August 2011 articles archive:

Law Tutors - An invitation to contribute to legal blogs and resources.

Have you got a passion and interest in such things as e-learning, equality, self-study and research? Do you believe in making law as accessible as possible to learners?

A Level Law - A/S and A2


Lawmentor is a major resource for law students. Not only does it cater for A/S and A2 law students but it also supports law students at different levels.

The site is modern and up to date and the user friendly design is intended to make the subject more accessible. The site has been designed with ease of use in mind and lends itself to use by Sixth Form and College students as well as students undertaking self study.


We are hoping to form a working relationship with a number of experienced law tutors who may be interested in supporting the concept of an open access law mentoring site for the benefit of students studying law at A Level.


You will probably be a tutor in a successful Sixth Form or FE College involved in the delivery of the subject to students having a range of abilities and potential outcomes.


You will be an expert in your field but you will also have a passion and interest in such things as e-learning, equality, self-study and research. You are a firm believer in making law as accessible as possible to learners.


Lawmentor is hoping to encourage you, as a law tutor, to explore the benefits of tutors and students using our mentoring site to facilitate access to a lively and topical resource for the benefit of all concerned. The intention is to strengthen the site by enabling others to share in its use and enable others to influence its development for the benefit of students.


If you are interested in any of the following:


blogging;


sharing articles;


exchanging views;


contributing to a better understanding or insight to legal issues;


providing insight to a particular area of study;


sharing your views with other law tutors and learners;


promoting law as an area for study;


facilitating student feedback;


-you may feel that you have something valuable to contribute.


If you feel you would like to volunteer some time and skills then get in touch with us by email explaining how you would like to be involved. Your correspondence will be treated with confidence.  

 

To contact us please use the 'contact us' link on the right hand side of the page. 

 

Lockerbie - Justice must be seen to be done

'The suspicion lingers that this was not a decision based on facts, but the facts were found to fit a decision already taken and leaked to the Libyans.' (Scottish Conservative spokesman John Lamont)

As the struggle in Libya goes on amidst reports of victory against the Gaddafi regime before much longer, many will see the success as a triumph over oppression. But many will be reminded that we are now fast approaching the second anniversary of the early release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, on compassionate grounds. Many of the relatives of victims of the bombing hold out the hope that, should Gaddafi's regime should fall, they will discover more about the unanswered questions, not just regarding the original conviction, but about the legal processes that were started but left unfinished when the release was made.

 

The recent Arab uprisings in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya are held out to be timely reminders of what can happen if autocratic regimes suppress their peoples and deny them the rights we hold dear in the West including the freedom of speech and right to justice. We look elsewhere around the world and become proud of our democracy even with all its' faults.

 

One of the problems of the Lockerbie bombing and what followed is the lack of justice for the victims and their families. How can they bring closure with so many theories and doubts expressed about the legal processes involved? At the same time we are reminded of the great wrong perpetrated on the 270 people that died every time we see those photographs of the crash site taken all those years ago. The case is surrounded by unspeakable tragedy in the sense that some relatives are not confident about the original verdict and others are convinced of not only Megrahi's guilt but that it was a mistake to release him.

 

It is hard to believe that the bombing of Pan Am 103 happened just before Christmas in 1988. Many of today's A level law students were not even alive at the time.

 

There are times when a campaign for justice for a victim or victims can highlight the need for a criminal justice system that can meet the needs of our society – either through the robustness and fairness of the processes involved or in the appropriateness of the punishment handed out.

 

Unfortunately there may be a danger that the Lockerbie bombing, with the passing of time, is seen as synonymous, with what may happen if justice is not “seen to be done” by all of those affected by what happened.

 

The use of the civil courts can be very public

Students who are familiar with the highs and lows of the music industry may relate to this potentially high profile case.

We often try to explain to students that one of the disadvantages of litigating in the courts is, as every lawyer will tell you, the uncertainty of the outcome – no matter how confident you are you can never guarantee the outcome. In addition it's a little bit like 'washing your dirty linen in public'. Civil litigation is about winning and not losing, so there can be little incentive to compromise and it seems only natural to try and rubbish the other side as much as possible in order to advance your own case. It can damage working relationships irreparably and sometimes this means that businesses often find it difficult to work together in the future and for this reason alternative ways of resolving a dispute are often explored (Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR).

One of the advantages of the use of ADR is that the method agreed upon can be conducted in private as opposed to the very public arena of the adversarial system adopted in the courts.


A case which seems to be embarking upon the very public route of litigation is the reported legal action between former Oasis member Liam Gallagher and his brother Noel over allegations concerning Liam's ability to perform at a music festival due to a medical condition. How such a legal action will fair in the 'beady eye' of the media, remains to be seen but the case may well serve as a useful and timely reminder of some of the pitfalls that surround litigation. Many will remember the stormy and public tiffs between the brothers during their careers.

Election processes - How would you vote if the government decided to introduce a Bill to allow convicted prisoners to vote?

Under the ECHR ruling each country can decide which offences should carry restrictions to voting rights. Here are some of the possible options.

