previously attended religiously, had begun to dwindle and I found myself too tired to make the sessions and then when I did go I would feel too exhausted to train to the best of my ability. I know that next year this will be different, I will make sure that I find time for myself as well as studying, which would be a piece of advice I’d give to anyone reading law.

After Christmas everything got back on track relatively quickly and despite my lack of effort for some subjects I quickly got back into the swing of things. During the relatively quiet months of February and March I began to think about what else I could do outside of my study. What would boost by CV and interest me at the same time? I started looking at different avenues and having used twitter in the past I thought ‘how many law-student specific twitter accounts are there?’ and as it turns out not a lot. Most are mixed. So I went ahead and created one. And I must say dear reader that this was the best decision I had made in my first year of university.

I began by tweeting once or twice a day just about any kind of law issues or just as I was sitting and waiting for lectures and after a week or so had gained around 50 followers. I approached the head of Law School and asking for some sort of promotion of my account in terms of flyers and posters, and she loved the idea. My ‘law-only’ twitter account then became a lot more active and after a month or so accrued a further 100 followers, mostly during exam period. Hashtag time: #Initiative 🙂

From this experience I have found myself looking further into legal issues and thinking a whole lot more about my university experience. I’ve also been approached by different people asking for advice, specifically to give input to Finch and Fafinski’s new website and exam-success book. And the very people who operate this site, StretLaw Ltd, invited me to apply for the role as a StretLaw Associate. After StretLaw considering my CV and covering letter then a telephone interview, they formally offered me the role! Very happy! This will enable me to gain valuable legal work experience, among other things.

So, exams have now finished and I would rather not talk too much about them – I’m looking at a 2:1 so I am feeling pretty good about that! They weren’t easy but my biggest tip to any law student about exams is that planning is absolutely essential, it needs to be the most important part of your degree. But you’re a law student, I’m sure you already knew that 😉

So readers this has been my story, and with the never ending summer ahead I bid you farewell and have a cracking summer!

I’ll be writing my next blog on revision tips, do’s & don’t’s of university, so stay tuned. It’s going to be another mad year ahead! TTFN 🙂

© Sion Evans, 2013

Follow me on Twitter @RoadToAdvocacy

Are the best lawyers non-law graduates? by @FayePhillips5

By Faye Phillips, StretLaw Associate (South Wales)

As most of us know, studying law at University is no longer a vital prerequisite for a successful career as a solicitor or barrister but is the GDL the best route to take, or does a law degree show more commitment to the profession?

Lord Sumption said last year that the best lawyers do not read law as undergraduates. His comments were reported in The Telegraph. He claims that non-law graduates generally have a more rounded education and are able to offer more than law graduates. He suggests students wanting to practice law study history or mathematics, subjects that require strong analytical skills. He says

‘the study of something involving the analysis of evidence, like history or classics, or the study of a subject which comes close to pure logic, like mathematics, is at least as valuable a preparation for legal practice as the study of law.’

Perhaps I am bias as I too studied a non-law degree before turning my hand to law however I can see some truth in his argument. Lawyers need to be able to analyse a lot of information, decipher complex legal documents and explain it in plain English to their clients. Having a logical mind is bound to be advantageous. For this reason scientists and mathematicians profess the right skills to be good lawyers. A science background is useful too in intellectual property for example where an understanding of technical language behind new inventions is needed.

Also with the growth of ABS and those specialising in science, having a degree in the subject together with the GDL is often a requisite and a law degree alone is not enough. I realised this when I heard about a training contract vacancy at Greenway Scott. I unfortunately hadn’t studied science or maths (I opted for modern foreign languages and politics) but I told a friend of mine from the GDL who had a biosciences degree to apply for it.

Likewise, those with a mathematics degree could have an edge in employment, tax or banking law where transactions involve complicated calculations. In hindsight maybe I should have studied science as it seems to be a sought after qualification and one that highlights many skills. I’ll just have to make the most of my languages. Lord Sumption says, ‘It is very unfortunate, for example, that many of them [law students] cannot speak or read a single language other than their own’. Fortunately for me I speak and read five languages although I don’t know how useful they will be unless I manage to find a job in an international firm.

It goes without saying that recruiters will want to see evidence of a strong commitment to law. Law graduates can show their early enthusiasm by having chosen to study it at university. But is a law graduate who wanted to be a lawyer since they were six, and studied it at A Level and at University dynamic enough?

Or is it narrow-minded to assume they had no other interests and were locked away in the library studying law all of the time and not participating in any extra-curricular activities or learning languages or showing an interest in science? Non-law graduates may find it harder to show the same commitment and passion from an early age but hopefully they will bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience that single honours law graduates don’t have.

Of course, the importance of legal work experience for both law graduates and non-law graduates cannot be underestimated. Anyone committed to a career in the legal profession will not be taken seriously if they have not made an effort to see if this is the right path for them.

Professor Graham Virgo from Cambridge University argues in this video that prospective lawyers should study Law. One of the reasons he gives is the breadth and depth of knowledge that is gained by studying the foundational subjects in depth over three years rather than crammed into one year on a Law Conversion course and the ability to study a wide variety of other modules not available to GDL students.

Agree/Disagree? Comment below and I’ll get back to you…

© Faye Phillips, 2013

Follow me on Twitter @FayePhillips5

and connect with me on Linkedin uk.linkedin.com/pub/faye-phillips/46/5a6/257/

The Cost of Becoming a Barrister

It is common knowledge within the legal world that if you wish to pursue a career as a barrister, not only are you required to sacrifice many hard hours in attempting to excel academically, but also socially in terms of finding the time to get yourself involved in extracurricular activities in the hope of increasing your chances of securing pupillage. However, during the last few years or so, especially in light of the current economic climate, prospective barristers now have another issue to face, not academically, not socially but financially. There has recently been the introduction of the new Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) which will cost students £150, but additionally the price to study the BPTC is rising year after year, which is daunting. Some providers are charging in excess of £17,000 and although such a fee can undoubtedly be justified, due to potential benefits and services that the BPTC providers may offer, you must ask whether the Bar is actually accessible to all.

Personally, as a prospective barrister I am not only worried for myself financially, but I am also worried about the future for prospective law students. Luckily enough, when I graduated university last year my fees were at the capped level, but now with university students having to pay near enough £9000 in admission fees alone per year, in addition to living costs, in conjunction with the £150 pound BCAT fee and due the fact that there is no “Student Finance” for postgraduate study, I am sure that these factors could have a disastrous impact on the barristers profession. It is a logical thought to imagine the unfortunate fact that perhaps the best students, academically and socially may be deterred from pursuing a career as a barrister and the reason for this is because of the high levels of financial commitments that many individuals, from all different backgrounds, cannot simply adhere to.

You may also like to see what some providers charge to study the BPTC which is available at http://stretlaw.com/blogs/archive/90-bptc-fees-2013-2014-a-brief-round-up.html

Thanks,

(C) M.S. Basi,  2013

www.twitter.com/msbasi17

Law Students & Summer Holidays – Time to Relax?

Whether you are in the first, second or final year of the LLB, hopefully you have completed all of your exams for this academic year and so worry not, you can now catch up on the loss of sleep you may have experienced recently, catch up on all your favourite TV programmes that you have missed and you can now finally relax (until the dreaded results day). However, I was thinking the other day that since I ever started my degree and my LLM course, I have not really had the chance to enjoy my summer holidays, but the reason for this is essentially because of the competitiveness of the legal world.

I believe that for law students, the summer holidays provides you with the perfect opportunity to chase many CV enhancing opportunities which in the long-term may provide you with a huge advantage when applying for a training contract,  pupillage or any other legal job. For example, during my undergraduate degree my exams finished in June and then the next academic year commenced in October and therefore it is apparent that I and many other students had plenty of time off during the summer. Certainly, by all means relax, take a break, have a holiday but more importantly make positive use of the spare time that you have.

I have recently graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Law and I am currently studying for an LLM and in October 2013 I am due to start the BPTC. However, I am certainly not a career expert and I am not a perfect student with a perfect CV but nonetheless, through personal experiences and as a result of networking I have come across a lot of students, legal practitioners and professionals who have all emphatically highlighted to me about the importance of giving yourself the best chance of securing a training contract or pupillage (depending on your desired career path).  A lot of people tell me that because the legal world is so competitive, why on earth do I share my ideas on how individuals can boost their CV, because for example essentially everybody is in competition with me for that elusive pupillage. However, I have come across many outstanding students who have an excellent academic background but who have failed to progress into the legal world and the reason for this from their view is because they perhaps lack the required experience. I became aware of the importance of putting yourself out there, meeting the right people and to build contacts ever since I started my LLB and I am thankful that many people have helped me throughout my education and so I thought if I could do anything to help others, by all means I should because who knows, the people I meet now may work with me in the future and consequently building contacts and helping others can be rewarding, not only personally but also socially.

It is now the summer holidays despite the awful weather as of late, but be assured that there are many opportunities for law students to sink their teeth in during these holidays. During the academic year, many people struggle for time with exams and coursework deadlines and even work commitments and so the summer becomes an essential seasonal period for all students. So what can you do? First priority I would say is look for work experience, find the firms/chambers you are interested in and look on their website for their application procedure. However, often enough many firms/chambers recruit for work experience/mini-pupillages well in advance, around February time so it may be too late to actually secure and complete work experience during  the summer break if you have not yet applied. However, make use of the summer, complete the application forms thereby ensuring that once the academic year commences you can straight away send the forms and hopefully secure work experience for the following summer or Christmas period.

Alternatively seek to get involved in some voluntary work, preferably for legal charities and organisations if possible but notwithstanding this, volunteering in general is highly beneficial from a personal point of view. During my second year I volunteered for many international charities, whether through fundraising or through helping out in a local shop. Such experiences provided me with the opportunity to enhance many skills, my communication and organisational skills to be more precise. More importantly however, you are doing something for the benefit of society, you get to meet many people from all walks of life and such work can be highly rewarding. Also, during many interviews that I have had I have been asked about my voluntary work in a positive manner and I have been told that such work demonstrates that I have used my time wisely in ensuring that that I do not have huge gaps between dates in my CV. Additionally, I have within the last two years volunteered for numerous legal organisations in many different positions and I honestly believe that my voluntary work with charities in the past demonstrated that I am committed and willing to devote my time and this is perhaps how I actually secured valuable experience with many legal organisations.

Do not forget the benefit of part-time work also, not only for developing new skills but also with financial commitments in mind. It is clear that studying the LPC or BPTC is by no means cheap and so every penny you can gain from work will undoubtedly assist you financially and perhaps reduce a bit of stress.

On the side-note, it is also worth noting as a general tips that if for example you are due to start your final year and have a dissertation due during that year; during the summer months it could be advantageous for you to actually start the research for your dissertation. The reason for this is because any student will tell you, writing a dissertation can be extremely long and stressful in combination with the fact that the third year is extremely stressful within itself anyhow. Therefore, if you can reduce your workload during the summer months for the following year, why not? Alternative, if you are due to commence your second year, why not take a few textbooks out of the library to read during the summer for the modules you are due to study, by doing this you can really get a heads up on the material.

In conclusion therefore, I would say make the most of your summer, get involved with many organisations and apply for work experience. Securing a training contract or pupillage in modern times is extremely competitive, but make sure you never fail to secure an interview because you lack experience or cannot demonstrate that you possess many vital legal skills and personal attributes. Make the use of your time during the summer and ensure that you do develop the necessary skills and that you have the required experience.

I have made reference to legal firms/chambers/organisations/charities without explicitly stating who because I thought it would not be appropriate to name them without their permission, but if you have any questions or are after some advice that I could possibly give you, just drop me a tweet @msbasi17.

Thanks,

(C) M.S. Basi,  2013

www.twitter.com/msbasi17

Summer Break: Career or Canaries? Choose both!

By Gary Lee Walters, Editor-in-Chief

So the end is nigh, exams are almost over! Some are still going strong until the beginning of June – good luck for those who have completed theirs and commiserations for those still studying 🙂

Once you have finished your exams, question is, what next? You have several weeks off – is it time in the sun or legal work experience?  Is it both? Or is your time already absorbed by wearing a badge with ‘Happy to help’ at the local supermarket?

Some of you will already have jobs, be it in a bar, retail outlet or similar. Some will be focussing on ‘that’ holiday, a chance to have a blowout after nearly burning out – that’s understandable, but what about when you get back? Here’s some food for thought:

Benefits of Legal Work Experience

There is a strong link between work experience and employability[1]. Those who have it are likely seen as stronger candidates when applying for a job – albeit a few years away for some, it will approach quicker than you think. It stands to reason; if you have taken the time and effort to approach a law firm and get legal work experience in a practice which you aspire to join, you will no doubt be looked on more favourably than other candidates. It shows determination and drive to succeed.

We’re not saying you need to spend 6 weeks at a firm – many will not take you for more than 2 weeks anyway, but don’t spend all your summer chasing the sun. Your career is closer than you think.

Development of Skills

Shadowing a solicitor or barrister will help you understand how the law works in practice as opposed to the study of law[2]. How a practising solicitor or barrister applies it is very skilful and some say, an art form. Unable to get legal work experience? Go along to your local court and observe advocates as they practise their skill.

Confidence

Observing advocates, whether barristers or solicitors (the number of solicitor-advocates is increasing) ought to inspire you and make you think ‘I can do that’.

The next step is getting the legal work experience. You could speak with your university or college to see what they offer in the way of help. Unfortunately, it is our experience that many law schools do not offer any tailored advice. We do. Ask us how we can help you – we have industry contacts.

Solicitor or Barrister

Some will already know they wish to be a solicitor or barrister. For those on the fence, consider observing advocates in crown court or magistrates; get an insight in to how advocates and solicitor-advocates work.

If you decide you wish to see what solicitors do you must approach a firm and try to get legal work experience. Ensure it is relevant; sit down with your supervisor beforehand so you are aware of their expectations of you, and vice-versa.

Get Ahead

Opportunities will not find you; you must seek them out. So, enjoy your time in the sun but remember, as soon as you get back, start searching as soon as possible. If you don’t your peers will, and you could lose out.

Behind You

Keep an eye out for our employability conferences and workshops which will increase your employability – if your institution is not helping you, tell them about us. The fees you are paying them ought to get you more of a return than just a degree, after all, several thousand others will also have one.

Come interview time, how will you be different?

© Gary Lee Walters, 2013


[1] Emily Finch and Stefan Fafinski ‘Employability for Law Students’, OUP, 2013

[2] ibid

I won a weeks legal work experience! Thanks to ULS and StretLaw Ltd by @KurtGunby

I won, I won, I won! Did I mention I won?!!

ULS (via StretLaw Ltd) held an inter-university mooting competition earlier in the year, I had much on but decided to go for it anyway, nothing ventured and all that. I researched hard and it paid off; I won! You can read my short review of the first moot here.

The prize for winning that moot was a weeks legal work experience with Solicitors, Watkins and Gunn, organized by StretLaw Ltd.

My work experience began in April in the Cardiff office of Watkins and Gunn, and it was fantastic. Luckily for me they had a high profile criminal case running at the same time, so I got to witness excellent advocates in practice.

During my time I spent 3 days at the criminal trial, listening & observing to the solicitors, barristers & the Judge. This gave me a great insight into the daily routine of what it is like to operate as a lawyer in the real world – something textbooks just can’t convey.

