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A School of Law and Politics project that offers legal support to carers of people with learning disabilities in Wales, has scooped a top prize at a national Pro Bono award ceremony.

The Wales Independent Support & Empowerment student advice project (WISE) sees Law students work in conjunction with disability charity, Mencap Cymru and was recognised in the ‘Most Effective Pro Bono Partnership’ category at the LawWorks Pro Bono awards which took place in December.

The WISE project began after it was identified that specific support was needed for people in Wales who care for/support people with learning disabilities. Much of the literature that was written for UK carers was tailored towards laws in England which meant that carers in Wales weren’t fully supported (as a result of devolution). Consequently, Mencap Cymru reached out to the School’s Pro Bono unit to see if there was a way for law students to bridge the gap and offer the support that was desperately needed by family members, support workers and advocates of those living with learning disabilities in Wales.

In 2015, a successful bid was made for a three-year Welsh Government sustainable social services grant for the WISE project to develop a series of toolkits across a range of legal topics, including child protection, accessing social and health care services and further education.

The toolkits, which are available on the Mencap Cymru website, provide easy to access guidance and are an important mechanism for empowering families struggling to obtain the legal advice they need. Since their launch, the toolkits have been accessed over 1,700 unique times and over 1,400 people have attended workshops provided by the project.

Carers have cited the WISE project resources as the only avenue of support available to them while the students who offered their support believe that the skills they gained whilst working on the project have helped them gain employment since leaving university.

Kera Powell, who graduated in July 2018, participated in the project in her second and final years and went on to secure a job as a Legal Officer with Rhondda Cynon Taff Council. She said: “Mencap WISE gave me a lot of skills that are hugely needed and transferable into the world of work. At interview I had solid answers for all the questions which related to things like team building, explaining difficult legal language to a lay person, working to deadlines and managing expectations of clients. I honestly believe that my pro bono experience was 100% the reason I achieved my new role.”

Professor Jason Tucker, University Dean for Employability and academic supervisor of the project, echoed Kera’s thoughts by saying: “The project provides students with the opportunity to develop their transferable employability skills, to gain an insight into the work of the third sector and to enhance their understanding of learning disability.  In addition, it supports the University’s civic mission of being embedded in its local community.”

Professor Tucker was presented with the award by Rt Hon David Lammy MP on 3 December 2018 at the Law Works Pro Bono Awards Ceremony in London.

The Mencap Cymru initiative is just one of twelve pro bono clinics that the Pro Bono unit has cultivated since its launch in 2006.

Professor of Land Law and Development, Ambreena Manji delivered the 6th CB Madan Memorial Lecture this December at Strathmore Law School, Nairobi.

Professor Manji was invited to deliver the lecture ‘Land Reform in Kenya: The History of an Idea’ as part of an event which honoured Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi for her contribution to constitutionalism and the rule of law. Members of the Judiciary, Kenya’s leading legal academics and many law students gathered to honour the awarding of the 2018 CB Madan prize to Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi who is known in East Africa and more widely for her progressive jurisprudence on economic and social rights to protect the weak and vulnerable and for her insistence on constitutional values.

The CB Madan prize was created in 2013 to recognise the contribution of Kenyan Chief Justice CB Madan.

Professor Manji was Director of the British Academy’s British Institute in Eastern Africa in Nairobi between 2010 and 2014 where she worked closely with members of the judiciary and legal academics on matters of constitutional law and land law.

Two academics and a former Law student from Cardiff have recently been named in a new handbook for Law and Religion.

Programme director for the School’s Canon Law LLM and Director of the Centre for Law and Religion, Professor Norman Doe has been cited in this year’s Research Handbook on Law and Religion, edited by Professor Rex Ahdar, University of Otago, New Zealand (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018). Professor Doe has been included in the handbook in the top ten law of religion scholars worldwide at number 10 - and sits alongside peers from Stanford, Emory (Atlanta), San Diego, Columbia, Virginia, Durham, Alabama, Bringham Young, and Texas.

In addition to this accolade, Professor Russell Sandberg and former student Mark Hill QC are included in the 'honourable mention' section.

The handbook offers an interdisciplinary, international and philosophical perspective which explores both long standing and current legal issues that concern the modern state and its interaction with religious communities and individuals.