Election Processes

How would you vote if the government decided to introduce a Bill to allow convicted prisoners to vote?  

 

'Taking part'

In June the Council of Europe, an inter-governmental organisation that oversees and enforces rulings made by the   ECHR, urged the coalition to act. Under the ECHR ruling each country can decide which offences should carry restrictions to voting rights.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the ban could be retained for murderers and others serving life sentences, and judges may be given responsibility for deciding which criminals should be allowed to vote when sentencing.

The newspaper also reports that one plan is to allow inmates a vote, based on their most recent postal address, in order to stop an entire prison population coming under a single constituency.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, told the BBC: "People go to prison to lose their liberty, but they don't go for other punishments, and very many prison governors believe it [voting] is an important part of resettlement, it's a part of taking part in society.

"Prison is about rehabilitation as well as about punishment."

But David Green, director of the think tank Civitas, said the government had been forced into this decision by the ECHR and he said: 'It is another example of judges acting as if they were politicians.  It is judicial empire-building.

"The government should make only the smallest possible concession - perhaps by giving the vote to prisoners sentenced to six months or less.  The ban should remain for all the others.

"If it leads to further legal action, so be it.  In the longer term, Parliament should pass a law making the decisions of the British Parliament superior to any rulings of the European Court."

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, welcomed the decision, saying: "One of the hallmarks of citizenship is the right to vote.  At the same time, voting is both a right and a responsibility.

"If we want prisoners to return safely to the community, feeling they have a stake in society, then the right to vote is a good means of engaging individuals with the responsibilities of citizenship."

Having listened to some of the arguments students may like to participate in a ‘referendum’ to help the government decide the issue. A form of voting slip can be found below.

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

 

Voting  

You can vote for one of the following options


Option Place a ‘X’ in one of the boxes below

Keep the blanket ban on convicted prisoners voting

 

 

 

Retain the ban for murderers and others serving life sentences but allow all others to vote

 

 

 

Give the responsibility to judges for deciding which criminals should be allowed to vote when sentencing

 

 

 

Give the vote to prisoners sentenced to six months or less. The ban should remain for all the others.

 

 

 

For Law tutors - 1 in 3 law centres are to fall victim to public spending cuts

How many students will appreciate the way in which such non-profit organisations such as law centres are at risk?

It is sometimes difficult to comprehend what poverty and deprivation is like unless you have been touched by it.  At a time when we hear more and more about public spending cuts and closures of one kind or another one would think we know about the worth or value of alternative sources of legal help and advice – other than high street firms of solicitors who generally expect to be paid for their services.  The reality is that many face closure – possibly as many as 1 in 3 of the 56 Law Centres face closure.

We have probably all heard something about the proposed legal aid cuts thanks to some very vocal and effective campaigns such as the one currently being advanced by Sound Off for Justice.  However, how many students will appreciate the way in which such non-profit organisations such as law centres are at risk?

Thanks to The Independent’s Deputy Political Editor, Nigel Morris’s article we are reminded of how legal aid and law centres are linked.

Students could be asked to consider what it might be like to be unable to obtain assistance with family breakdown, medical negligence, immigration, debt and welfare benefit.  Some students may be able to talk about their own experiences or those of friends and family.

We are reminded that we are faced with the prospect of £350m cuts in legal aid expenditure in the above areas and that there is, in any event, to be a reduction in legal aid rates by 10% later this year.

Apparently law centres obtain help in the form of receiving half their income from legal aid, but the problem is that it accounts for at least 60% of the receipts in the case of the 18 centres in danger, with the result that they are very much dependent upon this money for their existence.  The fact that some 40% comes from local authorities is cold comfort as many local councils are themselves under pressure to make cuts and savings.

Julie Bishop of the Law Centres Federation, points out that the number of cases handled by the law centres each year would drop from 120,000 to 40,000.  She is reported as saying:  'Cutting off these services to clients who come to us when their lives are in a mess means these problems will just fester and become even more costly for the Government.  It's a completely false saving.'

Sound Off for Justice describes the move as a 'vicious attack on the most vulnerable in our society.'

A Ministry of justice spokesman acknowledged the work of law centres but added 'At more than £2bn each year, we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world which we cannot continue to afford.'

 

For Uniform Public Service Tutors - London riots: the relationship between the government and its ministers and the police

A spokesman for the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been reported as saying "We are very clear that those responsible for that violence and looting will be made to face the consequences for their actions."

For those of you who may be thinking of worthwhile introductory activities with new Public Service students in the coming weeks, you may like to consider reports of the recent London riots and the subsequent violence and nights of looting as a subject for discussion and debate amongst new students. Some of your students may be on the course as they see themselves joining the police.

Such reports may serve as a timely reminder about the need for discipline and training as well as the support and trust of the public. Others issue include:

  • The question of the government’s response;

  • What role is Theresa May expected to play?

  • What role and responsibility does the Acting Metropolitan Police Commissioner have?

  • How does the London Mayor Boris Johnson fit into the scenario?

