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A Grand Challenge: how our Pro Bono Unit pivoted during the pandemic

16 February 2021

When Coronavirus took hold in the UK, our Pro Bono Unit responded quickly, ensuring our students could continue to gain experience in a safe environment for all.

The unit devised the idea of two ‘Grand Challenges’ to capitalise on the strengths and expertise of School of Law and Politics staff and to encourage students to learn new skills during a challenging time.

The grand challenge initiative is voluntary, online, open to Law, Politics and International Relations students and in addition to normal studies. Students have been given the chance to apply to work on either the Miscarriages of Justice strand or Climate Change strand.

Climate Change

This grand challenge provides a whistle-stop tour of climate change science, international law and conventions, UK and Welsh law and policy. It gives students the opportunity to investigate what they think needs to change to prepare for and combat climate change. The work is overseen by Environmental Law specialist Guy Linley-Adams and it is hoped that the group’s findings and recommendations could be presented at Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru later this year.

Miscarriages of Justice

This grand challenge looks at the history and context of miscarriages of justice. Students have looked at the cause of miscarriages of justice, how police documentation is gathered and curated, the failings of investigations and the appeals system, and criticism of the ethics behind Innocence Projects and the false hope it may give to those convicted of crimes they say they did not commit. This challenge is overseen by Dr Dennis Eady and Dr Holly Greenwood who facilitate the Cardiff University Innocence Project.

Ordinarily, our Pro Bono schemes provide an opportunity for students to work on real cases whilst helping members of the community, free of charge. However, this work depends on face-to-face collaboration and student placements with lawyers and a variety of organisations which could no longer take place during coronavirus restrictions.

Professor Julie Price, Head of the Pro Bono Unit said, “Everyone has had to adapt their ways of working since March last year. It was incredibly important for us to continue to offer our students the extra experience that our School is so well known for. Our grand challenges are encouraging students to actively think about these two topics and work with experts in the field and I’m thrilled with how students have responded so far.”

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