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In January 2016, Professor Ambreena Manji participated in an expert reference group guiding the writing of the Urban Legal Guide for Sub-Saharan Africa. At a meeting at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town experts commented on the guide which has been written by Stephen Berrisford and the late Professor Patrick McAuslan.  The drafting of the guide has been supported by UN-Habitat.

The purpose of the guide is to assist those involved with the urban legal reform process, including government officials, political leaders and legislators to help them achieve better outcomes from urban law reform. It will empower citizens and civil society to participate in the urban legal reform process. The pressure of rapid urbanisation in the region are compounded by existing legal frameworks that are unsuited to the current context. 

The guide emphasises the important role of urban law as a vital tool for implementing sustainable and equitable urban environments.

For more information on the Urban Legal Guide please contact Professor Manji

Dr Julie Doughty of the School of Law and Politics has been awarded a grant by the Nuffield Foundation to evaluate the responses to, and effects of, judicial guidance on publishing family court judgments involving children and young people.

Transparency is a very troubling issue in family justice. Accusations of ‘secret’ courts and unaccountability generate distrust but concerns have also been raised about risks to children of more publicity from cases in which they are involved. Courts try to achieve a balance between individual competing interests and rights, but the law is complex and confusing. Efforts at law reform over the past decade have failed. Extreme views are expressed on both sides; it may seem that the opposing arguments are irreconcilable.

In January 2014, the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, issued guidance to judges across England and Wales to make more of their judgments freely available online. However, Dr Doughty and colleagues have found limitations and inconsistencies in the way this system has operated over the past two years.

It is difficult for professionals, involved groups and the media to engage with each other without an evidence base about what is being published. There is a risk of stalemate, or ill-informed decisions being made about future steps in achieving transparency. Dr Doughty’s research aims to address this by analysing patterns in the published judgments; media coverage of the family courts; and the views of key stakeholders on public legal education and safe reporting.

It is anticipated that a report on the outcomes of the research will be available in late autumn 2016.

Law lecturer, Manon George appeared on the BBC programme, The Wales Report this week to discuss the Wales Governance Centre’s report on the new devolution settlement in Wales. The centre has described the draft bill as “constricting, clunky and short sighted” and have recommended that politicians in Cardiff Bay and Westminster do not support it in its current form.

The Wales Report can be viewed on I Player. To watch the relevant segment of the programme please start viewing at 19 minutes onwards. The programme will be available for 28 days.

Survey finds local authorities falling short on respite care

There are serious failings in the accessibility and accuracy of short break statements among local authorities in England, according to new research by the University. 

Short breaks or respite care is an important support service that allows families and disabled children to have time apart.

A survey carried out by the Cerebra Legal Entitlements Research Project at Cardiff Law School found that of 63 councils analysed, more than 90 percent failed to advise parent carers and young carers of their right to an assessment.

Other findings include: no clear explanation as to how the amount of support provided is decided (in 85 percent of cases); in excess of 80 percent of authorities failed to explain what families could do if they were dissatisfied with the support they were receiving; and in more than half of cases, it was difficult to locate the actual ‘short break statement’.

Professor Luke Clement, Cardiff Law School, who led the research said: "Short Breaks are of crucial importance to disabled children and their families.  The research shows that many authorities are falling short of what the law requires.  The report highlights good practice and we hope that this will encourage councils to review their Short Breaks Statements and ensure they are of an acceptable standard.  We are also asking that the English and Welsh Governments take action to check that this is happening".

A number of positive findings also emerged from the research. Once found, 79 percent of short break statements were easy to read, for example. The Isle of Wight was singled out by the report as an example of best practice and ‘honourable mentions’ were given to the authorities of Camden, Hampshire, Liverpool and Cheshire West and Chester.

Among the recommendations made by the research are having a logical point to start a search - such as a home page; and the need for a national standard ‘template’ for all authorities to use.

Independent review recommends politicians say no unless major changes made

A report by an independent review group consisting of constitutional and legislative experts says that they could not recommend that politicians in Cardiff Bay and Westminster support the Draft Wales Bill in its current form.

The landmark report, “Challenge and Opportunity: The Draft Wales Bill 2015,” was commissioned by the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University and the Constitution Unit at the University College London.  It provides an expert commentary and assessment of the detailed provisions set out in the Draft Wales Bill published in October 2015.

