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 Jennie Mack

Jennie Mack

Research student,

Overview

I am an ESRC funded PhD student in Law.

I am interested in interactions between the law and every day problems faced by households, such as debt, housing and employment issues. I enjoy conducting interviews as a research method to understand the different assumptions which underpin legal mechanisms and the impact they have on individuals. 

My doctoral research is a case study of the use of imprisonment as an enforcement method for council tax arrears in Wales, a sanction which was abolished in 2019. I also have experience of conducting research on options for reform of local taxation in Wales for the Welsh Government. 


Background


Swansea University LLB Law 2011-2014

Chartered Institute of Legal Executives Graduate Fast Track Diploma 2014-2017 (Probate, Family and Employment Law)

Employment Litigator (DAS Law) 2015-2017

Cardiff University MSc Social Science Research Methods 2017-2018

Research

Research interests

Publications


Chapter 12: 'Debt, vulnerability and time: reflections on the enforcement of council tax arrears in Wales' in 'Problems of Debt: explorations of life, love and finance' (ed. Samuel Kirwan) (2019)


'An assessment of the feasibility of a local income tax to replace council tax in Wales' (2020) Welsh Government


Blog Posts


'Defining vulnerability in the enforcement of public debts' - The Justice Gap (2018)


Freedom of Information requests as a tool for social science research' - ESRC Wales DTP Methods Blog

Teaching

2019-20 PGR Tutor LLB Equity and Trusts

Thesis

“An outdated and disproportionate response to a civil debt issue”: the use of imprisonment as an enforcement method for council tax arrears in Wales.

I am currently drafting my thesis for examination. The focus of the research is the legal enforcement of council tax arrears in Wales, specifically focusing on the use of imprisonment as a sanction. 


Council tax is a fundamental source of revenue for local authorities in Wales, used to fund essential services. Arrears of council tax are also a very common form of household debt. Local authorities operate within regulations which offer a number of enforcement options, including attachment of earnings orders, taking control of goods through enforcement agents and imprisonment for a maximum of three months. 


My thesis presents analysis of three sources of qualitative evidence on the use of imprisonment in Wales. The first source is records of appeals against imprisonment by way of judicial review. These case records are evidence of the problematic definitions attributed to imprisonment in this context and its hybrid criminal/civil nature which disadvantages the debtor both procedurally and substantively. These cases date from the introduction of council tax to the 2018 case of Woolcock, which I argue was fundamental in the decision to reconsider the use of imprisonment in Wales. 


The second source of evidence is the responses submitted by local authorities to the 2018 Welsh Government Public Consultation on the use of imprisonment. I draw out the narratives which local authorities use to justify imprisonment and consider the alternatives proposed to replace imprisonment, such as community service orders. 


Finally, I look in greater detail at the views of local authorities through depth interviews with enforcement staff one year on from the removal of imprisonment in Wales. We discuss their views on imprisonment and how they feel council tax collections will be impacted by its removal. 


I draw together themes from the analysis of these three threads to explore the dominant discourses around indebtedness and the justifications for the use of imprisonment, which I argue will continue to inform future reforms even after the removal of this most extreme sanction. 


Funding source

Economic and Social Research Council

Supervisors

Wendy Kennett

Dr Wendy Kennett

Senior Lecturer in Law

Tom Hayes

Dr Thomas Hayes

Lecturer in Law