  • Is this an operational policing matter or does it go further than that? Reports suggest that too few officers were in Tottenham on the night in question – similar accounts have emerged at previous protests in London over tuition fees;

  • Will these events and others such as the phone hacking scandal and the Metropolitans response and involvement, affect the public and student’s perception of the police and the work they do?

  • Are the riots symptomatic of racial and social tensions and conflicts operating in the communities? Are the police responding appropriately? Or are they too heavy handed?

The discussion and debate could be linked to challenges facing other services which students wish to join. Alternatively students could be asked to produce a series of questions about the riots which, given the opportunity, they would ask members of the police service or government and other parties caught up in these disturbances.


Any discussion or debate could also be enhanced by students researching photographic images beforehand, portraying the riots and their aftermath and the various interests affected by them – police, public, property and business owners, rioters and others as well as political and community leaders. Such images might be helpful when considering those affected and the messages they may be sending out to the country and the outside world as a whole.

For Law Tutors and students - MPs expenses compliance officer quits

Mr Luke March has resigned as the Compliance Officer of The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Any tutors trying to find an appropriate introductory topic for either new intake Law students or Uniformed Public Services students (as part of Unit 1 Government policy and the Public Services) might like to think consider a discussion or debate regarding the opinions about the rights and wrongs of the MPs expenses scandal. This could include an up date relating to the resignation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority's (Ipsa) compliance officer Luke March. Such a discussion could follow some guided research by the students into the background including some of the more 'sensitive' expenses claims and the subsequent convictions of some members of Parliament.

 

It seems that the apparent reluctance of Mr March to make public the formal investigations by Ipsa may have been connected with his resignation. Systems of regulation and protection need to be fair. We often hear of examples of safeguards and due processes which are now in place to try and ensure that we have fair trials and that justice is open and transparent.  Any discussion might be linked to questions about whether legal safeguards lean too much towards the protection of perpetrators or victims? How do we strike the right balance?

 

The issue could be linked to the well known presumption of 'innocent until proven guilty' and the rules of natural justice.

 

The matter could also be linked to the importance of representation and democracy – and the possible reform of the House of Lords to create what would, in effect, become an elected House.

 

 

 

For Law Tutors and Students – Plans to block illegal file-sharing websites scrapped

The government have, in effect, recently announced that plans to block illegal file-sharing websites have been scrapped as they would be ineffective.

In just a few weeks we will all be scratching our heads trying to think of something instructive or inspiring to say to first year law students regarding the subject about which they are to study for the next two years. For those of us who may need a subject for debate or discussion in those important introductory sessions with students – you may find the recent statement by the Creative Industries Minister, Ed Vaizey, an invaluable resource.


The government have in effect recently announced that plans to block illegal file-sharing websites have been scrapped as they would be ineffective.


During the early days of many law courses we try not only to enthuse students about law but also to tackle the question of why society needs a set of rules and regulations. One approach is to invite students to consider the prospect of a society without laws and some means to make them work. Why have civilisations found it necessary to adopt laws?  How do such laws and standards of behaviour reflect the needs of the society and can they embrace and meet the needs of commerce and business as well as consumers and other team players?


The present question raised by this recent announcement as to whether the current copyright laws in the UK are adequate to meet the needs of the digital media age may be an example worth exploring with a generation of people to whom music and the smart phone is everything.


We are often told that the purpose of our laws is to meet the needs of such activity as the entering into and enforceability of agreements – what is basically the law of contract. The digital industry is a main player in the provision of goods and services but does the law meet the needs of the key players?  Music and film publishers and their investment? Artists and their creative skills and genius? Distributors?  Investors and wealth makers?  Consumers? And does it deter wrong doers?


The topic may lend itself to student discussion and debate and encourage students to look at how the law needs to provide a practical framework which is enforceable at the end of the day but does not stifle business activity and creativity.


Students could use their debating skills to represent the various interests involved.

Archives

Recent Posts

The latest posts from the lawmentor.co.uk blog archives.

Supreme court busy - make sure you are geared up for your course

The Supreme Court has been especially busy lately.

Gina miller v secretary of state for exiting the eu 2016 as an example of the importance of judicial independence

Law students are now required to take note of how the independence and work of the judiciary has been reformed

Policing and crime bill and provisions for bail after arrest but before charge

The clear intention is that decisions on pre-charge bail should come under scrutiny.

The judicial committee of the privy council – a colonial legacy

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for many Commonwealth countries.

Does the scrapping of glen parva secure college and the lifting of a book ban herald the start to serious reform of the failing prison system?

How much of Michael Gove's vision for prisons and the criminal justice system will be effective in righting self-inflicted wrongs remains to be seen.

Police-led prosecutions are to be extended again.

Home Secretary Theresa May announces “We will extend the use of police-led prosecutions to cut the time you spend waiting for the Crown Prosecution Service”.

Perverse verdict in the name of justice? mutiny at high down

High Down prison in Banstead may not be on the high seas but apparently it can be the scene of a mutiny.

Statutory interpretation - bogdanic -v- the secretary of state for the home department; qbd 29-aug-2014

The case concerns the operation of the carriers' liability regime in relation to the immigration control zones in France.