Speaking of his inclusion in the handbook Professor Doe said, “Having two current members of staff mentioned in the Research Handbook on Law and Religion cements our standing as a leading centre for Law and Religion scholarship not only in the UK but on a global level. I am thrilled to be listed alongside my esteemed colleagues from institutions around the world.

In addition, one of our former students Mark Hill QC is also cited in the handbook which is testament to what our alumni can go on to achieve after leaving us.”

Professor Doe’s latest book Comparative Religious Law: Judaism, Christianity, Islam was published by Cambridge University Press in October 2018.

Further information about the Research Handbook on Law and Religion can be found on Edward Elgar Publishing website.

Cardiff University law students and academics have helped to quash the wrongful conviction of a man who served three-and-a-half years in prison.

The case, which was worked on over six years under the supervision of Dr Dennis Eady as part of the Cardiff University Innocence Project, was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on 22 November, with the judgment being handed down today.

Gareth Jones was convicted of a serious sexual assault at the age of 22 in July 2008.

As well as dozens of students, the project has had the pro bono support of two Cardiff University alumni who are practising barristers (Philip Evans QC and Tim Naylor), a criminal appeals solicitor in Cardiff (Andrew Shanahan) and five medical/psychology experts.

Around 17 Cardiff law students, past and present, were present to see the result of their investigative work presented by barristers to a panel of appeal court judges, chaired by Lord Justice Simon.

Following the decision, Dr Dennis Eady, of the School of Law and Politics, said: “We first became aware of Gareth’s case in 2012 through his long-term supporter Paula Morgan. It has taken six years of tireless work by students, Paula, and our supporters to review this case. Based on their findings, the Court of Appeal has decided that this conviction is unsafe. We welcome their decision.”

This is the second conviction that the Cardiff Innocence Project has helped to overturn and they remain the only UK university innocence project to have done so.

In 2014, they were the first ever UK university innocence project to successfully bring a case to the Court of Appeal. Dwaine George had already served 12 years in prison for murder.

Cardiff University’s Innocence Project was launched in 2006.. The project allows students who are passionate about investigating alleged miscarriages of justice to work on cases of long-term prisoners who maintain their innocence of serious crimes for which they have been convicted.

Professor Julie Price, Head of Pro Bono at the School, said: “This case demonstrates that universities are about more than research. Our work is making a real impact from innovative teaching and learning. This decision will hopefully allow Gareth to start re-building his life.”

She continued: “We would not be in this position now without pro bono (free) assistance from a number of people. We are very grateful to those individuals, and to our students past and present for their efforts. The appeals system is problematic and needs to change.

“University projects are a sticking plaster only and cannot replace a properly-funded legal aid system.”

A project investigating the effect of 2013’s legal aid cuts is on the lookout for personal stories which highlight the human element of its research.

Justice in a time of austerity is a collaboration between Dr Daniel Newman of the School of Law and Politics and Jon Robins of the Justice Gap, an online magazine about law and justice which is aimed at the public.

Their project, which is supported by City law firm Ashurst, will take place over the next 12 months and looks into the significant changes to civil legal aid in England and Wales which came into effect on 1 April 2013.

The changes were part of a plan to reform the system and save the government over £300m a year but, as a result, many types of legal cases which include clinical negligence, child contact, divorce and employment are no longer eligible for money from the public purse.

This had a significant impact on many groups of people and individuals and indeed the type of cases that were pursued through the civil justice system.

Newman and Robins research looks at whether these restrictions affect the fairness of the justice system by asking, 'how are people who use the justice system impacted by legal aid cuts?'

To help them answer that question they plan to conduct a series of interviews around the country both with individuals impacted by the cuts and the organisations who are now leaned upon for free support.

If you have a story to tell about your experiences of the civil justice system, please contact Dr Daniel Newman. To find out more about the project please visit the Justice Gap website.

A charity committed to enabling access to justice has recognised the School of Law and Politics’ Pro Bono unit by shortlisting its work in two categories at this year’s annual awards.

The LawWorks Pro Bono awards take place annually and this November the School’s Pro Bono unit has featured in the shortlist for both the ‘Most Effective Pro Bono Partnership’ and ‘The LawWorks Cymru’ categories.