I also spent a day in the conveyance department, where I helped to compile files & open cases, learning that the life of a solicitor can vary dramatically. One moment I was sorting the post; next I was assisting a paralegal that was reporting directly to the Managing Director! This helped me realize that maybe the job of a solicitor does not just involve a desk and a computer.

My last day was spent helping in the Newport office, where I helped in a social media meeting. The Managing Director was seeking a younger person’s view on how effective they are at using social media, where I was praised for my help and felt that I helped to further the company’s social media use.

Overall it was a great experience, which I would love to do again, by working in other departments to further my knowledge about law in practice.

I then went on to compete in the final moot, won that as well & received a mini-pupillage as a prize (yay!), courtesy of Civitas Law, again organized by StretLaw Ltd. More on that another time as first I have my exams to complete!

Come back soon for a review of my mini-pupillage…

© Kurt Gunby, 2013

Law Student: University of South Wales

Edited by Gary Lee Walters, Editor-in-Chief

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow? – Interviews and First Impressions #Employability

By Gary Lee Walters, Editor-in-Chief

Ensuring students are employable as possible is the main focus of what we do here at ULS. Appearance is quite understandably a big part of Employability. We give advice to guys on what they ought to consider wearing at an interview (yes, some think it is acceptable to wear chino’s) and other matters, such as personal hygiene, i.e. do not to dab on too much Brut or Old Spice…

There is a dress code for gals too, and quite naturally we extend the same advice albeit tailored (if you forgive the pun) to women on what to consider. Again, not too much perfume, you want to leave a good impression for hours after the interview, not an odor.

So what is the main reason for this bite-size blog? One question that always comes up is hair, more specifically, the cut. Should you let your ‘personality’ shine? Should guys with long hair, leave it so? I spoke to one young executive at a PI firm recently about employability and his haircut cropped up (apologies for the pun, again). He specifically cut his hair for the job interview, he felt he may not have been taken seriously without doing so.

He described his former cut as the ‘Testament Cut’ – Jesus. Of course, there is no way of knowing whether leaving it ‘raw’ would have been objectionable, but he did say he felt more at ease during the interview, not preoccupied or anxious about it, and performed well – he got the job.

Guys: As a way of canvassing views, what do you think about hair V interviews and would you consider losing hair length to get that job? I should probably insert a photo of me here for feedback – be kind!

Stretlaw

What does your hair say about you?

Gals: Would you consider a different look for an interview, and if so, why?

Guys and Gals: Is this all just academic? Shouldn’t the main focus be your qualifications and not your image?

Answers below please! One lucky winner chosen at random by the Randomizer gets a £15 voucher of their choice (iTunes, Spotify etc.)

© Gary Lee Walters, 2013

Roll up, roll up, and win a mini-pupillage! Auction via Westminster School #MiniPupillageGate

By Gary Lee Walters, Editor-in-Chief

Browsing the ULS Twitter timeline yesterday I noticed a Tweet about Westminster School auctioning a mini-pupillage. This can’t be true I thought, but after checking it out, there it was. Talk about a kick in the **** for social mobility.

Ethically I’m opposed & professionally I’m opposed. By offering a mini-pupillage to the highest bidder, Westminster School may as well say: ‘no needy, no diversity’.

At ULS, via StretLaw Ltd, we’re fortunate to have close ties with law firms, such as Solicitors Watkins and Gunn & Chambers, Civitas Law. Through them, we have ‘given-away’ five work experiences & three mini-pupillage’s to law students. They didn’t bid for it; they worked for it by winning our mooting competition.

Emma Waddingham, Business Development Director at Civitas says:

 “disgusting…and are they over 18?!! #Elitist “

Good point, according to the School site “Minimum age 16, internship must be taken before 30th April 2014”

We set goals that are achievable, not goals that keep the needy out, & allow the greedy in. It’s obvious the highest bidder will either ask their parents (anonymous benefactor?!), losing their independence or worse, spend their savings, desperate to win.

And who are the anonymous benefactors in London that are ‘OK’ with this being a way of gaining access to their set? Anonymous they may be & maybe that is wise, although it is said ‘all PR is good PR’, right?

There is no doubt the cause is a good one, all proceeds from the auction benefit the school’s purse, per T&Cs. Auction lots are donated from parents etc. so no doubt this one is no different, but the question still remains; who are the mystery chambers from which this mini-pupillage has originated? If you know, tell us below…

Do you think this is a good or bad idea or have Westminster School inadvertently hit upon a great idea?

© Gary Lee Walters, 2013

Blog Archives

Feel free to browse our blog archives – there are over 50 to choose from, so you won’t be short of bedtime reading!

Some are for ‘blogtainment’ and some are educational, allowing you easy access to the views of those in academia that matter.

Feel free to cite in your coursework, but please credit this site and the author whose work you use.

Click here to go to StretLaw Archives.

Dearth of Confessions of an LPC Student

I started off the year unemployed, a few months into the LPC and feeling the constant worry that I would never find a legal job and be consequently stuck with a huge debt to the College of Law (or should I say University of Law now?!). The first few months of the year were definitely a struggle for me, and it was during this time that I started to write my own personal blog documenting my job search and studies on the LPC.

I would post them on Twitter and Facebook for my friends and followers (sounds a bit like a cult when I say I have followers) to read. It was through doing this that I ended up being approached to write my blogs for the lovely people at StretLaw. It was also during the early part of the year that I received my results from my Masters in Commercial Law. Just in case anyone missed that post which can be found HERE. I came out of the course with a Distinction.

A few more months of unemployment followed, with regular interviews, probably 2 or 3 per month which is actually quite good for legal jobs but still nobody wanted to hire me! Eventually around June I secured a job as an administration assistant in a conveyancing department in one of the biggest firms in my city. It was about time someone noticed me because I was really starting to give up hope! I pointed my then potential employers to my work at StretLaw – I think they could see I had potential. I think this job was good for me as a first legal job because I learnt a lot while I was there and met a lot of lovely people.

Sadly, my future at this firm was not setin stone as I was on a temporary contract which was renewed month by month so every four weeks I would go through the same stress and worry of whether I would be working for another month. In the end it got to be too much for me and I put my notice in to leave this job at the end of November. I was sad to leave but I couldn’t see any other choice but to try and move forward career wise. Some people have informed me that I was expecting too much from my first legal job but I see no problem with aiming high. Yes everybody has to start somewhere but there is nothing wrong with having goals to move forward from that starting place.

Anyway, that brings us up to Christmas and New Year. I spent the whole of December unemployed again and ‘studying’ for my upcoming LPC exams. That was the plan anyway but somehow I only managed a couple of weeks doing that and the rest of the month seemed to whizz by! This is it folks, the end of the LPC is nigh. I have now sat my final exams for my elective subjects and I will be honest, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand it is great to have some resemblance of a life back where I don’t spend every waking hour worrying about whether I’ve done enough work, or how much work still needs to be done. On the other hand I will miss studying. I’ve made no secret to the people who know me that I love to study. I love learning, I love understanding new concepts and facts and I love the looks on people’s faces when I tell them that at 26 years old, yes, I am still studying law.

However, as of last Friday (18th January) I will have no further LPC work or revision to do. Well, unless I fail these exams that is, but nobody really likes to think about the idea of failing, least of all me!

So what on earth am I going to do with myself once I’ve finished the LPC? Well, here comes the next piece of news for you. I have a new job! What is this new job I hear you ask? I’ll tell you…I am a Will Writer at a local law firm. I am a fee earner which is exciting, and I am also the primary fee earner for the branch of the firm which I am working in which is also very exciting. My official job title is Private Client Advisor…well this is what is going to be printed on my BUSINESS CARDS. Yes that’s right; I’m going to have my very own business cards with my name on and everything! Is it really sad that I’m ridiculously excited about getting these?! You don’t have to answer; I can see you all nodding as you read this.

When I left my previous job, I had this new job tucked up my sleeve. There was no way I would have voluntarily left employment to be unemployed again because that was not a pleasant time and I would definitely not like to repeat it.

So there we have it, my 2012 in a nutshell. I was approached and accepted the role as voluntary staff writer at StretLaw for their Confessions Series, I got a distinction in my masters, I passed two-thirds of the LPC, and I got two jobs in law.
On top of that side of things, I have also had some personal victories as well…I have made some great new friends through work, and also out of work, I’ve focussed a lot on my health and managed to lose 40lbs in weight so I am a lot healthier and happier than I was at the start of 2012. Onwards and upwards eh?!

Finally, what does 2013 have in store for me? Aside from exams next week, I have my new job to get to grips with (terrifying and exciting), I am still waiting for a training contract BUT the firm who have taken me on to be a fee earner have done so with a view to a training contract so I’ve got everything crossed for that really and I’m just going to take everything else as it comes.

I will continue to write my Confessions Series so you will all be kept up to date with my life as a Will Writer!

(c) Karen Salt

Voluntarily Intoxicated Consent – Rape or Regret (Rape, Intoxication and Consent)

This is a highly readable and easy to understand guide to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in relation to Rape and Consent through Intoxication.

It has been scrutinized by acclaimed academics in its field, and leading legal practitioners.

Download a copy today via Amazon, and be better informed on a topic that gets more contentious, daily.

Here is a brief overview:

Only 6.5% of reported rapes result in a conviction . This figure of 6.5% is subject to much academic debate, figures of 13% will be aired; however, 13% is for convictions, for rape and lesser offences, such as sexual assault, following trial. This article does not debate that issue, and could not do it justice within its scope. The article is concerned with rape only in relation to consent. That said, “Successful prosecutions rose from 54% in 2006-07 to 59% in 2009-10” . Encouraging, yet in a report of a similar strand, the statistics for 2011 / 2012, show an increase to 62.5% .

By Gary Lee Walters, Editor-in-Chief and legal academic

Legal Work Experience…A Week in the Life

Monday 5th March 2012

Day 1 began with me waking up and feeling utter dread at the thought of being a solicitor’s offices all week…what if I didn’t like it, changed my mind about career and realised I’m wasting £10k on a course I’m not going to use. Stupid right? Surely I made sure I wanted to be a solicitor BEFORE signing up for the LPC? Well I did but you never know if something is going to change your mind.

Anyway, off I went to ‘work’. These early mornings don’t happen very much in the world of the unemployed so it was a struggle to wake up at 6am to leave the house at 8am. Not that I stay in bed all day but I’m pretty much used to a daily routine of waking at 8am, rolling out of bed and landing at my desk by 9am ready for a day of studying. Upon arrival I was greeted by a member of staff who gave me a tour of the building and introduced me to everyone. I was a bit like a deer in headlights at this point because to me the building was a bit of a maze and I was wondering how on earth I was going to remember my way around.

Following the tour I was taken to my first department of the week…the Litigation department. Now, remember that really good interview I had a while ago but didn’t get? Well the two lovely ladies who interviewed me that day work in litigation and I was to be working with them for the day. I have to say, it was a relief to see familiar faces, especially for my first day! The morning was filled with a large chunk of legal research, hunting and hunting for a case that didn’t seem to want to be found. I was beginning to think I had been sent on a wild goose chase, but then I finally found something! Oh, the relief from finding the case I had spent the majority of the day searching for, indescribable. Anyway, once this was done we were well into the afternoon so my final task of the day was some simple photocopying of documents for a client. Nice and easy and whilst I was doing this I got the chance to chat to a couple of other members of staff.

So there we go…day 1 complete. First impressions? I felt very welcomed on my first day and I was definitely looking forward to returning on Wednesday.

Tuesday 8th March 2012

I was given the Tuesday off in order to attend LPC so I didn’t have to miss a day of studying – I think this is the only firm I’ve come across who actually accepts that the LPC is important and they were happy to work around it for my placement.

Wednesday 7th March 2012

Day 2 – I actually couldn’t wait to get back into it on the morning of my 2nd day…sad I know but I was really excited! I knew where I would be for this day so I signed in and went straight over to the Wills and Probate department to introduce myself and await instructions for the day.

I had been particularly looking forward to this day because I really would like to work in Wills when qualified so this would give me some valuable experience. Thankfully it lived up to expectations…I sat in on client meetings, drafted a Will, undertook some research and it was great!

Another excellent part of the day was when the senior partner (SP) took me to a networking event at lunchtime. It wasn’t until we were pulling into the car park that he mentioned that everybody including guests (me!) would be expected to stand up and introduce themselves for 60 seconds. So I literally had about 15-20 minutes to prepare something in my head. I think the worst part about this was that not only would it be the room of complete strangers listening to me, but the SP of a firm I really want to work for! Likelihood being he would also be listening and probably judging me based on what I said! Cue stress. Anyway, long story short, I rocked my 60 seconds. I put this down to the fact that as a Teacher I used to have to stand in front of classes of children, plus parents who would be silently judging me and I became quite the confident speaker as a result. SP seemed impressed by my little speech and this made me feel a little bit happy that so far I wasn’t making a complete fool of myself.

Back at the office for the afternoon I was in another client meeting, and doing some more drafting. All in all, day 2 was a pretty damn good day.

Thursday 8th March 2012

Day 3 – new department, this time Commercial. I was at the same desk I had been at on Wednesday so my surroundings were familiar but I would be working with the SP instead of in Wills.

Straight away we started with a client meeting. This was followed by some file organising, and file reading, getting to grips with what is done in the Commercial department. To be honest there was nothing too taxing on my list for the day but I still enjoyed myself immensely. The best thing about the day was getting to draft a simple letter to a client, then seeing it typed up on letterhead and getting it signed to be sent to that client. It felt good to put my drafting skills to the test.

I seem to be getting along with everyone at the firm and it’s really nice to be welcomed as if I am one of the team. I have walked into some law firms where I have really been made to feel like less of a person than those who work there. It was a complete contrast at this firm though…everyone knows everyone and chats in a friendly way. Obviously each person knows their place and who they answer to etc., but there’s no air of “I’m better than you” which all too often is the case, probably down to concerns over job security. I even decided to pluck up some courage (on recommendation by the SP) and handed my CV in to the practice manager and asked to be considered for a job there. I would be absolutely over the moon if I was lucky enough to get a job at this firm, even if only an administration role. The idea is to work up from the bottom and if administration is where it starts, then so be it.

Friday 9th March 2012

This was it…my last day of work experience and I was actually gutted that it was going to be over. I’d grown quite attached to the firm, the people and my little desk over the course of the week so I figured it was going to be hard to drag myself away at 5.30pm.

My last day was seen out in the Commercial department and back at the desk I had been working at since Wednesday.

Today was a bit slower than previous days because there wasn’t a great deal for me to do. I did a bit of organising for the SP, and then wrote a blog post for the firm’s website. After lunch I really thought I would be stuck with nothing to do because all seemed very quiet around the place but then I was given a fair bit of typing to do for one of the solicitors and this filled my last couple of hours nicely!

Before he left the SP came to me asking if I had handed my CV in like he had told me to, I replied that yes I had done it the previous day and he told me to make sure I keep in touch with the practice manager every few weeks so my name doesn’t get forgotten if any jobs do come up. This I will definitely do and it feels nice that a member of the firm is pushing me to do so. For all I know he’s told all work experience people to do that but I like to think I’m one of a select few who get told to!

So there we go, that’s the lowdown on my first ever week of work experience. I loved it. I really felt like I would fit in if I was lucky enough to get a job there. It’s a sad feeling having to walk away not knowing if I would get to go back there in the future as an employee.