In their report, the independent review group say:

-          The ‘reserved powers’ approach offers many benefits to Wales and to the UK as a whole if done properly.  That is not the case with the Draft Wales Bill.  Done badly, the reserved powers approach will lead to another short-lived arrangement that works poorly. 

-          To be lasting and effective, a new Wales Act needs to be underpinned by clear principles that ensure a coherent and consistent devolution package for Wales.  As that is not the case, it is unsurprising that the Bill has attracted little support, even in the short time available for consideration. 

-          The list of reservations in the draft Bill reflects the lack of coherent approach by Whitehall. The overall package of reservations is highly complex, and some of the proposed reservations are designed to protect Whitehall departmental interests rather than deliver a coherent and consistent set of devolved powers.  Their complexity will inhibit policy making and undermine the robustness of the settlement. 

-          The reliance on ‘necessity’ tests for legislation affecting private or criminal law is unduly onerous. These tests add complexity and uncertainty, and will provoke legal challenge with decisions on whether Welsh legislation is necessary taken by judges rather than elected representatives. 

-          There are complex questions about the legal relationship between England and Wales arising from the powers necessary to make ‘reserved powers’ work effectively.  A distinct Welsh legal jurisdiction is one answer to these issues.  A ‘rules-based’ approach to managing legal differences is another. 

Commenting on the difficulties with the Draft Wales Bill, Professor Richard Rawlings of University College London, who helped draft the report, said: “Wales has experienced three deeply problematic devolution settlements since 1999. There was genuine hope that the all-party agreement that Wales should move to a ‘reserved powers’ model of devolution heralded the beginning of a process that would lead to Welsh devolution being placed on a sustainable constitutional basis.

“The draft Wales Bill does not do what was promised. All too often, the Secretary of State’s fine policy objectives of a stronger, clearer, fairer and more robust devolution settlement are frustrated by provision that is constricting, clunky, inequitable and constitutionally short-sighted. At the heart of the difficulty is the triple squeeze on the devolved institutions of intrusive general restriction, over-occupation of legislative space, and blurry forms of executive veto. It does not have to be like this.”

The report points to the need for fundamental changes to the proposed legislation and sets out a series of proposals for reconstructing the legislation in order to deliver a properly constituted reserved powers model of devolution for Wales.

The report explains how alternative approaches to the legislation based on territorial rules or a distinct but not separate jurisdiction for Wales offer ways of providing the space to allow the National Assembly to legislate effectively.

Commenting on the next steps for the Draft Wales Bill, Professor Richard Wyn Jones of the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University said: “We believe that the legislative process around the Draft Wales Bill should be paused for these matters to be fully examined by all stakeholders including the Welsh Government, Wales Office and the Ministry of Justice.”

This November, Jason Tucker of Cardiff Law School was invited to provide the Annual Legal Update at The Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference at Church House Conference Centre, London.

The Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference was first held in 1995 and is the largest annual gathering of expert witnesses in the UK. Attracting over 300 attendees, the conference, which took place on 6 November, is aimed at delegates working as expert witnesses in the courts of England and Wales, across the full range of civil, criminal and family law.

The conference is an excellent opportunity for delegates to hear from high-profile speakers, which this year included The Right Hon Lord Hughes, Justice of the Supreme Court, and to keep abreast of the current developments and key issues that are affecting expert witnesses.

Cardiff Law School work in partnership with organisers, Bond Solon to offer the Cardiff University Law School Bond Solon Expert Witness Certificate which is the first university-accredited expert witness qualification in the UK

This is the eighth consecutive year that Jason Tucker has provided the Annual Legal Update at the conference, which provides a review of the policy, procedural and case law changes affecting experts working in the criminal, civil or family jurisdictions.

Chambers’ and Partners is the most established and prestigious directory of barristers in practice in the UK, ranking the best law firms and lawyers since 1990, covering 185 jurisdictions throughout the world.

To be included in a Chambers’ guide is a great achievement. Consequently, Cardiff Law School is thrilled to announce that William Seagrim (known as Billy), BPTC lecturer at the Centre for Professional Legal Studies (CPLS) is included in the recently published, 2016 directory.

Billy is an associate tenant at 9 Park Place Chambers and is recommended in the directory within the Family/Matrimonial - Wales & Chester (Bar) section.