The unit’s work with Mencap Cymru on their Wales Independent Support & Empowerment (WISE) student advice project has been recognised in the ‘Most Effective Pro Bono Partnership’ category. This initiative began in 2015 after it was identified that support was needed in Wales for people who care for/support people with learning disabilities.

In 2015, a successful bid was made for a three-year Welsh Government sustainable social services grant for the Mencap WISE project to develop a series of toolkits across a range of legal topics, including child protection, accessing social and health care services and further education.

The toolkits provide easy to access guidance and are an important mechanism for empowering families struggling to access services. Since their launch, the toolkits have been accessed over 1,700 unique times and over 1,400 people have attended workshops provided by the project.

The Mencap Cymru initiative is just one of twelve pro bono clinics that the Pro Bono unit has cultivated since its launch in 2006. Subsequently, it is the work of the unit as a whole that is recognised in the ‘The LawWorks Cymru’ category.

The School recognises that many students wish to gain practical experience in order to supplement their academic learning. Additionally, the School has a responsibility to the communities of Cardiff and further afield to deliver knowledge exchange projects that help those who do not traditionally engage with the University.  As a result partnership, with both students and the wider community, is at the heart of the unit’s work.

Each of the unit’s schemes is delivered in conjunction with external partners, and a range of organisations, including solicitors’ firms, barristers’ chambers and third sector agencies.  The unit’s partnerships fall into two distinct categories: the schemes where a member of the School’s academic staff is responsible for day-to-day delivery, with an external partner(s) overseeing the advice provision; and the schemes which are delivered entirely by the partner organisation. In the region of 265 students are now involved in clinical work in any given year, contributing around 20,000 pro bono hours.  Since the clinical activities began, an estimated 1,750 students have participated.

The annual LawWorks Pro Bono Awards will be celebrated at a ceremony on Monday 3rd December 2018 at the Law Society, Chancery Lane, London.

Figures published today by Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre reveal the true extent of self-harm and violence at Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) in England and Wales.

The previously unpublished figures, obtained from the Youth Justice Board via the Freedom of Information Act*, provide a unique insight into the experiences of children in young people units catering primarily for those aged 15-17.**

The findings, which were obtained as part of the Wales Governance Centre’s Justice and Jurisdiction project, reveal:

  • HMYOI Parc in Bridgend recorded the highest rate of self-harm incidents out of five comparable institutions in England and Wales. A total of 64 incidents took place in 2017. The average population of at HMYOI Parc’s children’s unit is 40.
  • HMYOI Parc’s children’s unit also had the highest rate of assaults where the victim was a young person, recording 113 incidents over the course of 2017. This number is equivalent to nearly three incidents for each inmate.
  • YOI Feltham had the highest rate of assaults where the victim was not a young person in 2017. These incidents, which may involve prison staff and visitors, stood at 131. The average population of Feltham’s children’s unit is 129.

Dr Robert Jones said: “The data presented here reveal the disturbing extent of self-harm and violence being experienced by children in custody.  These latest figures raise urgent questions over safety levels at Young Offender Institutions in England and Wales including HMYOI Parc, a children’s unit in Wales situated within one of the largest prisons in the UK.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:  “These figures illustrate in graphic detail why prison is no place for a child. We are failing children at a crucial juncture in their lives if we lock them up and expose them to such high levels of violence, making it more and not less likely that these young people will go on to commit further crimes on release.”

* Using the Freedom of Information Act, Young Offender Institutions in England and Wales were asked the following questions about their units which cater for young people aged 15-17:

How many of the following incidents were recorded at the (i) Cookham Wood; (ii) Feltham A; (iii) Parc (iv) Werrington; (v) Wetherby; (vi) Keppel Unit in 2017.

i) self-harm incidents
ii) prisoner-on-prisoner assaults
iii) assaults on staff

** The data refers to incidents in units catering for the youngest offenders in YOIs – primarily aged 15-17. These data will include some 18 year olds who remain in the under-18 secure estate.

  • The comparison does not include the Keppel Unit at HMYOI Wetherby. The Keppel Unit is a High Dependency/Enhanced Support Unit, and operates to provide more developed support for some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people in custody. Figures for the Keppel Unit are included in the tables below for information.