Oh well, for now all I can do is wait and hope that something comes up at that firm in the future (hopefully not too distant future) and that I’m lucky enough to get it. Once again, watch this space…

© Karen Salt, 2012

There are no dream lovers for ‘Sleep Rape’ Victims, By Felicity Gerry

When the act of sexual intercourse occurs with one party asleep, this is rape.

For some women, waking up being penetrated is not an embarrassing event to be put down to experience but a frightening example of “sleep rape”. Choosing to report the matter to the police immediately rather than keep quiet can make the difference to a successful prosecution of the perpetrator but will require stoicism in court when undergoing cross examination as to why and how she ended up in bed with the defendant in the first place.

Recently the Wake Up to Rape online survey conducted by the Haven Rape Centre in London found that more than one in 10 people were unsure whether they would report being raped to the police, and two per cent said they would definitely not do so. The main reasons were being too embarrassed or ashamed (55%), wanting to forget it had happened (41%) and not wanting to go to court (38%).

For any offence of rape committed after 1st May 2004 the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant penetrated the vagina, anus or mouth of the complainant without consent and when he did not reasonably believe that there was consent taking into account what steps a defendant took to ensure there was consent.

If the complainant was asleep or otherwise unconscious then the jury can be directed that there is a rebuttable presumption that there was no consent, and there will be little scope for successfully defending a charge of rape for a defendant who took no steps to ensure the complainant was awake.

Cross Question

A successful prosecution for “sleep rape” requires the jury to be sure that the woman was in fact asleep not that she was conscious but simply does not clearly recollect what happened. It is on such issues that a defence barrister is entitled to cross question. The complainant will have to tell the jury what happened after she went to bed and deal with how obvious it would have been to the defendant that she was asleep.

The advantage of a swift complaint to the police allows for the collection of vital scientific or medical evidence which can sometimes support the allegation. This requires the victim to give her account to the police as clearly as possible, commonly now recorded on video capturing her distress. It is upon the recording that she will be cross examined in court some months later, so it needs to be truthful and accurate. She will also have to undergo a medical examination when samples and swabs are taken and injuries (if any) noted. The most useful results are achieved when the medical examination takes place as soon as possible after the alleged event.

The discovery of semen inside a victim can identify the perpetrator and can also assist in proving rape as it can be inferred that he used his penis rather than another part of his body where the victim is vague about events as a result of being asleep when penetration took place.

Complications can arise in a criminal trial where drink is involved. The medical examination can include a blood sample which can be analysed for alcohol content as can the blood of the defendant if he is apprehended quickly. Where a woman is asleep after drinking, she is still unconscious and not consenting, but at the same time drink can affect the reliability of witness evidence and prevent a jury reaching a conclusion as to whether the allegation is an accurate account of what took place.

In January 2010 at Lincoln Crown Court, Premeslav Broszt was convicted of raping a woman when she was asleep. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment and placed on the sex offenders register indefinitely.

Eye witness evidence of sexual intercourse is rare, but in this case some of the party-goers were able to give an account of what they had seen during the evening and the defendant’s suspicious conduct after the event.

Conversely for a defendant with a history of parasomnia (sleep walking) rape could be an unjust accusation and a frightening one to face. According to Wikipedia, parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal and unnatural movements, behaviours, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or during arousal from sleep. Some parasomnias (sleep-walking, night-terrors, and confusional arousal) are common during childhood but decrease in frequency with increasing age. They can be triggered in certain individuals by alcohol, sleep deprivation, physical activity, emotional stress, depression, medications, or a fevered illness.

Accused somnambulists can commonly suffer from such conditions and at present there is no law which requires a defendant to notify a bedfellow of the risks although a failure to do so might be evidence that the defence has less merit. Sexual behaviour in sleep has become known as “sleep sex” or “sexomnia”. It is not, of itself, a defence to rape but where medical evidence supports the assertion that sexual acts took place whilst the defendant was asleep, (medical diagnosis is NREM Arousal Parasomnia – Sexual Behaviour in Sleep) then the defence of automatism will need to be considered.

Any criminal act must be voluntary in the sense that it is the product of the will of the defendant. If the defendant acted involuntarily in an automatic state, this is a complete defence. In a parasomnia case the judge will have to carefully sum up expert opinion and potentially the effect of intoxication on the defendant’s state of mind as well as witness reliability.

In separate cases across the world, at Leicester and in Australia, defendants were acquitted of rape where they successfully raised the defence of automatism on the basis that they had penetrated a woman whilst asleep. Both men had a documented history of sleep walking. The Leicester defendant apologised the moment he awoke. These cases can be distinguished from a deliberate act of rape on a sleeping woman.

Success often depends on expert opinion. The question of automatism has been raised in cases as far back as Bratty v Attorney-General for Northern Ireland [1963] AC 386 where the defendant suggested he was sleep walking or otherwise acting involuntarily as a result of epilepsy or a diabetic attack. If there is an evidential basis (supported by expert opinion) for leaving a question of automatism to the jury, it is for the prosecution to negative that defence by proving (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the defendant acted voluntarily when fully conscious.

However, most commonly in ‘sleep rape’ cases, defendants assert that the complainant was awake and consenting. In 2009 at Crown Court Mr. A.S. was acquitted of ‘sleep rape’ despite admitting he had groped the breast of a young woman when she was asleep. He said that she woke up after the grope then enthusiastically participated in sexual intercourse. Despite the lack of logic in this suggestion, the complainant had been drinking that evening and whilst juries never give reasons for their verdict, one imagines that the jury in that case could not be sure that she was unconscious or perhaps concluded that she had mistaken the defendant for someone else in whom she had apparently expressed an interest earlier in the evening.

Ultimately a rape trial, just like any other criminal trial depends on the jury’s assessment of evidence presented – from the alleged victim, any other witnesses including experts, as well as taking in to account the defendant’s explanation.
© Felicity Gerry 2011, 36 Bedford Row
(a version of this was originally published by in-house Chambers, October 2010)

Investigating Historic Sexual Assault Cases

By Det. Sgt. Darren Bruce

Part 1

Complaints of historic sexual assault cases are often associated with a public and media stigma principally due to the time lapse between commission and reporting of the offence which, in some cases can be decades after it has been since the incident has happened. Investigation of a historic sex crime, generally a complaint from an adult relating to their childhood, and a recent complaint from a child victim are vastly different with the former presenting unique challenges to the investigating officers.

If a crime of sexual assault on a child is recent then the victim will be seen by a Paediatrician and any injuries examined and documented. Scenes of Crime officers will gather valuable forensic evidence from the subject and any relevant scenes. The recipient of first disclosure will be statemented along with any other witnesses. The child will be video interviewed by specially trained officers to gain an account to form the basis of the investigation.

Consideration will be given in conjunction with the SOCO Crime Scene Manager as to what samples will be sent for forensic examination at the lab for potential DNA. The suspect will be arrested and the same forensic considerations taken with regards to clothing and samples. Joint agency meetings will take place to ensure the welfare not only of the child involved, but to safeguard any children who may be at risk from the suspect. These are all vital factors in any case of this nature.

In historic sex assault cases the approach to the investigation has to be tailored to the evidence which is to be targeted. Challenges are predominantly a lack of forensic evidence, time of first disclosure and the availability of supporting evidence and witnesses. In the main, these crimes are committed when the complainant is alone with the defendant and it invariably means the word of one person against the other where the suspect uses an “I didn’t do it” defence.

Over the years historic cases of this nature have gained major press coverage, on occasion when a serial offender has been exposed by a victim leading to multiple victims coming forwards to give evidence. Unfortunately, there have also been cases where the defendant has undergone months, if not years of trauma awaiting trial for it to then be found to be an elaborate fantasised complaint.

This has led to varying judgements from the Court of Appeal designed to ensure that cases are brought not only correctly but with fairness to all parties ensuring that, where the evidence is such that it cannot be left to a jury to give a verdict, and this the verdict is directed by the trial Judge. In previous years stays in historic sex cases were a rarity but it is now the responsibility of the trial Judge to make the important decision as to whether a verdict can safely be reached by a jury even with clear direction.

I recently dealt with case where the offences had been committed some thirty years previously. First disclosure was to friends and family eight years after the offences but no police action was sought. This was often the case in the 1980’s due to the way cases were dealt with at the time. There were no specialist departments and no joint working agreements with other agencies.

The first recorded complaint to police in 2010 resulted in an investigation being undertaken and the suspect being arrested, interviewed and charged. This may sound simple but the procedure from beginning to end is complex. The complainant is interviewed and then their account is reviewed to identify what evidence is available in the form of witnesses and records.

Invariably there will be no forensic or medical evidence and so the first obstacle is to identify when the first disclosure was made and then trace potential witnesses. These witnesses will be asked to recall events possibly long forgotten for their relevance remembering that to them the events are not “personal” issues. This leads to the important and most problematic issue in presenting a case of this nature to the court: the passage of time. It can mean that essential witnesses may now be deceased and records have been destroyed due to local or national policies. Most importantly in this type of case, the memory and recall of the complainant is open to question.

The complainant may be able to give strong, passionate evidence recounting events and they may be able to call upon those who, years later, were the recipients of initial disclosure. Yet, with all of this, it will still be the victims word against that of the defendant who may be a person of good character, holding a responsible position of work and maybe married with a family of their own.

The investigation may result in attempts to trace associates of both sides from around the UK and, in this case, as far as North America. Police records, if a complaint had been made in any form, may have been lost. The way investigations into this kind of offence were dealt with historically may mean they were effectively ‘brushed under the carpet’ by parents on advice as the mindset and safeguarding was an era away from how it would be dealt with had the complaint been recent and made today.

On arrest a search should be conducted of their suspect’s premises. Police will search not only for evidence of the offence but also any recent offending. Whether the suspect has a family, a computer or internet access are all evidential matters to be considered. Safeguards have to be reviewed and put in place if the suspect has access to children or is in a position of trust. The suspect may be suspended from their place of work whilst the investigation continues and their welfare in light of their arrest also is a matter to be considered.

Once all available witnesses have been traced and interviewed the evidence is reviewed before it is presented to a CPS charging lawyer for a decision. Strong questions have to be asked and continuity of the evidence considered in light of the problems mentioned. Whilst the investigating officer may have no doubts as to the credibility of the complainant it is the balance of the evidence and the likelihood of a successful prosecution that needs to be borne in mind by the lawyer.

At this stage there may be sufficient evidence to charge and from here further work to support the case is discussed. What is contained in GP notes which go back to childhood? Is there any mention of something that could raise concerns or be supportive? If the Defence engages an expert, as is generally the case, then one must be obtained to not only review the defence report but also form a basis of independent argument which may assist or even in some cases mean that CPS will have to discontinue the case on the basis of it.

The next stage is a meeting between the complainant and prosecuting Counsel. This is not only to allow them a chance to meet and discuss how a trial may proceed but more importantly for Counsel to gain a personal view of the witness. How do they present and come across? Is there a need for special measures to be applied for, such as video link, screens etc.?

Whilst the Prosecution work is undergone the investigation work continues. Police are bound to look at not only what they are told by the complainant and witnesses but also look into any account provided in interview by the suspect. Are there records or witnesses that may affect the case from this perspective? These lines of enquiry need to be followed up. A Defence Case Statement (DCS) should, be given to the Prosecution way before any trial date, normally at the time set by the Judge at PCMH or court mentions. This often does not happen and I have had cases where the first time I get to see the DCS is the day of the trial. If this does happen there is no chance of testing the Defendant’s evidence and all that can normally be undertaken are the ‘usual’ police checks to see if they have any relevant convictions.

It is often not until a year or so after the matter is brought by the complainant to the police that the case may get to the trial

Part 2, which concludes Investigating Historic Sexual Assault Cases

Getting a case of this nature to court is the first major hurdle but if the offence is over twenty years old then recent judgements have provided trial Judges with guidance on jury verdicts and the safeguards they must consider such as whether they should issue a stay of proceedings or can safely give clear directions.

In the recent case I have written on, experts on the mind, both eminent academics and professionals in their respective fields were called by the Defence and Prosecution to discuss memory, recall and reliability. In essence it depends, from a layman’s point of view, which research paper or study you wish to adopt and base your verdict on. The mind is not an exact science and for every paper giving one opinion, a contrary one can be found.

The Court of Appeal Judgement in Regina v F (Case no:D1/201002010) is the latest to give guidance to trial judges and is of great importance to both the police and legal professionals on reviewing new cases to be put before the court.

At the end of that case, which dated back to events in 1970’s, the Appellant applied to the trial Judge to stay the proceedings on the grounds that, after such a long delay, a fair trial was not possible. A vital witness was no longer alive, records had been destroyed and there was no supporting medical evidence. The trial Judge’s decision was that he could compensate for this by giving appropriate directions in summing up and rejected the application for a stay. The Appellant was found guilty and sentenced to fourteen years and appealed to the Court of Appeal on two grounds:

I. The proceedings ought to have been stayed because of the long delay between the alleged offences and the date of trial; and
II. There were defects in the summing up.

Amongst the cited cases which form the basis for the judge on whether they allow a jury to give a verdict or make the decision to discontinue are R v J.A.K.(1992) Crim LR 30, R v Jenkins (1998) Crim LR 411 and the following:

In R v B (2003) EWCA (Crim) 319; 2 Cr App R 13 the Appellant stood trial for sexually abusing his step-daughter between 1968 and 1972. An application was made before the start that the proceedings should be stayed as an abuse of process by reason of delay. In that case the Appellant was severely prejudiced by the delay. The complainant’s mother had died and she might have been able to give useful evidence. The public house in which the mother had worked no longer existed and the Appellant’s work records no longer existed. Those records might have enabled him to prove that he was away from home when certain of the incidents were alleged to have occurred. Lord Woolf pointed out that at the end of the day the issue boiled down to who the jury believed. At paragraph 28 Lord Woolf provided:

“In this case it has to be recognised that because of the delay that occurred, in our judgement the appellant was put in an impossible position to defend himself. He was not, as Mr Jenkins [defence counsel] says with force, able to conduct any proper cross examination of the complainant. There was no material he could put to the complainant to suggest that she had said that something had happened on one occasion which could be established to be incorrect. There was no material in the form of notes that were given to the doctors which showed that she had changed her account. All that the appellant could do was to say that he had not committed the acts alleged against him. Mr Jenkins says that to say to a jury, when faced with allegations of the sort that were made here, ‘I have not done it’ is virtually no defence at all.”

In all the circumstances of that case the Court concluded that the Appellant’s conviction was unsafe.

A major factor in the case I dealt with was the case of R v Smolinski (2004) 2 Cr App R 40. In this case the Appellant was charged with offences of indecent assault upon two females aged six and seven. The offences were first reported to the police some 20 years later. The Appellant denied that he had been guilty of the conduct alleged. An application was made on his behalf to stay the proceedings for abuse of process. The submission was made that he could not receive a fair trial as a result of delay and that he would be prejudiced by lack of memory because of the time that had elapsed. The trial Judge came to the conclusion that, on the balance of probabilities, it had not been shown that a fair trial was impossible.

The appellant was convicted and appealed. The Court of Appeal quashed the Appellant’s conviction. Lord Woolf CJ, giving the Judgement of the Court, again stressed that in cases such as this application to stay for abuse of process should not generally be made before trial. At paragraph 9 Lord Woolf provided:

“If an application is to be made to a Judge, the best time for doing so is after any evidence has been called. That means that on the one hand the court has had an opportunity of seeing the witnesses, and, on the other hand the complainants have had to go through the ordeal of giving evidence. However, despite the latter point, which obviously is one of importance, it seems to us that on the whole it is preferable for the evidence to be called and for a judge then to make his decision as to whether the trial should proceed or whether the evidence is such that it would not be safe for a jury to convict. That is a particularly helpful course if there is a danger of inconsistencies between the witnesses – – inconsistencies of the sort that it is common ground occurred here.”

Lord Woolf went on to note some discrepancies in the evidence. In explaining the court’s conclusion at the end of his judgement, Lord Woolf provided:

“11..We do not think it is right for this court to lay down the principle that because of the period which has elapsed (twenty years) when the complainant has given a reason for the delay, it is inevitably the case that the convictions will be unsafe. However, where there has been a long period of delay such as existed in this case, and where the complainants are young, as they were here (6 and 7 respectively at the time matters happened), this court should scrutinise convictions with particular care. Likewise, we consider that trial judges should scrutinise the evidence with particular care and come to a conclusion whether or not it is safe for the matter to be left to the jury.”

The appeal was allowed.

The approved Judgement goes on to cite other cases but the crux of the matter is that in cases such as these, there is inevitably a problem with recovery of paper records which have been destroyed due to the passage of time. This could be employment or school records and may provide the basis for a successful cross examination. As a result of the passage of time much of the evidence the defendant could reasonably rely on may no longer be available.

Passage of time will also be stated as affecting complainants, and other witnesses’ memory and effectively the reliability of their evidence. In many cases of historic sexual abuse there is justification for the delay in bringing criminal proceedings. In certain cases, no direction given by the Judge to the jury could compensate the defendant for the prejudice suffered by reason of the long delay. Essentially, the jury were left with the complainants’ evidence that the offences occurred and the defendant’s denial of the allegation.

In my case a stay was requested by the defence for an abuse of process and no case to answer. There were inconsistencies in the evidence from the complainant and that of the first disclosure witnesses. This is to be expected after nearly thirty years and I would have been concerned if all had told exactly the same story.

The two experts cited research papers, studies and various esteemed journals along with their experience and qualifications in their various fields. It was clear from the reactions of the jury and the comments of the trial Judge that it was opinion that could be viewed from both sides of the argument and essentially was not helpful to either side. One expert commented that consistency of recalled memory would give rise to concern if too detailed and the other if the memory was inconsistent and fragmented then it was more likely to be genuine.

The matter of Regina v F formed the basis of the legal argument and centred on the cases outlined above. In cases of this nature the evidence in chief and opinions of any experts is to be heard prior to any legal argument. This is to enable a Judge and jury to hear the evidence and note any inconsistencies before a Judge makes his decision on how the matter is to proceed. It is then for the trial Judge to carefully scrutinise the evidence heard and decide if this is a case that can safely be left to a jury decision with suitable directions or if proceedings should be stopped at that point.

In the case I am discussing, it was because of the inconsistency of the evidence in chief and the fact that due to the passage of time counselling notes and school records had been destroyed that the Judge ruled a “not guilty” verdict to be given as he believed the jury could not safely give a verdict on the evidence presented. This does not in any way mean that the testimony presented by the victim is not believed or the case has been brought falsely. It is matter of law.

The victim at this point invariably will feel let down and frustrated that following the trauma of the whole process and giving evidence at court the jury is not allowed to give their own verdict. The victim should have been prepared by the Police and Prosecution, as best as can be, for all possible outcomes and this was the case during this particular trial. Expectations should be kept in proportion but these are highly emotional matters and the further a case progresses the more the complainant’s expectations will inevitably rise.

The factors I have sought to describe have and will continue to be considerations in historic sex assault cases. Each must be taken on its own merits and the evidence weighed up against this latest ruling. If it is apparent that there is no medical, forensic or recorded evidence to support the allegation and it boils down to one word against the other, then a Judge will carefully and rightly scrutinise the evidence presented, and decide if a stay of proceedings is the correct course of action to prevent a potential miscarriage of justice for unsafe conviction.

Within my introduction to my first blog I mentioned the stigma attached to these cases – the perception that late complaint invalidates the ‘rights’ of the complainant. In my recent case unhelpful comments from local media gave the impression that the “not guilty” verdict meant that the complainant was a liar and that she had unfairly accused the defendant.

Complaint was made about the “cost” to society of bringing such a claim, suggestions made that the victim should be prosecuted for “wasting Police time” and comments that the Police and the CPS had been irresponsible and wasteful in allowing the accusation to reach the point of trial. Other than a cursory comment no attempt was made by local media to explain how the verdict had come about. My victim became a victim for a second time – this time round the victim of misinformed judgements.

A fear of this stigma should not stop or discourage the Police or CPS from attempting to bring such cases to trial, and support of the victim is paramount to encouraging others to come forward.

(c) Darren Bruce, 2011

Caramelisation: Us v Them? ‘Honour’ Based Violence

Caramelisation: Us v Them? ‘Honour’ Based Violence
By Nazmin Akthar, Associate Editor and Correspondent for Cultural Affairs Memoirs of a very confusing lawyer

Confusion Part 3[1]:
Caramelisation: Us v Them[2]

I am going amateur psychologist in this article and I want to reiterate once more that the views and experiences are my own and it does not mean that I represent the views and experiences of others or of any particular group or community.

Best behaviour

A friend once asked me whether my mum knew every Asian in the city; she doesn’t but I am sure she comes close. My Asian friends in other cities say the same about their mothers but I think they’re exaggerating simply on the basis that Newcastle has less Asians than their cities do therefore it is more likely that my mum knows a higher percentage of Asians in our city than their mothers know in their respective cities. Just saying (I need to do something about this competitive streak of mine!).

Irrespective of how popular our darling mothers are (our fathers popularity is irrelevant for reasons unknown to me) every Asian will have at least one Aunty-Jee in their life. Actually let me correct myself – EVERYONE has an Aunty-Jee in their life.
You know that term “honour” that keeps being thrown about in the media that is so important in ethnic minority communities that it results in forced marriages and honour killings? The actual word is “izzat”[3]. This is where it gets tricky because honour is not a literal translation of “izzat” and neither, I submit, is it restricted to ethnic minority communities.

“Honour (izzat) has multiple connotations and overlapping meanings relating to respect, esteem, dignity, reputation and virtue… the specific acts that are deemed to increase or erode izzat are subject to constant contestation and change…”[4]

I don’t like criticism and forgive me for making an assumption but I bet you don’t. Neither will our parents. Cast your minds back to when you were growing up. Did your parents tell

you to say please and thank you? Did they ask you to brush your hair properly and wear your best dress in front of Aunt Jane? Did they ask you to always try your best at school and get the best grades possible? Now please don’t think I am doubting our parents intentions; of course all such matters were for our benefit. But human psychology also has a part to play. If your parents’ weren’t like this I am sure you will know of someone’s parents that were. You will know of a parent that would brag about their child’s achievements with pride and another who would wish their child would give them something to brag about. And Aunt Jane? Your mum’s dear friend who comes over with fresh cupcakes which she just happened to whip up an hour before, who must compare your fine china to hers, whose husband got a promotion and whose children have the sun shining out of their… errr… yeah, I think you know what I mean.

We all have Aunty Jane in our lives. British Asians like me just happen to add the “Jee” when referring to them[5] – it does nothing more than give respect by formalising the greeting, just as the French have the difference between “tu” and “vous”. We all also have “izzat”. I mean the everyday aspect of “izzat”: Respect. Our parents want to present us in the best possible way to the outside world because they know that the alternative is criticism. Your mum doesn’t want to look like a bad mother in front of Aunty Jane; She wants to be respected. Not so foreign now is it? So what turns it into an honour issue?
Aunty Jees

Some time ago a friend commented on how concerned she was that 16-18 year old British Asian girls today are coming out with archaic and patriarchal views that we had assumed would have disappeared with the last two generations. I responded with “they suffer from caramel nose syndrome” and I am now about to explain what I meant by that.
There are three ways you can deal with Aunty Jees:
1.    Ignorance: Self-explanatory; Ignore them and do your own thing irrespective of how much they will gossip about you.
2.    Pretentious silence: Again quite self-explanatory; Be on best behaviour when they arrive and then go back to your lives once they leave.
3.    Caramelisation: Caramel nose syndrome is the first limb whilst caramel hands syndrome is the second.
Fairness of skin is given a lot of importance in South Asian communities[6] and many will be striving to be as fair as possible. Generally those who give importance to colour in this way tend to be the caramel nose and caramel hand syndrome sufferers. I have chosen caramel for a reason too. You see there are some who are desperate to move themselves away from being dark but who unfortunately (for them) cannot pretend that they are fair. They will therefore call themselves an in-between colour which in Bengali is known as “Shemla” which I equate to caramel. It probably isn’t caramel but the darling Aunty-Jees call me “shemla” out of affection and my foundation says I am caramel so I decided one is the other. Incidentally my cousin says “shemla” is beige because her foundation says so. And incidentally her shade is always too dark for me. Make up is confusing.

Caramelisation

Caramel nose syndrome is akin to brown-nosing but with a twist: imitation. In a bid to acquire approval from these Aunty-Jees who essentially measure and decide upon our “izzat”, whether this is respect, esteem or honour or whatever else, caramel nose syndrome sufferers imitate them. Dr Gill states it as such: “Consent to the patriarchal norms of religion, culture and class is strongly encouraged, and the degree to which each woman conforms to the value systems embedded in these institutions is reflected in the way she is perceived by her marital and blood families”[7]. I am taking this one step further and stating that in a bid to gain approval from Aunty-Jees many are incorporating the values of the previous generation and making it their own. Again this isn’t as foreign a concept as you think. It is how society works; a majority decide on the good and bad and measure accordingly. For some, Aunty-Jees are the majority. Caramel hands syndrome is where in a similar bid to gain approval a distancing exercise is undertaken whereby you push away and disassociate yourself from anything that could lead to you losing face in front of others. This isn’t a foreign concept either. What could be better examples of the Us v Them phenomenon, of the distancing exercise, than the headlines surrounding the Rochdale case?[8] The media went into overdrive highlighting the race and religion of the perpetrators. It is “them” doing this, not “us”. And then there is Shafilea Ahmed who highlights the imitation exercise[9]. She would normally be one of “them” but she became one of “us” and was therefore killed by “them”.

Us v Them

Has anyone ever thought to wonder what this Us v Them approach does? Whilst you become “us”, they form their own “us” and you become their “them”. The Rochdale gang disgusted me but so have those who have turned it into a race and religion matter instead of concentrating on the victims. Instead of everyone working together we have finger pointing and distancing. The Bangladeshis point fingers at the Pakistanis stating it is them not us. The Hindus point fingers at the Muslims saying it is them not us. The “English”, for want of a better description, point fingers at them all because, well, irrespective of whether you think you’re caramel, ultimately you’re all brown.
And no one looks at the plight of poor Shafilea.

Prosecution described her as a “thoroughly westernised”[10] girl. I have to admit I do not actually know what westernised means especially as I do not believe in labels, to me people are just people, but I am about to tell you what westernised can mean to some people. Note: ‘some’ people. I have to make it clear however that I have not met these people; the definition I am about to discuss is something I came across on Facebook and Twitter and more importantly I accept that I am putting forward my own interpretation and even then a very minimalistic version of my interpretation. In other words, I am putting forward my interpretation in its most simplified form and it may in fact be the case that the authors of such views did not mean what I am about to say they mean.
There is a view, according to my interpretation, that the term “westernised” is another way of saying “whore”. Before you get offended it is not race specific. In other words you can have Asian westernised women, and English not-westernised women. My English best friend who does not drink was once told she might as well be Asian. You may wish to read Dr Rita Pal’s account as an Indian westernised woman for further commentary on this[11]. For ease of reference, even though I have never heard this term before I will call not-being- westernised as “easternised”.

In anticipation of misinterpretation, I would like to make it clear that I do not think “westernised” women, if that is how you label yourself, are whores. In fact, I do not think there is any such thing as a whore. I absolutely abhor the term. I feel it is redundant in this day and age just as the term bastard is. No one has a right to judge an individual. Yet look at the plight of prostitute women in UK; they are treated like second class citizens who should be punished because they deviate from the so-called norms of society. (My LLM dissertation focused on this so if you do not believe me have a read). Look at this week’s “Silk” programme. A character assassination occurred because the woman was wearing a short skirt and the top three buttons of her blouse were undone. There is an obsession with conjuring up “good” and “bad” women; the way the Yorkshire Ripper’s case was handled is an example of that. It’s another Us v Them phenomenon. Sexism in this way is not culture- specific; it’s universal. Yet again, not so foreign now is it?
Why do I say the term “westernised” can be referenced to behaving like a “whore”? People in glass houses do not throw stones: it is a popular hindi saying. There has been an obsession with painting the “other” culture in a barbaric way; ethnic minority and Muslim women are shown as vulnerable, oppressed and repressed. Incorrect of course but then you should understand why incorrect “stones” are thrown back. If you are going to look at the extreme cases of “easternised” women being completely oppressed then someone else is going to look at the extreme case of “westernised” women being completely free. This is where my interpretation has kicked in; I submit that being completely free is another way of saying whore. And apparently, according to both the West and the East, it is not ok to be a whore.

I hope you will now understand my annoyance at Shafilea being described as “thoroughly westernised”. I know why she was; it will help the Jury relate to her. In other words, it will allow them to morph into Aunty-Jees and adopt her as one of “us”, akin to the imitation exercise, but you are also turning her into “them”.

Shafilea was an individual who wanted to live her life her way. There is nothing wrong with that. But you are making it sound wrong by turning it into an Us v Them issue. I am not saying that someone will condone her parents’ actions but they may condemn with a qualifier; for example, the killing was wrong but the frustration her parents’ experienced when faced with a westernised daughter is understandable.

That “but” has a very powerful effect especially given how broadly westernised can be interpreted, as I have clearly already shown, as well as how different views can be regarding “preventative measures”; because God forbid your child turn into one of “them”(note the sarcasm). And then if you take into account caramel nose syndrome, then you have young people adopting such views. This latter issue also has the further disadvantage of creating a further Us v Them, that of “good” children who acquire the approval of Aunty-jees and “bad” children who deserve reproach; if they can do it then why can’t you. It is these “bad” children that then become victims like

Shafilea. In other words, instead of stamping out the problem this Us v Them approach is fuelling it.

People have asked me why Elliot Turner’s case was not considered an honour killing. According to reports, Elliot Turner was a possessive boyfriend who became “furious when he met Emily and saw she was dressed in very short shorts, a leopard print bra and small waistcoat. He told her she was dressed like a whore”[12]. Emily and Shafilea were both victims of controlling perpetrators and to some Elliot’s fury could be equated to Emily being too westernised. This is what I mean by the fact that being westernised is not race-specific and moreover why I do not really understand what westernised means. Shafilea was killed because she could not live up to cultural expectations set by her parents but Emily similarly was killed because she allegedly breached the cultural expectations of her boyfriend. Was an element of honour not involved in Elliot Turner feeling as if his girlfriend was not behaving as she should? It is not my intention to state that Emily and Shafilea were both honour killing victims or that neither were. I am trying to say that they are both examples of violence against women. I am also blaming this on universal sexism, and I include sexist racism and racist sexism in its midst. I am also trying to say that this Us v Them approach that is revered by the media is not helping but rather, it is making it worse.