This October the Africa Research Institute (ARI), based in Westminster, hosted the launch of Whose land is it anyway? The failure of land law reform in Kenya by Ambreena Manji, Professor of Land Law and Development at Cardiff Law School.

Professor Manji delivered a public lecture reflecting on her experience of advising on land law reform in Kenya while Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa between 2010 and 2014. During this time, she served as a member of a consortium on land issues convened by Professor Yash Pal Ghai CBE FBA and the Katiba (Constitution) Institute.

Further information on Professor Manji’s lecture together with a video of the event can be found on the ARI website.

Professor Manji also wrote this month in the Kenyan newspaper, The Star. Her piece discussed comments on land grabbing made by Pope Francis on his recent trip to the country. Her article is available to read on The Star website.

A Panel of Experts met in Rome in October 2015 to agree submission to the World Council of Churches of a document on Christian law. The meeting was funded in part by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Fund. It was convened by Mark Hill QC, honorary professor at Cardiff Law School and discussed a paper presented by Norman Doe, Director of the Centre for Law and Religion at Cardiff, based on findings in his book Christian Law: Contemporary Principles (Cambridge University Press, 2013). The Panel first met in Rome in 2013, the first ever meeting of jurists from across the Christian traditions worldwide to discuss the unifying role of law in global ecumenism.

The 2013 meeting agreed on the existence of 'principles of Christian law' - a first in ecumenical dialogue. It met again in 2014 and agreed to prepare a submission to the World Council of Churches in response to the latter's report The Church: Towards a Common Vision (2013). This third meeting in Rome finalised its submission to the WCC; and worked on the first of a four-section Statement of Principles of Christian Law Common to Church Families Worldwide - fifty candidate principles were presented by Norman Doe on Ecclesiastical Disicipline, and Church Property; 47 principles were agreed. The Panel meets again in 2016 to continue work on further principles to be drafted by Norman Doe.

Network of world-renowned scholars issues human rights challenge

A human rights scholar from Cardiff University will next week (30 Nov) intensify a “clarion call” from a network of human rights scholars for governments around the world to deploy a crucial shift in their responses to climate change.

The calls come from the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE), the largest network of human and environmental rights scholars in the world, founded by Professor Anna Grear from Cardiff University’s School of Law and Politics.

Dedicated to tackling human and environmental challenges, including climate change, the network comprises a network of multidisciplinary scholars from around the world.

The GNHRE has just issued a Declaration at the Paris Climate Summit, outlining the need for what it calls a “crucial shift” in the way that the world responds to climate change; driven by what it calls an “unsustainable status quo”.

The Draft Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change combines new thinking and existing international human rights law. The network says it presents an alternative formulation of rights that foregrounds human rights, while simultaneously protecting the rights of non-human persons and living systems from climate harms. The Declaration has attracted the support of a growing group of scholars and others—such as Bianca Jagger and Mary Warnock, who have both publicly endorsed the Draft text.

Anna Grear, Professor of Law and Theory at Cardiff Law School UK, and the founder and director of GNHRE, said: “The talks in Paris represent the final chance for humanity as a species to avoid the most destructive consequences of climate change. The Declaration is statement by scholars across the world that our current approach to climate change is utterly inadequate in the face of this existential threat. Climate change is arguably the greatest human rights issue of all, and we call on every government at Paris to stand up as leaders in order to avert disaster—and to do so by questioning the ’taken-for-granted of the current framework of priorities.

“The Declaration is a practical, thought-provoking and nuanced challenge designed to transform the climate debate. The Declaration addresses the structural unfairness in current patterns of vulnerability to climate change and the need to address the limitations of market-based approaches to the climate challenge.”

GNHRE Co-Director Louis Kotze, a Research Professor at North-West University, South Africa commented: “The market isn’t going to solve climate change for us. Everyone who is standing around waiting for the environmental version of Steve Jobs is deluded. Tackling climate change will require cohesive, targeted and planned action from all governments and unless we evolve our approach, there is no chance of success.”

The GNHRE has delivered The Declaration ahead of Paris COP21 in the hope that this timely and necessary intervention gains the full and serious consideration it deserves. The Declaration is open for amendments until 19th February 2016. The GNHRE will remain active in campaigning for climate justice and encourages new members to get involved by emailing GrearA1@cardiff.ac.uk.