Population and number of incidents

Cookham WoodFelthamParcWerringtonWetherbyKeppel
Population (average)144129409818436
Number of self-harm incidents623564100146195
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was a young person10920711320915833
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was NOT a young person413140829415

Number of incidents 'per 100' for comparative purposes

Cookham WoodFelthamParcWerringtonWetherbyKeppel
Population (average)144129409818436
Self-harm rate per 10043.127.116010279.3542
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was a young person per 10075.7160.5282.5213.385.992
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was NOT a young person per 1002.8101.610083.751.142

For the second year running, a School of Law and Politics student has been awarded a prestigious William Salesbury Scholarship.

Heledd Ainsworth, a Law and Welsh (LLB) student originally from Llandysul, Ceredigion will receive the 2018 scholarship from the National William Salesbury Fund (Cronfa Genedlaethol William Salesbury). The fund awards two scholarships worth £5,000 to Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol students each year with the purpose of promoting and supporting Welsh-medium Higher Education. Heledd follows in the footsteps of last year’s winner Nest Jenkins who also studies at the School.

The Scholarships are named in honour of William Salesbury (c.1507 – c.1584), a noted scholar and the chief translator, in 1567, of the first New Testament into Welsh.

The Fund was established to give Welsh-medium Higher Education advocates the opportunity to contribute financially and support students who are studying 100% of their degree programme in Welsh, sponsored by the Coleg.

Heledd said of her achievement, “I am delighted to receive this coveted accolade. It recognises the importance of Welsh medium study to help provide a more bilingual legal and judiciary process. The scholarship will support and enhance my studies and further explore the use of minority languages within the legal system in other European countries.”

Although Heledd is in her first year at university she is already thinking ahead to the future and hopes that her degree will equip her with bilingual legal competence which will open doors to many areas within government, politics, local authorities, education and business. Whichever career she eventually chooses, Heledd’s intention is to remain in Wales.

Professor René Lindstädt, Head of the School of Law and Politics said, “Giving our Welsh students the opportunity to carry out their studies in their mother tongue is something which is incredibly important to the School of Law and Politics and it is fantastic to hear that Heledd will be assisted in her studies for the next three years because of this scholarship. We are proud to be the home school, not only of Heledd but of Nest Jenkins and Gwenllian Owen who work as ambassadors for Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. We are huge advocates of the work of the Coleg and hope that we continue to attract students to the School who choose to study our programmes in Welsh.”

Dr Gwenllian Lansdown Davies, Chair of the William Salesbury Trust said, “Rydym yn hynod falch o allu cefnogi myfyrwyr ym myd y gyfraith. Mae sicrhau bod myfyrwyr talentog, fel Heledd a Nest, yn cael cefnogaeth i astudio a datblygu mewn system gyfreithiol ddwyieithog yn rhan hanfodol o waith y gronfa."

“We are extremely proud of being able to support students studying law. Ensuring that talented students, like Heledd and Nest, receive support to study and develop in a bilingual legal system is an essential part of the fund’s work.”

A book on environmental crime by a Cardiff Law academic has recently been cited in a United Nations Study.

Dr Ricardo Pereira’s book, Environmental Criminal Liability and Enforcement in European and International Law(Brill, 2015) is widely cited in the United Nations Environmental  Programme’s (UNEP) latest comprehensive environmental crime study The State of Knowledge of Crimes that have Serious Impacts on the Environment which was published this June.

The UNEP study includes discussion of key trends, gaps in enforcement and specific national and transnational responses to environmental crime in several countries. The study highlights the main drivers for environmental crime which include ‘the economic benefits, the ever-increasing demand, and the institutional and regulatory failure resulting in a sense of impunity’ (UNEP 2018 p.1, Pereira 2015). The study further assesses the extent to which demand in consumer countries, in particular in Asia, are driving environmental criminality globally. It notes that ‘countries in Asia are increasingly becoming major consumer markets of a wide range of illegal wildlife resources and products including rare highly valuable wood like rosewood’ (UNEP 2018 p.IX, Pereira 2015) and in particular that ‘wildlife parts, such as rhino horns and elephants tusks, are popular in some regions of Asia due to the belief in their medicinal benefits, as well as for ornamental reasons’ (UNEP 2018 p. 10, Pereira 2015).