“In vulnerable and racialised communities there are tensions between protecting men from the racism of state agencies and negative media representation on the one hand, and the need to raise the issue of gendered violence and protect women’s rights in these communities on the other… there is a fear amongst some that putting honour crimes on the public agenda might cause a dangerous backlash in the immigration debate and heighten xenophobic sentiments…”[13]

If you do not want a repeat of the Rochdale case or that of Shafilea Ahmed then please take note.

© Nazmin Akthar, 2012
[1] I was supposed to be writing about being British and trying to understand multi- culturalism but it turns out that I opened Pandora’s Box in asking such questions; as a result it will require a lot more time and effort as well as much more writing space to do so. Thus I will be dedicating subsequent articles to the subject which will be available on StretLaw in the foreseeable future.
[2] Many thanks to Miss Aisha Aslam, Mr Sehb Hundal & Miss M. Chowdhury for their input and support. It is greatly appreciated.
[3] This is used in Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian communities.
[4]Aisha Gill, “Reconfiguring honour based violence as a form of gendered violence”; Mohammad Mazher Idriss & Tahir Abbas (Edited), Honour, Violence, Women & Islam, Routledge: Oxford; 2011; Page 229
[5] I must clarify however that I do not in fact add the “Jee” at the end; I think it is family specific.
[6] I have only come across this phenomenon in Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian communities so I cannot comment on others. This is not to be taken as an indication that this is not prevalent in other communities as well.
[7] Aisha Gill, “Reconfiguring honour based violence as a form of gendered violence”; Mohammad Mazher Idriss & Tahir Abbas (Edited), Honour, Violence, Women & Islam, Routledge: Oxford; 2011; Page 221
[8] Rochdale-child-sex-trial-Police-hunt-40-suspects-promise-arrests.html
[9]http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/honour-killing-trial-i-saw-my-parents-
murder-shafilea-says-sister-7771335.html
[10] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/honour-killing-trial-i-saw-my-parents-murder-shafilea-says-sister-7771335.html
[11] http://naman-astitva.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/stepping-stone-effect.html
[12] http://m.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/may/21/bournemouth-man-convicted-of-strangling- girlfriend?cat=uk&type=article
[13] Veena Meetoo & Heidi Safia Mirza, “There is nothing honourable in honour killings”; Mohammad Mazher Idriss & Tahir Abbas (Edited), Honour, Violence, Women & Islam, Routledge: Oxford; 2011

Rape Trials and PTSD

By Gary Lee Walters, Editor-in-Chief

As a legal academic with an interest in sexual offences, specifically consent in rape, I have witnessed many elements of a rape case from different perspectives. An issue that becomes evident in most, if not all, cases are jurors’ attitudes to a complainant whilst being questioned by defence or prosecution.

I am reminded that the purpose of any case is to test the evidence put before the court and that any complainant suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not likely to have it raised as an issue of a rape or attempted rape. In R v E, 2011 (recently considered by Felicity Gerry) PTSD was admitted only to rebut the presumption of fabrication. Rape does not require injury, Professor David Ormerod analysed R v Olugboja and concluded rape was an offence against consent, not one requiring proof of violence.

That in mind, questions, sometimes unpleasant ones, need to be asked. The defendant will naturally instruct counsel to thoroughly dissect the events leading to and during the complaint and during. The complainant will therefore be tested as to his/her recollection of events. This may be difficult to deal with. I have seen complainants’ breakdown in the witness box under such questioning and I have witnessed those that seem more in control than some of the officials reading out the evidence. Could it be argued that jurors punish complainants for being strong willed? Control is vital for some complainants to ensure that they get through the court case. For some, PTSD may be triggered post-court appearance.

In America, the statistics are revealing: “Nearly one-third of all rape victims develop Rape- related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) sometime during their lifetimes, and more than eleven per cent still suffers from it.”

The statistics for the UK are similarly alarming:

“[a research study] showed that 70% of the victims had PTSD and further suggested that PTSD was likely to be a long-term problem for these women. The results supported the view that psychological treatment approaches to rape victims should take into account the posttraumatic nature of the response. The incidences of rapes by strangers, of physical force being used, of weapons being displayed and of injuries being sustained by the victim were all higher in the group of women who had PTSD.”

How does each of the above demeanours contribute to the negative or positive thought process of a juror? Is it human nature to immediately make a judgement call and feel empathy toward a complainant sobbing incessantly? As someone who has seen such sobbing, it still hits me hard but I remain objective, knowing the dangers of not doing so. The danger is that if a complainant is in control, for whatever reason, and is not visibly upset, human nature suggests less empathy is given. Clearly this clouds judgement and objectivity may be lost.

So how is it recognised whether or not a complainant has post-traumatic stress disorder? A traumatic event such as rape “poses a risk for the development of post-traumatic stress disorder”. It is immensely difficult to analyse whether or not a particular complainant will develop PTSD. However, a brief look at peritraumatic responses (during attack) may indicate how a complainant reacts during court. Some are ‘active’ during an attack. For example, they may kick, spit, and swear at the perpetrator, whilst others may demonstrate a non- active behavioural response which is thought of as consent but is in fact what is commonly referred to as rape induced paralysis. The complainant is numb, an attempt to disassociate his/herself with the attack. The symptoms of PTSD can be the same. A numbness and loss of deep feelings to name but a few. These characteristics could well be evident in the court room and would appear prima facie, that the complainant appears almost unnerved by court procedures but in fact is numb to them.

Is this misunderstood by some jurors as ‘control’? It could be. I would suggest complainants are in fact treated differently by jurors if they seem inconsolable, more credible perhaps. Whereas a complainant with the opposite demeanour (in control) already has an uphill battle to convince the jury they are equally as disturbed by events. Perhaps more needs to be considered for such complainants during a rape case. We are, as a society, told to express our feelings as it makes us feel better, in this context those that control their inner feelings are potentially at more risk of a biased jury which may result in their counsel having to convince a jury otherwise.

Originally published at Halsbury’s Law Exchange, 01 August 2011

© Gary Lee Walters, 2011

Sex, lies and BBC Red Tape

Sex, lies and BBC Red Tape: Did the BBC cover up the alleged activities by Jimmy Savile?

Most blogs are written in an attempt to be ‘breaking’. Yes, everyone is breaking these days. They’re not really. Unless they’ve unearthed a story all by themselves and no one else has rights or access to it. That said (and I feel better for it) here is another blog (or blawg) on a matter raised many years ago, so it’s not breaking, but not insignificant by any standards.

Savile grew in popularity in the 70’s and 80’s as a man who, like Bob the Builder, could fix it: Jim’ll Fix It. I grew up watching this show, and I even wrote to Savile on more than one occasion (for quite what I do not remember and I’m not convinced my mother actually posted them – did she know something I didn’t?). I’ve always been attracted to bling, and credit where credit is due, Savile always had plenty of that and his Fix It ‘necklace’ was pretty cool-looking (I reckon). Seems it and apparently he, attracted lots of children in the 70’s and 80’s…(penny drops as to why it sparkled…maybe).
It was rumoured way back in the 70’s and 80’s that Savile had used his powers of persuasiveness to ‘fix it’ for his adoring fans. Sky reports there was an historical investigation by Surrey police in 2007 regarding matters pertaining to sexual abuse in the 70’s but there was “insufficient evidence to take any further action.”

The BBC were due to air a Newsnight piece on Savile in the latter part of last year, yet axed it at the last minute. Seems the BBC had the same attitude as the CPS:

“…Simply not possible for the Corporation to take any further action”.

Did the BBC unearth something they’d rather we did not see, and would have felt compelled to include if they aired the show? To axe it would have been the easier option, for ‘editorial reasons’, we are advised.

In my opinion, when there are rumours, especially rumours provided by credible sources and those rumours have led to an investigation regarding historical sexual abuse, which has then ceased, who do we really need to re-evaluate? The police? Well it seems they put the case forward to the CPS and the CPS decided not to progress further in 2007. I’m sure the CPS did all they could with the information they had. If there is more evidence which to date has not been provided, it needs to come out now.
Savile’s former PA has said that in light of the 2007 allegations that private prosecutions could have been a remedy if the complainants were so confident in their claims. Maybe. But private prosecutions can be expensive, and beyond the scope of many. If they could attract funding, it might have been an option. But I’m not sure how one would go about it. Imagine an advertisement reading: ‘Funding sought to bring alleged paedophile to justice (so far so good), alleged perpetrator has raised millions for children’s charities and has received a knighthood for his achievements’. OK, this is where it would all go pear-shaped and people may start disbelieving, much like they did in the beginning.
Even Frank Bruno thought Savile was a decent bloke, leading Savile’s funeral procession. That could be half the issue. Savile himself was a celebrity with knockout power; even Esther Rantzen wouldn’t take him on. Wow. TKO for Savile in life, but after death? Maybe it’s Savile that will be knocked out of the BBC Hall of Fame, which, I guess, is up for ‘editorial’ discussion…

In conclusion, until anything is proven by law, Savile’s reputation (like anyone else’s) ought to remain intact (if not more than a little tarnished). I will keep an eye on this story to see if it turns into a legal case (again).

© Gary Lee Walters, 2012

Sexting: Perceptions, Realities and Indecent Images of Children

When Gary Lee Walters asked me to write an article I pondered writing the normal standard of “What’s computer forensics”, “Day in the life of a forensic scientist” etc. However, looking around the site, I decided to write about the one thing computer forensic experts do not like to talk about in public; the topic of indecent images of children.

Before I start, I would like to highlight why I write this article. I am a digital forensics expert witness taking instructions in all forms of digital cases including those involving indecent images of children. This is common in the world of computer forensic examiners working in criminal cases. Like most computer forensic experts and examiners, I am very passionate about the protection of children and also about justice. So here I find myself starting to write and one case keeps springing into my mind….

17 year old Peter charged with possession of indecent images of children

The case involves a 17 year old boy who I will name ‘Peter’. His computer was seized and examined by the police and it was stated to contain 2,000 indecent images of children. He was arrested and charged with approximately 15 counts as specimen charges of making of indecent images and the remaining images were charged as possession (I’ll discuss the definition of these later within this article). Peter admitted in interview that he had about 500 images on his computer, he stated they were of people about the same age as him or slightly younger. This included some images of himself of a sexual nature which due to his age, by definition, may also be charged as indecent images.

I was instructed as defence expert and examined the computer and the images it contained. There were images of an adult pornographic nature on the computer as well as some indecent images of children which I estimated along with the police that the persons depicted were aged approximately 15 – 17 years old. The evidence suggested these were downloaded when Peter was 16 and 17 years old. I found about 500 unique accessible images and approximately 1,500 images which corresponded to duplicates of the 500 already charged. These duplications were determined to have automatically occurred due to the way a computer works. For example, when you view a folder in icon view it will automatically create copies of the images, thus creating duplications.
Images: Unique or Duplications?

The matter went to Court since Peter did not accept there were as many as 2,000 images on his computer. At Court it was agreed that there were 500 unique accessible images and the others images were automatic duplications, resulting in a new indictment being created to correctly charge the 500 images and special measures were put in place to ensure Peter was not jeopardised for going to trial since he had admitting the offences at the time of his arrest. He was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

Now why, when writing this article, are the details of this case in my mind? I firstly discuss it because it really isn’t the stereotypical view of these types of cases and it potentially isn’t the first thing that springs to a person’s mind when they read or see in the media about someone being placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for possessing/making indecent images of children. It also brings to the fore a startling reality, how many 16/17 year old children are taking inappropriate pictures of themselves posing or of a sexual nature without knowing that such images are illegal? How many of these place them on sites or send these to their friends? How many people realise that although it is legal to engage in sexual activity at the ages of 16 and 17 that it is illegal to capture/store such images including posing in a suggestive manner (unless they are married)? I am perhaps becoming side tracked and concerning myself about the education of young people on the issues of imagery, which is probably an article in its own right….so I shall swiftly move on.

The definitions of ‘Making’, ‘Possession’ and ‘Image’

Firstly, I would like to discuss (in basic terms since I am not a lawyer) what my understanding is of the meaning of the charges with respect to indecent imagery. The terminology can become quite confusing particularly when the words “Making” and “Image” are used. It is my understanding there are two main offences with respect to storing such images – Making and Possession. Making has an unfortunate name since it may sound to the layperson like such an image has been created by the person charged and possibly the implication is that it has been captured by them. Making does not mean this (such an offence would usually to my knowledge be prosecuted as Taking with a camera, for example). The definition is as follows:
‘Making’ is a charge reflecting that an image exists – it may not be in a readily accessible format (e.g. it could be deleted). It may be unknown how the image came to reside on the computer/device.

‘Possession’ is usually an offence where the image(s) are readily available and usually there is evidence to show that the person storing them was aware of their presence.
The word ‘Image’ can also apply to a video file. There is no distinction between a video that is 1 second long and one which is 2 hours long. Likewise the word image would apply to composite images consisting of multiple pictures in one file.

Severity of images

In addition to the different types of charges, there are a set of guidelines which grade the severity of an image (or video) from 1-5 by the Sentencing Guidelines Council [1]. One is the least serious content and five the most. The CPS use these guidelines to define the levels as:
1. Level one – Images of erotic posing, with no sexual activity;
2. Level two – non-penetrative sexual activities between children, or solo masturbation
by a child;
3. Level three – non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children;
4. Level four – penetrative sexual activity involving a child or children, or both children
and adults;
5. Level five – sadism or involving the penetration of, or by, an animal.

The making and possession charges would usually reflect the level of the image and it is my understanding that this will influence any sentencing imposed. The decision regarding what to charge and what not to charge lies with the CPS and in my experience of working on these cases throughout England, it can vary considerably. Some may prosecute for a few images, some will not, some also have different interpretations of the levels etc.

To charge or not to charge, that is the question (isn’t it?)

Hopefully my basic explanation somewhat resolves the issues of the misinterpretations of the meaning of the charges, it now leaves me to discuss a few other issues which I feel are important. Firstly, the fact that the decision to charge is within the hands of the individual lawyer(s) at the CPS who will decide to bring charges based on their own policies. It is my understanding that at the time of Peter’s arrest, this could possibly have meant that depending upon where Peter lived, he may have never been charged and if he had admitted the original 2,000 images (which he rightly didn’t since he only possessed 500) would it have even resulted in Court? I am sure you would agree (and if you do not, please comment at the bottom) there should be absolute consistency regarding such matters.

Does age of the defendant matter?

Secondly, there’s the issue that often there is no clear distinction (in charging) between someone of the age of 17 possessing sexualised images of similar ages and a 50 year old man possessing images of the most horrible content imaginable involving very young children. It may reflect in the sentencing but ultimately the wording of the charges (Making/Possessing an indecent image of a child) may end up being the same with both persons being placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register. It also poses the question of how can it be, indeed if it should be, made clear that there is a difference between a 50 year old man in possession of 50,000 images of under 13 year olds and Peter possessing 500 images of 15- 17 year olds when he was 16-17 himself?

How well can you guess someone’s age?

As a technical expert working in this area, in late 2009 and early 2010 I was pondering how the law lacks distinction to clearly distinguish those possessing/making images of persons under 13 in a similar manner to those offences committed physically against children (rape and assault). Upon researching for this article, I note the latest CPS guidelines suggest that images should be separated into age categories of under 13, 13-15, 16-17 and these categories will be taken into consideration with age now being an aggregating factor. This in my view can only be a step in the right direction.
However, it’s not without its issues. In fact, it provides more real questions for computer examiners and experts; How can we perform this type of categorisation when presented with cases where there are 100s of thousands of indecent images which we firstly need to find from millions of images stored on the computer and then we have to categories these into 5 different levels of seriousness and then assess them all into strict age boundaries? How can we provide an objective distinction between someone who is 16 and someone who is 15 will be taken into consideration with age now being an aggregating factor. This in my view can only be a step in the right direction.

Media coverage

When it is reported in the media rarely are any distinctions in the age of the defendant in relation to the images contained. Indeed, is it relevant? Legally, may be not, sociologically, yes. To deal with a problem, we first must understand it. Clearer reporting allows for that. However, the media are in the business of sales, not sociology. Would you feel more at ease having Peter living next door or a 50 year old man who has images of young children (under 13) in category 5? Increasingly, the public are asking to know the finer details of a sex offender’s charge.

Are we criminalising Romeo and Juliet of the 21st Century?

Some may be of the opinion that children are more inclined to show a picture of themselves in a state of undress as a modern-day form of flirting. Made even easier with the fact most young teens own a smart phone, all of which have cameras.
I don’t know any simple answers to these issues and I am neither qualified nor knowledgeable enough to answer them, so I merely highlight them within this article. However, what I do know is this is a real world problem with 17 year olds capturing images of themselves/others and distributing them unbeknowingly to their friends (who can then be charged with possession of indecent images of children) without a full appreciation that such behaviour could result in them being placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register which ultimately may affect their ability to work and live their lives in the future.

Many questions were asked in this article. Many left unanswered. If you have an opinion, sociological or legal answer, please as they say.

© Sam Raincock & Gary Lee Walters, 2011

Reality Check: Bollywood, Muslims, Feminists and 9/11

Reality Check: Bollywood, Muslims, Feminists and 9/11 Memoirs of a very confusing lawyer: Confusion Part 1 By Nazmin Akthar
“My name is…”[1]

*Looks around circle of people, gets up from chair nervously and starts to speak* “My name is Nazmin….and I am addicted to Bollywood films”. If this scene was being enacted for one of Star Plus[2]’ soaps, or serials as they are called (Make whatever you will of the soap v serial business because I have no idea why the alternative is used), then this scene would be accompanied with thunder and lightning sound effects and a lot of close ups of shocked faces.

I personally think unemployment can be reduced if only soaps in the West would follow the Star Plus trend. I mean they need about 10 characters for each scene and about 10 cameras positioned on different angles per person: that’s 110 jobs right there! And do not even get me started on the amount of make-up artists that will be required. Seriously, does ANYONE go to SLEEP wearing a saree, make up and all their jewellery?
Bollywood films are a different game altogether although possibly because, unlike the serials which can carry on for decades and still not consider it necessary to end a storyline (which usually consists of trying to prove that another woman is trying to steal the main lead’s husband), films have to finish within two hours. To me, Indian cinema has everything in it. Plot, characters, tension, drama, laughter, sadness… and of course a lot of songs placed here, there and everywhere. A lot of progression has been made as well. For example, previously a song would be filmed randomly in a field with the happy couple dancing around trees which was slightly strange when you had literally just seen them in the kitchen a second ago. Now they make a bit more sense with actors getting up to sing and dance because they are at a club, albeit the awkwardness returns when they start to sing “It’s the time to disco” when they’re not actually at a disco[3]. Having said that Indian cinema has also gone to the other extreme and you will see the happy couple who were just staring at each other in Chandni Chowk in Delhi all of a sudden running towards the pyramids in Egypt[4]. Still, it is still very entertaining and you can’t help but love it.

The tide changed however one dark, cold, lonely night. Well not really but I am trying to make this dramatic. The Bollywood addict who always watched the latest releases as soon

as they came out had to resort to watching a new film once every two months and even then only in the hope that perhaps this new film may be the one that takes Bollywood back to its glory….or at least doesn’t cause nausea. I don’t really know what happened. I just know that one day I sat down with popcorn and Emran Hashmi[5] appeared on my screen with a t-shirt that said “Serial Kisser”[6]. *Shudders at memory*. I blame the fact that Bollywood films are now expected to be two hours long. They used to be three hours and that extra hour HAS made a difference. The quality has gone. The plot has gone. The characters have gone. It is just not the same. I want that hour back in my life. Let’s Occupy Bollywood?

I admit that Bollywood films are not exactly one to be realistic and never have been; it is not exactly possible that a grieving woman mourning over the death of her lover leaves India to go to Australia only to be greeted by her lover’s look-a-like who drives past on a bike as she sits waiting at the traffic lights[7]. And how many times can you come across an evil look-a- like who turns out to be your long lost twin or in fact, not related to you at all? (I am actually wondering how many films have used the double role storyline!) However, I would much rather watch that than what is produced now.

However, sometimes I do get rewarded for putting up with the rubbish. “My name is Khan”[8] was one such reward. The story concerns a Muslim man named Rizwan Khan who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, something he struggled with all his life but which only came to light after he moved from India to San Francisco to live with his brother and sister- in-law after the death of his mother. He meets Mandira, a Hindu single mother and despite their religious and personal differences they fall in love and get married. They are happy together. That is, until 9/11 occurs. The hostility towards Muslims as a result of the 9/11 attacks affects Rizwan Khan and his family. Mandira’s son is fatally attacked by fellow school children purely because his step-father is Muslim and he bears the Muslim surname “Khan”.

Shocking as this sounds I know that this is one Bollywood film where there has been no exaggeration (well apart from perhaps the boy dying by being kicked in the ribs with a football but I am no medical expert so I don’t know whether this may in fact be possible). The anger that was felt towards the 9/11 attackers was directed towards all Muslims no matter how unjustified that was. You wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to understand that the acts of some Muslims do not represent Islam as a whole. I mean Geordie Shore does not represent Newcastle in the slightest and I like to think Nick Clegg does not represent all the Lib-Dems; it is generally accepted that everyone has their own individuality. Not all men are the same, not all Londoners are the same, not all footballers are the same; yet when it came to Muslims, everyone was considered the same and this sameness was always a negative sameness.

Rizwan Khan becomes upset about this. His wife blames him for the death of his step-son; had he not been Muslim and her son not taken on the “Khan” surname, he would not have been killed. Rizwan does not understand what to do. He asks Mandira what to do especially given that she had told him she no longer wants to be with him, and in a fit of anger she tells him to go tell the President that his name is Khan and he is not a terrorist.

So off he goes on a mission. His mission: To go to the President of the United States and tell him “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist”. In other words, he wanted to make it clear that just because someone is Muslim does not mean it is alright to stereotype them, to automatically treat them suspiciously, show hostility towards them or hurt them. Being Islamophobic is not alright. The rest of the film follows his journey to meet the President and it really is heart moving what Rizwan encounters along the way. The film certainly achieves its aim in showing that just because someone is a Muslim does not give you the right to treat them in this way; the irony of course was that in the film Rizwan Khan had to suffer an ordeal at the airport because everyone eyed him suspiciously and then security personnel searched and interrogated him purely because he was a Muslim and the actor Shah Rukh Khan who plays Rizwan and is Muslim himself has to go through precisely such a search and interrogation![9]

I mentioned this film for a reason, and this reason may make me unreasonably or perhaps even reasonably hated but I have a reason for that reason and I hope that you try to understand that reason before you start to reason with me as to whether my reason was reasonable or unreasonable. Yes I know I mentioned the word reason a lot of times just then. It was intentional.

I am a Muslim by birth and a Muslim by choice. I actually want to vomit now for having just said this because I really cannot stand it when I am asked such questions. “So are you a Muslim by birth?” “No I am a girl by birth” “So you’re a Muslim by choice then?” “No I hate you by choice”. To me you are either Muslim or you’re not and I really do not care what “kind of Muslim” you are. In fact I would like to make it clear that I do not think “My name is Khan” is a film about good and bad Muslims. It is about good and bad people. The person who killed Mandira’s son for being associated with Islam is bad just like the 9/11 attackers. The film is about bad things: stereotyping, scapegoating, racism, Islamophobia.

The reason I have stated that I am a Muslim by birth and a Muslim by choice is so that what I say is not responded to with a “Well you were born Muslim so you must have been indoctrinated”. Trust me I have faced that response a number of times. The awkward part was when someone at University hadn’t realised I was Muslim until nearer the end of the course and it was only at that point that he decided I was no longer an independent, self- assured woman. I was born into a Muslim household and grew up with Muslim teachings but at the same time I was given sufficient space to understand the religion myself.
In my opinion, Islam is constantly portrayed negatively whether this is by the media or by politicians. It is portrayed as being against human rights that it discriminates against women etc. It is not Islam that does this. It is those applying Islam incorrectly that do so. I can recount various examples of how religion and culture are confused to suit the needs of those causing the confusion. If Islam was applied correctly there would not be any oppression of women. Contrary to incorrect belief, Muslim women do have the right to own property and they are not ‘owned’ by their husbands. They are allowed to study[10] and work. Et cetera. Et Cetera[11].
The quotation below is from an essay written by a very bright and sensible Criminology student (who incidentally I think will make an excellent solicitor so she is one to watch law

firms!); I felt that she had explained a point of mine perfectly and has kindly given me permission to use it in this article:

Many people talk about how Muslim men changed history and I’m not going to deny that, of course they did! But also many Muslim women changed history too as they break all stereotypes of the veil and so on. For example, Aisha (Radhiyallahu-Anha) has inspired Muslim women for centuries. She was a scholar, a poet, a jurist, a politician and a military commander who led armies. Masha’Allah, how many women do you currently know who do this? Another Muslim woman who was influential is Khadijah (Radhiyallahu-Anha). She was the first Muslim woman to convert to Islam and was its strongest supporter. Moreover, she was a wealthy businesswoman and eventually proposed to Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) for marriage. There were many more powerful women in Islam including Rabia Al-Basri, Nur Jahan etc.[12]

All this is ignored by the media; it is not highlighted by politicians. Only negativity is shown and moreover it is shown without much investigation into whether the religious aspect was even relevant or not.

This is why I call myself a Muslim Feminist at times, albeit I do not think my definition of a Muslim Feminist is the same as others. Moreover I rarely introduce myself as a Muslim Feminist. I believe many call themselves Muslim Feminists as if it is a new concept but in fact I consider all Muslims to be feminists because equality for women has always been an important Islamic principle.

I said I call myself a Muslim Feminist ‘at times’. Let me clarify. I actually just call myself Nazmin. Being British, being Asian and being Muslim is just part of who Nazmin is. And Nazmin is also a feminist. Although that should be obvious because Nazmin is a Muslim. Unfortunately many Muslims themselves are not intellectual enough to understand just what Islam is about; how can I expect non-Muslims too? Hence when I consider it necessary I add Muslim and Feminist together. Just as I add British and Asian together.
I know many Muslims will find this offensive but my intentions are pure. I do this to make others aware that Islam and feminism are not diametrically opposite. I have already written in my first article about my encounter with a solicitor during University. To explain it a bit further what had occurred was that he had first of all commented that I seem to be “a bit of a feminist” to which I said I was and then he questioned why I wasn’t drinking alcohol and I told him I was Muslim. That was when he decided I could not exist because a Muslim could not be a feminist. Feminism itself is a very broad ideology. It encompasses radical feminists, liberal feminists, cultural feminists etc. all of whom have different aims and perspectives. Many times it is hard to fit someone into a particular strand.

To me, if you are against patriarchy and oppression of women then you are a feminist. My best friend with her make- up and designer bags is a feminist because she believes she should be able to wear whatever she wants without being judged and it is her choice. I use feminism in a broad sense. I call myself a feminist but I am not quite sure which kind of feminist I am (I tend to stick to the term anti-essentialist but on a bad day, which is basically when I am in London travelling on the Northern Line and a man decides to push tiny me off the tube train so he

can get on I certainly sway to the radical side for a few hours!). I don’t really care. Like I don’t care what kind of a Muslim someone is. Therefore to me, Islam is entirely compatible with feminism because both religion and ideology oppose oppression of women.

I am not juxtaposing feminist ideology into Islam; rather I wish to bring out the feminism within Islam and show it to the world. I want to show that Islam gives women equality. It gives us dignity and respect. Just as Rizwan Khan was on a mission to show that not all Muslims are terrorists I want to show that all Muslims are feminists[13]. Insha Allah one day I will be able to call myself a Muslim without someone thinking I am a terrorist or an oppressed women. Insha Allah one day I can just call myself a Muslim and it will be immediately recognised that I am a feminist without me having to say so. Insha Allah that one day happens soon. Until then I will carry on trying to clear the misconceptions. Many say you should just ignore those who hold such misconceptions; but how far can you ignore it? Fictional as it is, Rizwan’s step-son was killed due to misconceptions.
May Allah SWT forgive me if I have said or done anything wrong. Ameen[14].

One final note: I wrote this article a while ago and kept it aside. In the meantime one day whilst in a bad mood I began tweeting about how Bollywood films are full of lies and completely removed from reality. I was surprised at how easily I had managed to portray one of my favourite films in a completely negative light. It was a phase which passed and the film is back on my list of favourites. However, it reminded me just how easy it is to be negative and view something negatively when you are determined to do so. I think it is quite clear what message I am trying to give.
© Nazmin Akthar, 2012
[1] I would like to thank Miss Marzana Islam, Mr Sehb Hundal, Miss Aisha Aslam and last but not least Mr Gary Walters for their continuous support and particularly in relation to this article. Without their encouragement I would not have been able to write this article.
[2] Star Plus is an Indian Channel on Sky; Channel number 784. I personally recommend watching “Diya Aur Bati Hum” at 9pm because I have been told the character Sandhya reminds people of me and I think so too!
[3] Film “Kal Ho Na Ho”; Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan & Preity Zinta; Directed by Nikhil Advani; Produced by Yash Johar; Release Date: November 2003
[4] Film “Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham”; Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor; Directed by Karan Johar; Produced by Yash Johar; Release Date: December 2001
[5] Indian Actor
[6] Film “Jawani Diwani – A Youthful Joyride”; Starring Emran Hashmi, Celina Jaitley &
Hrishitaa Bhatt; Directed by Manish Sharma

[7][7]Film “Kaho Na Pyar Hain”; Starring Hrithik Roshan and Amisha Patel; Directed and produced by Rakesh Roshan; Release Date: January 2000
[8] Shah Rukh Khan plays Rizwan Khan; Kajol plays Mandira; Yuvaan Makaar plays the young son Sameer; Directed by Karan Johar; Produced by Hiroo Johar and Gauri Khan; Release Date: February 2010
[9] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/6040296/Bollywood-star-Shah-Rukh- Khan-detained-at-US-airport.html
[10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16201961 [11] Emphasis intentional
[12] Written by Miss M. Chowdhury, Second year Criminology Student at University of Coventry; I am very grateful to her for allowing me to read her truly insightful and well- written essay and for allowing me to use it.
[13] Again, just to clarify, I use the term feminist loosely to equate to being against oppression of and promoting equality for women.
[14] Prayer.

Nottingham Trent Law School Legal Education Debate

In 2011 I attended several ‘debates’ on various legal matters, as a delegate. One thing common to all in relation to its absence was the very thing those in attendance were there to do; debate.

To this end I started thinking, emailing, telephoning and thinking some more. I wanted to panel a debate, not a lecture or series of statements, further, wanted to hear different views, from different people, notably on legal education. I telephoned Becky Huxley-Binns (pictured) and explained my vision. A debate, I contended, where all could freely contribute, law student to experienced academic, paralegal to barrister. Becky seemed excited at the idea and graciously offered to host this event, for which I am eternally grateful.

We agreed upon a panel and we set to work; I started thinking, emailing, telephoning and a panel was almost complete. Becky soon assembled the remainder with the same dedication and worked effortlessly to assimilate a business model to present to Nottingham Law School. The date was set; May 3rd 2012.

Baroness Deech (standing) formally opened the Centre for Legal Education and in her capacity as Chair of the event, provided an insightful and often humorous, introduction to the day. It was to be a debate in the morning, and LETR would hold focus groups in the afternoon.

Each panel member, in brief, stated their vision. As this only took 3-5 minutes per panel member, we were soon on to the debate and the floor was open in a ‘Question Time’ theme, Baroness Deech commenting “I won’t interrupt as much as David does!” To ensure the debate followed a chronological sequence, GCSE Law through to AS/A-Level law opened the debate.

The question was how valuable is a GCSE/AS/A-Level really is? Response from the floor seemed to be mixed, some opposing it saying it has a potential to ‘narrow the mind’ and that a student with a non-law background is preferred when applying to university. Indeed, it was contested by one audience member that A-Level law is not recognised as an A-Level at all.
Becky responded advising that is a myth perpetuated by many and sadly, not generally corrected. Becky has put forth students to Oxford, Cambridge and other notable universities of who have never refused it as a credible A-Level.

My response was from my personal experience. I have taught students that have studied A- Level law and because of it, embarked on their law degree. Conversely, I have taught students from non A-Level law background, but in terms of statistics, this is certainly worthy of research to ascertain if any of the myths are true.

My university peers have at times suggested, and I voiced this during the debate, that they would prefer students who had not studied law because the difference in assessments (essays, exams) is so wide that students think they can hand in work that, whilst may have received top marks at A-Level, simply does not cut it at university. For my part I had to disagree, but appreciate those with that view had many more years’ academic experience than I. I hope I am not proven wrong, but I am more in favour of providing greater support to a student embarking on a law degree so regardless of their background, law or non-law, they are under no illusion as what to expect.

It seems the opinion of some in academia is that students ought to ‘suck it up’, whereas I prefer to guide students which in my humble opinion will get the best out of them.
Moving on to undergraduate level, we discussed the element of a qualifying law degree. Becky’s vision, in part, is thus:

The 7 foundation subjects do not reflect what is great and good about law, about the practice of law or about the role that law has in society. An LLB student can graduate with a degree which does qualify them for the purposes of later legal professional study, but at worst simply requires the student to show superficial knowledge of doctrinal legal rules that can be recited dogmatically as a catechism.

This was hotly debated and it seemed many wish to remain with the status quo. I am inclined to agree with Becky; times have changed, learning methodology has changed so why is it so radical to suggest a change in the modules of a degree model so that it better serves its purpose for today’s market? And, should ‘we’ (educators) be regulated as much as we are? Certainly business ought not to dictate what we facilitate, but we need to be aware of what they expect from their law students. If we fail to recognise that, we are not putting our graduates on the market with enough business sustenance, thus leaving firms hungry for more.

In that respect some educators present said “leave us to educate, not regulate, and for practice to get graduates ready to practise”. I can appreciate this point, but unless we give our graduates the best possible head start, they will fail at interview. David Urpeth (pictured) commented that he had interviewed many potential trainees, of the highest calibre, academically, but they lacked basic commercial awareness. I am not suggesting students study for an MBA, but including an element of commercial awareness is vital in my opinion.

Baroness Deech begged the question “What is Commercial Awareness?”. A great question for which there is no simple answer. What it is not, is allowing a trainee to pick up a case, spend £30k working it when prima facie; it will only yield £5k. That type of awareness is required and firms do not wish to waste money, in today’s “Double Dip” recession, this is prevalent more than ever.

LPC/BPTC was then considered. I provided that my “Dream LLB” would see students studying for just 3 years and be ready to practise law, whether it be as a solicitor or barrister. How? Strip the ‘optional’ modules, keep those that are required for a QLD (subject to change, vide supra, Becky) and replace them with elements of either the LPC or BPTC, depending on which profession you wish to enter. I was asked why and what is the purpose of doing this?

A) Money. Students are loaded with debt when they leave law school. Students then have to decide whether they wish to become a solicitor or barrister, each attracting high additional fees. A degree that combined the LPC or BPTC may cost a little more than a current law degree, but could shave potentially thousands from the end cost.

B) Time. It takes 3 years to obtain a QLD (with exception, part-time, distance learning et cetera) and a further 1 (full-time) or 2 (part-time) years to study the professional element. 5 years before entering the market? A lot changes in 5 years. People change in 5 years. To be ready and working in 3 years is what is required as students need to be earning money quicker now, probably more now than ever before given the increase in student fees.

Baroness Deech commented “what about legal aid? Those that enter that element do not do so for the money”. I agreed but they still have debts to pay off. I’m not suggesting all law graduates are money grabbers; yes some are attracted to law for its ‘perceived benefits’. Not all lawyers earn £300k a quarter (some I have worked for earn more than that), they are few and far between; they are generally equity partners in City firms. But lawyers, junior, legal aid or otherwise, still need to pay off their debts, regardless of where they wish to practise.

Nazmin Akthar (pictured) wanted to take it a step further. She asked could solicitors and barristers be fused, leaving the graduate with more career options. There seems to be some confusion as to the question of whether or not one should take the LPC route, and if that does not work out, try the BPTC, and vice versa as one student pointed out. What is clear is some students do not necessarily want to become a barrister or solicitor; they want employability in an unstable market.

Baroness Deech commented that the two, Solicitor and Barrister, are quite different in nature, and that she felt more comfortable being represented by someone who set out to become one or the other, and not either. David Urpeth commented, as a solicitor advocate with higher rights, the only important factor to consider is that the best person is doing the job, not what route they took to get there.

This lead nicely to Baishali Majumdar (pictured) pointing out she felt, at times, the legal profession is not diverse enough, despite its efforts. Those with merit are still overlooked in favour of nepotism, Baishali provided an example and advised this practise needs to stop.

It was clear diversity is still an issue, the matter is being dealt with head on, but alas, this was steering away a little from the heart of the debate, but a worthy addition nonetheless, and I’m sure one issue that will not end here.

One question that came from the floor was that our visions lacked ‘vision’ or ‘excitement’. It was commented that there is a lack of flare in teaching and we, as educators, as was the person making the comment, should be looking to educate with innovative methods. Becky clearly educates with flare, any of her students would stand testament to that fact.

To demonstrate in practise what my vision was, I took my iPad out to the audience and gave a brief overview of one of my past lectures. Things were getting interactive! In essence, I made it clear that through the medium of technology, one can innovate and interact with students and make legal learning exciting, and no matter at what stage the learner is at. This was why I champion the use of simulations not only as a way of getting the student ready to use similar billing software in practise, but to gain their interest early on. ‘Learn and do’ is the best way, in my opinion.

In conclusion, the debate started well and many interesting opinions were shared and debated, agreements were few but it allowed for an interesting debate which was what Becky and I had hoped for. There was in my opinion, at times, a view among a handful that experienced academics and practitioners ought to be tackling the subject, which is ironically one of the reasons I co-founded the debate, to tackle misconceptions of who counts. The answer is simple, we all have a role to play, to educate and assist one another in the facilitation of learning, as the student is the focus, not the educators or practitioners. Baroness Deech quite rightly pointed out, they, the students, are our defenders in the years to come.

We need to get it right now, so they get it right for us, tomorrow.

© Gary Lee Walters, 2012

Phone hacking – a computer crime as well?

I won’t add anymore to the story (Andy Coulson, NoTW) than most already have, and indeed, I am only interested in a particular element of the law which most have overlooked (that I am aware of, if not the case, please refer me). The Act used to arrest those responsible has been extensively covered already. I would like to add a perspective to the crime that some may not have considered.

In my 20’s, I worked at a communications company (the litigation department) when mobile ‘phones were available to Joe Public pretty much for the first time in Britain (I even chose my mobile number to match my home telephone number!) Previously, they were toys that only business persons had (I remember my uncles ‘mobile’ ‘phone complete with car battery).
Why do I mention this? More often than not, users would contact us complaining they had deleted an important voicemail message (“message”). The user thought that message was gone. Not so. As long as it was not left too long (exact time now escapes me) we (company) could retrieve it. Why? Because the message was retained on a computer system – bingo. Here enters the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
Now as a tutor of Computer Law in various manifestations and to various audiences (LLB, LLM) I have examined the evidence, and I would suggest this matter could encompass evidential examinations under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

With any offence the Actus Reus and Mens Rea are important. S.1 of the Act provides:
(a) he causes (Actus Reus) a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer;
(b) the access he intends (Mens Rea) to secure is unauthorised and;
(c) he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that
this is the case.

In other words, potentially any act (a) that the ‘hacker’ has done to change a function of the ‘phone could come under this (accessing the messages which are causing the ‘phone to act in a manner which is not authorised by the owner).
In terms of intent (b); as the hacker is accessing the messaging function with intent to listen to messages, the program that facilitates this is a computer program and holds personal data, Mens Rea satisfied. Undoubtedly, he is aware this is illegal and thus test (c) is also satisfied.

Importantly, the definition of a computer, data or program (S.17) was never defined. Why? Arguably, it’s because the introduction of new technology meant that everyday items could potentially be created into computers. Most mobile ‘phones are now SmartPhones, effectively mini-computers if you like. (I still remember surfing the web through my television for the first time, which is very odd!) Parliament and its advisors could not even begin to think about what a computer, data or program really ism so failed to define it for that very reason. To define it is to potentially discriminate against its successors.

S.1 (a)-(c), still did not cover enough situations and in 2002 an attempt was made to update the act and it failed. The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group in 2004 reported increasing sentencing powers and a new Fraud Bill which finally came about in Fraud Act 2006 (I think there is a case here, too, but that’s another blog) and the Police and Justice Act 2006.
So, what precisely did the Police and Justice Act 2006 enact? C.48 inserted Part 5 Computer Misuse, S.35, in short it dealt with the short comings of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA) (which some argue was passed in haste) by adding the following:

  • increased the penalty for unauthorised access to computer to two years in prison
  • expanded unauthorised modification of data (S3) to include someone who does an unauthorised act in relation to a computer with unauthorised access to computer material
  • made changes to the wording of the old section 1 CMA and increased the term of imprisonment
  • a defendant knowingly commits an unauthorised act in relation to a computer;
  • or intends to perform such an act; or is reckless as to whether he might be performing such an act. (N.b. lower mens rea than S1 CMA and new S3A)
  •  it is much wider than old section 3 (Does not require any modification of data)

So it’s no longer unauthorised modification – it is unauthorised impairment, there has to be a “requisite intent” – an intent to impair the operation of any computer, prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in computer or to impair the operation of any program or data held in any computer sentencing: Magistrates Court – 12 months prison / Crown Court – 10 years or fine or both.

So in other words, hackers that impair the operation of any computer; prevents or hinders access to any program or data held in any computer; or impairs the operation of any such program or the reliability of any such data (deleted messages), is liable.

Hark! I hear you cry, I’m still not convinced!

What is all this talk of computers? They used ‘phones, didn’t’ they? The answer to that is we don’t actually know (at least I do not). Going back to the early days of technology and ‘phones being just ‘phones (pre-Skype and in-house diallers which are computer systems used for calling, headset on and dialling through a computer –can you see where I’m going with this?) hackers may well have been sat at their desk or in the car tapping away at the ‘phone hoping to get a default P.I.N. This has all changed with the introduction of technology. In-house diallers (see above) are computers, so now the offence has merged, again, potentially and could come under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. In-house diallers work, quite simply, where the user inputs a number to call into their computer keypad. A bit like Skype for the corporate world (but without the video – thankfully!). Again, applying the above law, can you see why these offences could now be examined under the Computer Misuse Act 1990? (As updated).

So, that said I conclude the hackers were right to be brought to justice, and were arrested contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977 S.1(1) for suspicion of unlawful interception of communications, inter alia, but a thorough investigation should allow for at least an examination of potential crimes under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (as amended).

Originally posted at the Huffington Post in 2011

© Gary Lee Walters, 2011

The Law Surrounding Abortion

The law governing this area is found within the Abortion Act 1967. In a nutshell the Act provides that up to 24 weeks gestation and with the consent of two doctors a pregnancy may be terminated if the continuance of it were to cause mental or physical injury to the women or any existing children within her family, and then after 24 weeks only if it is to prevent ‘grave’ permanent physical or mental injury to the pregnant women or if there is a ‘substantial risk’ that the foetus ‘would suffer from such mental or physical abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’.

It is apparent from the act that generally a termination must be carried out before 24 weeks and NHS statistics highlight this is indeed the case with around 98% of abortions are carried out before 20 weeks. It is the 2% carried out afterwards that I feel needs to be examined closer. As a rule most women when pregnant have a scan around 20 weeks into pregnancy check for amongst other things, abnormalities to the foetus. Consequently it is therefore perfectly possible that it is the findings of these scans that equate for the other 2% of terminations carried out after 20 weeks. My only concern though is what exactly constitutes a ‘severe handicap’. In 2003 a case hit the headlines; one I will never forgot where a lady was allowed to terminate a pregnancy after 24 weeks due to the foetus being diagnosed with a cleft palate. As someone who was born with a cleft lip and whose first child was born with a cleft lip too I find this abhorrent. This case was challenged by The Rev Joanna Jepson, curate of St Michael’s church in Chester  although the termination had already been carried out. There is also further statistical evidence of terminations for the same reason being carried out more recently, albeit at less than 24 weeks.

We only have to look to the recent episode of call the midwife to see how necessary the Abortion Act is. To go back to a time when abortion was illegal doesn’t bare thinking about and even though I am a Christian, my religious convictions bare no relevance to my opinions here. Although in that respect the abortion legislation is very interesting in that S.4 enables a person (i.e. a Doctor) to conscientiously object to participation in treatment unless the treatment is to save the women’s life or to prevent ‘grave permanent injury’  the women’s mental or physical health.

Another reason why I believe the abortion laws need to be reviewed is again a personal one. During Christmas I gave birth to my second child at 31 weeks, 9 weeks premature. Now whilst that is several weeks on from the 24 weeks gestation discussed above it did make me think; particularly so when I met one lady in hospital who’s waters had ruptured at 25 weeks with delivery thankfully later at 29 weeks. She herself commented on the upper age limit of abortion in context to the prematurity of her baby. She like me but perhaps more so felt quite shocked that children only a few weeks younger than ours or even the same age, could be terminated.

I will say this in conclusion that it is actually through writing this article that I have changed my mind on what exactly it is that needs reviewing. I no longer believe strongly (as previously thought) that it is the age limit that needs reviewing but it is the permissible reasons for a lawful termination that need to be reviewed instead. As we know it is something that is likely to be debated in parliament in the coming years.

I hope you as the reader will accept that my opinions are born out of personal proximity rather than purely writing this to pass judgment on women.

(S1) (1) (a)(b)(c)(d)Abortion Act 1967

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Abortion/Pages/When-should-it-be-done.aspx

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/dec/02/health.medicineandhealth

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8615638/Seven-babies-aborted-because-of-cleft-palate.html

S4 (2) Abortion Act 1967

(c) Rachael Waring, 2013

Follow Rachael on Twitter @WaringLawyer

The brutal facts of a Training Contract

Not only are there fewer training contracts, but we are also seeing retention rates fall. The economic climate is such that firms are cutting back and taking a pragmatic approach to recruitment. There is less work available and therefore, if you are not needed after qualification, you will not be retained. This means hard times for trainees and NQs alike, and it is easy to see why there is so much doom and gloom surrounding the profession.

However, I think there are real reasons to be positive for law graduates and hopeful trainees. Firstly, whilst it may not seem like it at the moment, a recession does not last forever. Times are hard, but things will get better and when things do improve, we will see the full effect of the recessionary measures. There is likely to be a shortage of junior solicitors. Fewer trainees now mean less qualified solicitors in 2, 3 or even 4 years time.

This means that those lucky enough to secure a training contract today will be able to reap the benefits once they are qualified. I would therefore advise anyone searching for a training contract at the moment to ‘take what you can get’. You may have dreamt about working for a top 100 company, or working in the city, however these opportunities are very limited. Such firms, however are likely to need to recruit more generously once signs of economic recovery bear fruition and when they do, you will be far more attractive as a solicitor with 1, 2 or 3 years PQE.

Another advantage is that there are opportunities for the brightest and most talented to shine. Firms want to see innovative and entrepreneurial ideas that are going to make a difference. If you are someone who has these qualities, now is the chance to make the most of them. As a final piece of advice, although there are positives, opportunities are limited and as such it is important to take any opportunity available. Use whatever means necessary to make yourself stand out and give yourself the best chance possible of achieving success!

 

(c) Ben Collins, 2013

Could YOU be the Devil’s Advocate?

Neutral Partisans are professionals who have disregarded moralistic considerations when working for a client. Certainly for lawyers, it is often regarded as a necessity as everyone is entitled to a fair trial and personal opinions could risk jeopardising impartiality. This necessity to be morally neutral is twisted by ideas of “standard conception” which is a commonly held belief that a lawyer’s duty to their client allows them to uphold morally reprehensible practices. Some lawyers encourage that image through hyper-zealous commitment to furthering their client’s case. I suppose as with most things it depends entirely on the individual, but the debate about the generalities involved rages on.

It all comes back to the classic question that lawyers get asked extremely often: “How do you defend someone who is guilty?”  The answer is that they don’t. Barristers are bound by the cab-rank rule to represent any one who instructs them, but only if the defendant claims they are not guilty. A guilty plea will not be retracted by the time it gets to the courtroom. It will result in a simple mitigation trial. Still, some people cannot reject their gut instinct and it is that which the lawyer has to attempt to disregard.

Giovanni de Stefano, affectionately named the “Devil’s Advocate” embodies the argument; neutral partisan or hyper-zealous? His controversial collection of clients, described as a “’veritable rogues’ gallery of the most notorious criminals” has made him infamous. De Stefano has defended criminals from Harold Shipman, to Saddam Hussein – some of the world’s most hated men. Why?

Neutral Partisanship; he is “duty bound” to do so and if he is asked he cannot refuse. Which is true, though it is rare that one particular lawyer is sought out by so many dangerous men. He seems strangely attached to this reputation but defends it thus; “We do not defend Snow White. Snow White has committed no offence, unless she is with the seven perverts. In which case she will need our services. So if you do not commit crime… you will never come across me… In fact, it’s best to avoid me, as otherwise it means you need my help”.

The cab-rank rule does not exclude the idea that the barrister is not devoid of morality. De Stefano similarly does not pretend to remain as neutral as you would believe he had to. Saddam Hussein was actually one of the lawyer’s good friends. Could you have defended a stranger who indirectly had done such awful things? Could you have defended a friend who had done the same? More likely the latter. Emotional attachment creates mental loopholes and forgiveness, making De Stefano’s career path less of an emotionless feat than first envisaged. Rather than defending a war criminal he was just defending a friend.

The Guardian interviewed De Stefano about his involvement with Ian Brady and his vehement words left his impartiality more than questionable, where he stated, “I acted for Ian Brady, and was honoured to do so because I was acting for him in his quest to die. That fucker should have died long ago for what he did and for what he continues to believe in. I told him that he should die, I would be willing to put a bullet in his head if the state ordered me to.” Comments like that could be described as cause lawyering, furthering one’s own believes and ideals through the format of the courtroom.

If even the most apparently neutral of all lawyers can still be tempted by his own ulterior motives, evil or saintly, what does that say for the rest of us? His pride and zealous attitude to his criminal friends does nothing to improve the lawyer’s image as anything but the butt of dry humour. We are all human, it is understandable that lawyers sometimes find themselves struggling to set aside their personal views, but putting someone in a position of power certainly does not exempt them from being morally accountable.

When the Devil’s Advocate can be moved to disgust by some people, is a slightly more conventional individual ever going to be able to facilitate true justice?

(c) Emily Lanham, 2013

If you wish to blog, get in touch with the Commissioning Editor or contact us here.

University of South Wales: A moot review by Kurt Gunby

I was very excited about mooting in front of people whom I did not know, especially because two of the judges were partners of Watkins and Gunn. I felt very confident during my speech and upon reflection, hope that I projected my voice properly. The moot was recorded so all will get to pass judgement on that one!

Once I left the room I was elated to have completed the moot and felt like I had achieved something. I also had the opportunity to speak to the lawyers that were present as part of the ULS networking hour, which was a great insight into what it may be like to work in the legal profession.

It was not until the next day that I would learn the result; I’d won! When I received the email, read it and realised that I had won I was over the moon as it is so hard to achieve legal experience – the competition is fierce and ULS gave me a fantastic opportunity that I am glad I grabbed with both hands!

What made me even more excited was the fact that the decision was based upon my advocacy skills.

I would like to once again thank StretLaw Ltd, UniLawStudents (ULS) and Gary Lee Walters (@LegalAcademia) for the opportunity, and for choosing me as one of the winners.

(c) Kurt Guby, 2013

Editors’ note: Kurt goes through to the final for a chance of winning a mini-pupillage with Civitas Law.

Anonymity in serious sexual offences…time to change?

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976 sections 4 and 5 provide for the anonymity of complainants in rape cases. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 amended the law on anonymity for complainants in rape cases so that anonymity commences when an allegation of rape is made to police and not as provided in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976, when a defendant is formally accused. The 1988 Act also removed the anonymity of defendants in rape cases. There were further additions made in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999.

Each year, approximately 85,000 females report being a victim of the most serious offences of rape or sexual assault by penetration.

Among males the number is 12,000. Despite the figures outlined only 15% of those offences were reported to the Police. From which prosecutions were mounted against 2,910 individuals, resulting in the convictions of 1,070 rapists who committed an average of 2.3 offences each. The figures suggest that just one major sex crime in 38 leads to a conviction for the offence (Source: MOJ). What is even more disturbing, is that around 90 per cent of victims of the most serious sexual offences knew the perpetrator. Baroness Stern identified the large number of victims who knew their perpetrator in the ‘The Stern Review’ in 2010.

“Rape can occur in a range of circumstances. Those usually referred to as ‘stranger rapes’, the sort of incidents most often reported in the newspapers, where the victim and perpetrator do not know each other, are a small proportion of rape cases. Most rapes are carried out by someone the victim knows. Much rape occurs in families… Vulnerable and powerless people are often the victims of men who identify them as easy targets and take advantage of their need for attention and affection.”

On the face of it, as identified in the legislation, victims have an automatic right to anonymity when they make their initial allegation to the police. Defendants cannot rely on anonymity at this early stage. However, that is not to say that an application for anonymity of the defendant cannot be made to the court.

Recently cases of serious sexual offences have hit the headlines in light of the allegations against Jimmy Savile. Whilst the circumstances in this case may differ as the allegations came out after his death, there are other high profile cases which have been in the press more recently, namely Dave Lee Travis who has been re-arrested and questioned by police and also the likes of Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster, Mechanic in Coronation Street), who appeared in court having been charged with 19 offences, including rape of a minor. Anonymity has not been given.

There are organisations that advocate the naming and shaming of defendants in these cases pre-conviction. Their rationale for doing so is to effectively encourage others to come forward, who may have been subjected to the same type of offences as those of the victim. The danger here, is the consideration of the defendant in that if the charges are not proved by a jury of their peers, the stigma has been attached and could lead to the serious consequences for defendants at this stage of proceedings. There is, of course, the subject of false allegations, which in a ‘Trailblazing’ report, are not as common as first thought, however it is identified that: “Where false allegations of rape and domestic violence do occur however, they are serious: reputations can be ruined and lives can be devastated as a result. Such cases will be dealt with robustly and those falsely accused should feel confident that the criminal justice system will prosecute these cases wherever there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so.” But does this go far enough when they have been named and shamed and the stigma is already attached? Is there smoke without a fire?

In conclusion, would there be a detriment to proceedings in serious sexual offences if anonymity was given to both parties until conclusion of the case? Is there any evidence to suggest that others who have suffered at the hands of convicted defendants would suffer a detriment or be encouraged less to come forward post conviction as to pre conviction as a result of anonymity? There is also the danger of identifying a victim by identifying the defendant, especially if the defendant is known to the victim as outlined in approximately 90% of cases. Our communities are small and people guess or attach the label. How far do we go to protect the victim and the stigmatised defendant? There is a fine balance to make, but an important balance nonetheless. There is a clear argument for anonymity for both parties until the conclusion of cases of serious sexual offences, as both parties could have their reputations put through the mill if identified too early in proceedings and lives could be ruined both ways.

Additional info:
To share your thoughts on this, maybe you could get involved in the consultation, keep an eye on the CPS website or JUSTICE website, where a consultation may no doubt be launched in the very near future covering serious sexual offences from reporting through to conviction. Keir Starmer QC DPP has already identified the following:

• A clearing of the decks in relation to policy and guidance. All existing policy will be decommissioned, with one overarching and agreed approach to investigation and prosecution of sexual offences to be applicable in all police forces and agreed by the CPS. The CPS will also draft new guidance to ensure consistent best practice, which will be open to public consultation.
• Training will ensure there is no gap between policy and practice. The training will be hands on and provide practical advice to police and prosecutors about when a complainant can and should be told about other complaints, among other things.
• To propose the formation of a national “scoping panel”, which will review complaints made in the past which were not pursued by police and prosecutors, if requested.
Mr Starmer said: “There is an urgent need for an informed national debate about the proper approach to the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences”. Furthermore, “that debate needs to extend well beyond the CPS and the police. Above all, a national consensus needs to be reached on the issues.”

(C) Andrew Perriman, 2013

BPTC Fees 2013/2014: A brief round-up

Every year the price to study the BPTC obviously increases for many reasons, but the purpose of my post is to list some of the prices at some of the BPTC providers for the full-time course commencing in 2013, as most of the providers have recently announced their course fees:

BPP

  • Leeds – £13,850
  • London – £16,950
  • Manchester – £13,850

Cardiff University – £12,500

City Law School – £16,500

Kaplan Law School – £17,350

University of Law

  • Birmingham  – £13,155
  • London – £17,350

University of the West of England at Bristol – £12,965

Nottingham Law School –  £13,000

Northumbria Law School – £12,500

Manchester Law School – £12,200

Do not allow the price of the BPTC at a particular provider to deter you, the purpose of this post is just to enable students to be able to view the fees on a single page. Additionally, you must consider that many of these law schools offer scholarships and bursaries, so contact the law schools about this.

Furthermore, what is provided within each law school varies tremendously, so do your research and explore what exactly is being offered as part of your course.

(c) Mani Basi, 2013 – Commissioning Editor

Law and Depression: A Different Perspective

The LLB Law is a very complex degree, and it isn’t for the faint hearted. It is a lot of hard work and dedication but what spurs me on to continue is to achieve my goal of becoming a solicitor. I am now at my third university, yes you read it right. After a mini-breakdown in 2010 I gave up my LLB dream in the final year at my last university. The emotion that day when I was told I couldn’t continue or return to the same university again, due to time constraints and health problems, was devastating.

I am, you see, not a fresh, young ‘spring-chicken’ straight out of college; I am a mature student of 30 years old. I have a job as well. I cannot afford not to have one. The positive I take from suffering with this illness at my age is that I don’t think I could have coped as a teenager or a young adult with this illness.

It is a hard task when you have a mental illness such as depression, each person suffers differently. I have bouts of insomnia, sickness, worthlessness and just general effects associated with depression. However the one thing that motivates me is the knowledge that in September 2011 I gained a place on the LJMU LLB Law program to begin my journey of becoming a solicitor again. It was daunting at my age but my university has been outstanding with their teaching and support.

At 30 years old I should be a government statistic; married with a mortgage and have 2.4 children. Yet I took it upon myself to jump back in with a 90% average of 18-21 year olds to undertake, from scratch, my LLB again. Some people say I am mad and I can’t hold down a job, run a home and go to university full-time, however, I do. I think being a mature student helps me in that I have done what the 90% average age of students are about to experience. I thrive on being busy and sometimes I am borderline obsessive compulsive. But now being the age I am I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I am content and happy and have never felt so good.

Having depression does have its pitfalls but also its advantages. When I’m on a high everything is done and up-to-date. When I’m on a low I know that I have friends of all ages and family and tutors to get me through those dark days. But what I always will say and tell everyone whilst I am back at university is I am proud of how I have returned and I haven’t let my depression beat me. There are thousands of people who suffer every year.

Whomever you are, whatever your age, you can suffer with depression. But like me you can get help and continue with your dreams. Whatever age, if you have a passion for law or any other discipline, and suffer with an illness or are worried about your age, don’t, just go for it. There are more mature and disabled (seen or unseen) students attending university than ever as there are more opportunities now to study than ever before.

© E J Hamnett, 2013

Twitter: @Legallyb28

Abstract: Voluntarily Intoxicated Consent – Rape or Regret?

By Gary Lee Walters

abstract only – 2,000 word piece available to download via Amazon for £0.77

Introduction

Only 6.5% of reported rapes[1] result in a conviction[2]. This figure of 6.5% is subject to much academic debate, figures of 13% will be aired; however, 13% is for convictions, for rape and lesser offences, such as sexual assault, following trial.

This will be analysed via cases R v Bree[3], R v Olugboja[4] R v H[5], Dougal[6], (unreported) and respected academic journals.

This is an abstract only. Full 2,000 word article can be downloaded via Amazon for £0.77 – or you may borrow it for FREE (limited time only).

This may be cited in your academic work/study. Please contact the author before doing so.


[1] The figure 6.5% is representative of convictions on Rape only, and not lesser offences following trial

[3] [2007] EWCA Crim 804

[4] [1981] 73 Cr App R 344

[5] [2007] EWCA Crim 2056

[6] Unreported, Swansea Crown Court, November 2005

© Gary Lee Walters, 2013

All materials, including Logos, subject to Copyright © StretLaw® Ltd. and UniLawStudents™ 2013 (unless otherwise stated) All Rights Reserved.

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