The UNEP study further explores the extent of illegal exploitation of natural resources in specific sectors highlighting the cross-boundary nature of illegal trade. It refers to the case of illegal timber trade as a classic example of a market that flows predominantly from less developed countries to more developed countries (UNEP 2018 p.10, Pereira 2015) as well as to illegal waste imports which cross national borders easily and in particular ‘to countries that have weak or non-existent inspection systems and technologies available’ (UNEP 2018 p. 3, Pereira 2015). In terms of regulatory gaps and responses the authors of the study share Dr Pereira’s concerns that ‘regulatory gaps and deficiencies at the national and international levels mean that law enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing risks are lower compared to other criminal activities’ (UNEP 2018 p.2, Pereira 2015)

Developing on the theme of his book, Dr Ricardo Pereira’s most recent articles in the field of environmental criminal law are Towards Effective Implementation of the EU environmental crime directive? The case of illegal waste management and trafficking offences 26(2) (2017), Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law and Towards an international crime of ‘ecocide’? A commentary on the implications of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s 2016 Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritisation, Chinese Journal of International Law (forthcoming).

Theresa May’s ‘precious Union’ has little in the way of meaningful support from her own supporters or self-professed Unionists in other parties, research suggests.

Moreover, according to the study carried out by Cardiff University in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh, attitudes to the Union are marked principally by rivalry and mutual-indifference.

The Future of England Study, the largest and longest-running study of English constitutional attitudes available, found that self-professed Unionists, most notably Leave-voting Conservatives, were largely unconcerned about the risks to the Union posed by Brexit, were reluctant to prioritise the needs of the Union over their own constituent part, and were largely ignorant of other territories’ politics.

The research, some of which was presented at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event, is drawn from the annual Future of England Survey, now in its sixth year. The survey has consistently found a correlation between Euroscepticism in England and ‘devo-anxiety’, a sense that England was being neglected or left behind by benefits awarded to the devolved territories.

This year the team, led by Professor Richard Wyn Jones, of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre and the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Ailsa Henderson, conducted parallel surveys in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and found similar attitudes, especially among Leave voters, to the European and UK unions.

Key Welsh findings include:

  • People who voted Leave in the EU referendum in Wales would be prepared to see the fundamentals of the Union questioned in order for Brexit to go ahead;
  • 88% of Welsh leave voters and 76% of Welsh Conservative voters believe a ‘Yes’ vote to Scottish independence is a price worth paying to secure Brexit;
  • Similarly, 84% of Welsh leave voters and 73% of Welsh Conservative voters indicated that jeopardising peace in Northern Ireland would be a price worth paying for Brexit.

In addition:

  • Clear majorities of English Conservatives would support Scottish independence (79%) or the collapse of the NI Peace Process (75%) as the price of Brexit;
  • 87% of overwhelmingly Unionist Leave voters in Northern Ireland see the collapse of the peace process as an acceptable price for Brexit and 86% say that of a Yes vote in IndyRef2;
  • Nearly half (49%) of English Conservative voters do not think Scottish MPs should sit in the UK Cabinet and, in worse news for David Mundell as the SNP gathers in Glasgow, 24% of Scottish Conservative voters agree with them;
  • Voters typically expect higher levels of policy alignment with Europe post-Brexit on issues such as roaming charges and food hygiene standards than within the UK;
  • In none of the UK’s nations is a majority of taxpayers happy to see their taxes spent in other parts when those parts are mentioned by name.

Professor Wyn Jones said: “Strident protestations of faith in the future of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from Theresa May and her leading ministers cannot hide the fact that that the Union is under huge stress as result of Brexit. Ironically, that threat is posed at least as much by those who would regard themselves as Unionists as it is by those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who actively wish the Union’s demise.

“An overwhelming majority of Conservative voters in England would prefer to see Scotland become independent and a breakdown of the peace process in Northern Ireland rather than compromise on their support for Brexit. But it’s not just Brexit. Half of English Conservative supporters want to stop Scottish MPs from sitting in the British cabinet altogether.

“The bonds that have tied the Union together have frayed to such an extent that, frankly, it’s hard to imagine that the proposed festival of ‘national renewal’ is going to do anything more than emphasise the extent to which we continue to drift apart.”

To see the full reports: