Debating Differences Session 2

Yesterday, on the 8th of November 2018, 6 third year criminology/law students traveled to HMP Kirkham along with the event organiser Laura Kelly, who is one of UCLan’s Criminology lecturers, to meet with 7 prisoners for the second session of ‘debating differences’. This a scheme which is run in partnership between HMP Kirkham and UCLan and is now in its third year running. The purpose of the scheme is to break down barriers and to allow both the students and the prisoners to be in a positive learning environment, where all feel confident enough to share their ideas on different topics that exist within society as well as being able to develop on their debating techniques, learn how to create good quality arguments and improve on social skills.

The topic up for debate in this session was ‘Should prostitution be decriminalised in England and Wales?’- an incredibly thought-provoking and controversial issue. As with the first session, both the students and prisoners were given preparation work which was to be completed prior to the session. The prep was made up of research surrounding the main points of the topic and we were all required to write three ‘pro’ points and three ‘con’ points regarding the issue as well as our own opinion on the topic. Personally, my opinion on this topic stayed the same after I had completed the research. However, when traveling to the prison it was made apparent that several of the students, as well as Laura, were unsure about where they stood on the matter and so it was clear that it was going to be a very interesting debate!

Once we had arrived at the prison, Viv Ivins who is the head of UCLan’s Law school and one of the judges for this session was waiting for us and we were also greeted by the prison librarian Michelle who was also co-judging alongside Viv. After a quick introduction, we were split into two teams with a mix of prisoners and students on each side, one team was arguing in agreement that prostitution should be decriminalised in England and Wales and the other opposing this. Both teams were given an adequate amount of time to come up with six points supporting their side of the argument (Laura’s timekeeping was very good).  The structure of the debate meant that all team members were encouraged to share their ideas when the main points were being formulated as well as delivering these points within the debate setting. This proved a great opportunity for improvement of skills such as public speaking and confidence. Also, we were all aware from the last debate that it was important for us to expand on our arguments when delivering our points, this was something that every team member in both teams did very well in.

Some of the main arguments give from Team A who were ‘pro’ for this debate included people being able to do as they please with their own bodies without feeling that what they are doing is ‘illegal’ and ‘wrong’, as well as how prostitutes who had been the subject to crimes would feel much more confident in coming forward if it was legalised and also how the decriminalisation of prostitution within England and Wales would benefit the economy. Arguments put forward by Team B were based around the negative factors that the decriminalisation could bring into society. These included how the decriminalisation of prostitution could encourage a further increase in crimes such as human trafficking and how it could also mean an increase in violence towards prostitutes as well as how the legalisation could be a negative influence on children.  In general, the points given by both sides had clearly been well researched and were extremely thought-provoking as well.

When it was time to decide on a winner it was apparent that this would be a difficult task as both teams had presented well-rounded arguments and strong closing remarks. Both Viv and Michelle (the co-judges) agreed with this and even mentioned how they briefly considered calling it a draw. However, in the end, Team A who were pro-decriminalisation were chosen as the winners of this session.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this session as well as the previous one and know that the others who are participating in the scheme with me feel the same. I have gained so much from this experience so far and I must say that my own expectations of what the scheme and the prisoners would be like were rather inaccurate and I have definitely had my opinions changed on prisoners and prisons themselves.  I was rather anxious before starting the scheme and was wary about how some of the prisoners might behave. However, I could not have been more wrong, every single prisoner was well-mannered and civilised, if I didn’t know they were prisoners then I honestly could never have guessed, they just seem like normal guys. This is an incredibly unique opportunity where preconceptions are challenged, schemes like ‘debating differences’ allow stereotypes to be eradicated. One of the main things I have taken away from the past two sessions is how intelligent and educated on issues of the world the prisoners were, I will be the first to admit that I did not generally expect this, it was clear that they had all put a large amount of effort into preparing for the debate and were thoroughly enthusiastic about it, which was good to see. I am incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to participate in this scheme and am looking forward to the next two sessions. I would strongly encourage anyone who is considering participating in this scheme to apply as it is a thoroughly enjoyable and yet rare opportunity where you will find your opinions and conceptions challenged in a way they might never have been before.

  • Iram Ali – Third-year Law (LLB) student, UCLan.

A Student’s Perspective of A Solicitors for the Elderly Meeting about Mental Capacity in the Elderly.

On 4 October 2018 I attended an event about Mental Capacity in the Elderly. This event was a chance for students to join a forum of Solicitors, who work with the Elderly, at one of their meetings. The speaker was Tim Farmer who conducts mental capacity assessments for solicitors. His passion for the subject kept me gripped from beginning to end.

I first heard about the event from one of those employability emails we are sent by lecturers. The subject line caught my attention because I am studying Wills and Probate this semester and I am a Paralegal for a firm which specialises in private client work and has mainly elderly clients. This event sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to learn and network with other solicitors who work in my area of interest.

Tim told us stories about his experiences to illustrate how to interpret the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to assess whether a client has mental capacity or not.  When determining whether a client has mental capacity, we mustn’t assume lack of capacity and we must tailor our assessment to the client; ensuring we conduct the assessment when the client is at their best and focus our questions on the reason why the client needs to have capacity. If a client struggles to remember everyday things, this doesn’t mean that they lack capacity for a legal transaction. If the client understands the legal transaction they will have the mental capacity required.

Also, Tim explained that there is a difference between understanding and communication. As solicitors, we must be creative and discover how to communicate with our client before deciding whether they have the mental capacity to understand or not. Tim illustrated the splitting up of a client’s estate by using the different chocolates in a box of chocolates.

Attending this event has provided me with many tips on how to communicate effectively with clients. This knowledge will help me in my Wills and Probate Interview Assessment.

The most surprising thing about this event was that both students and solicitors were on an equal platform. We were all dressed in business wear, we were all sat as one audience and it was impossible to distinguish between the students and the solicitors. This made it easier to speak with the solicitors and it didn’t feel like it was as much of a daunting networking experience.

To all my fellow students I would like to say one thing, ‘Read all your employability emails and sign up to the employability events on offer.’ This is because the Law School’s events provide you with the rare opportunity to get a real insight into what it is like to be a solicitor in practice.

-Katie Egan, Fourth Year MLaw student.


Association of Law Teachers (ALT) conference: Diversity & Innovation

26 – 27 March 2018 Keele University

On an unseasonably sunny Sunday afternoon in late March, I travelled to my first ALT conference at Keele University with my colleague Dr Michael Doherty with a feeling of both excitement and trepidation. I had of course been to and spoken at many conferences over the years in my previous role as a solicitor, but speaking at the ALT conference was somehow different. More on why later.

The conference themes of diversity & innovation appealed to my own career narrative, firstly, as a first generation law student all those years ago and now as an academic as I hear student stories and reflect on how little has changed for some students in overcoming the barriers they face to enter a profession that is not representative of the society it serves. The innovation theme of the conference resonated with my experience in practice in working to create and introduce better solutions for clients through new ideas and innovation.

Shared purpose and sense of community

My trepidation came from not knowing what to expect from the conference, but as with many things in life what we think is not often the reality and that was proven as soon as Michael and I and met up with our colleagues’ Dr Kartina Choong and Linda Chadderton for dinner.

At dinner, it was good to meet other academics from the UK and beyond and hear of their commitment to supporting and developing the next generation of professionals and I felt at ease and part of a strong community of fellow academics connected by a shared purpose and went to bed looking forward to day 1.

Day 1

ALT Conference 1

After a welcome, introduction and keynote I sat in the audience to hear the first talk of the conference from Michael Doherty on “Communicating Legal Rights and Responsibilities through Visual Learning” explaining how he had worked with a UCLan graphic design student to create a visual document for students on their rights & responsibilities as tenants. The talk was well received and his visual document won the Stan Marsh prize for the best poster of the conference.

The lunchtime keynote saw Richard Susskind deliver his vision of the future of lawyers, leaving the audience with plenty to discuss for the rest of the first day and as I reflected on my first day at an ALT conference the feelings I felt most were hope & opportunity for the next generation. There is no doubt that technology is already transforming the practice of law, yet as a profession, law is still struggling with fundamental issues around equality and access and the hope & opportunity I felt was that law students can help shape both innovation and equality now and in the future.

Day 2

After a hearty breakfast, my colleague Kartina and I presented “Do it but don’t get caught? Exploring social media and Professionalism of Law Students” to an audience from the UK and abroad as we examined the parallels and differences to regulating social media for law and medical students. It was fantastic to present with such a well-respected academic as Kartina and we received some interesting questions from the audience and discussions continued throughout the day.

ALT Conference 2

My 2nd ALT presentation was a solo effort this time and was entitled “Building a bridge. Exploring career mentoring and social capital in career transition” and looked at the potential role a career mentoring programme could have in helping law students transition into professional practice. It was great to engage with the audience, as their experiences and questions opened up avenues for further work in this area and collaboration after the conference, something I am keen to explore.

The conference provided a wide range of presentations over the two days and in particular, I enjoyed a paper by Gareth Bramley from Sheffield University on using technology to enhance student and staff experience of feedback and it certainly gave me food for thought on how I give feedback. Another talk I enjoyed was focused on mindfulness in legal education. As someone who has practised mindfulness for a number of years, both in legal practice and as an academic, it was good to hear insights from Professor Katerina Lewinbuk from South Texas University and Anthony Cullen and Lughaidh Kerin from Middlesex University on how they had approached incorporating mindfulness into the curriculum.

I started the conference with feelings of excitement and trepidation and by the end, those feelings had been replaced with a sense of belonging and optimism.  By attending and presenting, I felt part of an academic community committed to the next generation of professionals and my optimism stems from a sense that although the legal profession is changing rapidly through technology this provides huge opportunities for legal professionals, academics and students to work together to help shape the future. Watch this space.

Simon Price is a Senior Lecturer in Innovation and Employability at Lancashire Law School and is part of the school’s employability team.


Attacking Liberal Values in the USA and the UK: are Entrenched Constitutions a Suicide Pact with ISIL?

In March I attended a conference of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy at Barry University Law School in Orlando, Florida. There, I presented a paper comparing the UK’s constitutional responses to terrorism with those of America’s.

As most students of Public Law will know, the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. More appropriately, the UK’s constitution is written ie it is comprised of a multitude of written sources such as Acts of Parliament, case law, international treaties etc, it’s just not codified, meaning they aren’t all in one document. In contrast, the Constitution of the United States, dating from 1787, is written and codified. It is also ‘entrenched’ meaning it is very difficult to amend. Article V requires, for example, 3/4 of states of the United States to approve an amendment. Hence, the ongoing issue about failures to curb gun ownership because of the right to bear arms, as per Amendment II of the Constitution.

But in terms of either war or public emergency America’s Constitution is seemingly lacking provisions allowing for its temporary suspension, to protect itself from threats that seek to destroy it. There is one provision, however: in Article 1, section 9, of the US Constitution Congress may suspend the constitutional right of habeas corpus in cases of rebellion or invasion. Abraham Lincoln famously exercised this power during the Civil War in 1861. But was this unconstitutional since it was an act of the President, not Congress? Lincoln countered by saying that he was, in fact, saving the Constitution, not destroying it.

Post 9/11 and the rise of Islamist terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, is this limited protection of the Constitution sufficient to prevent terrorists from seeking to destroy it? Perhaps the UK’s ‘uncodified’, ‘flexible’ constitution (as opposed to the ‘rigidity’ of the US’s in allowing amendments in only very limited circumstances – see above) is more suited to reacting to threats that seek to destroy it? Since 2000, the UK has introduced a plethora of statutes addressing the threat of terrorism: the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. The premise of my research was that the US Constitution was too inflexible to counter threats that sought to destroy it, unlike the UK’s flexible constitution. Was the US Constitution, therefore, in a ‘suicide pact’ with the terrorists? But when I started researching this question, it soon became apparent that this was not the case: the ‘form’ a constitution employed did not seem to affect a state’s response to terrorism.

Since 9/11 the US has enacted the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act 2001, which has been reauthorized several times by eg the USA PARIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act 2005, the USA PARIOT Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act 2006, the PATRIOT Sunset Extension Act 2011 and the USA Freedom Act 2015. Non-PATRIOT legislation includes the Homeland Security Act 2002, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act 2004, the Military Commissions Act 2006 and the National Defence Authorization Act 2012. Extra-territorially, the US has also been involved in extraordinary detention, abducting terror suspects around the world, and taking them to detention centres such as Guantanamo in Cuba for ‘enhanced interrogation’ ie ‘torture’. In addition, through their drone programme, the Americans have eg killed notorious terror suspects such as Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2010 and, via a special forces operation, have killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011. The President has also issued several Executive Orders pertaining to terrorism: 13224 (2001), 13354 (2004), 13425 (2007) and 13780 (2017). Thus, the conclusion of my paper was that, notwithstanding the apparent limits of the ‘rigid’ US Constitution to protect itself, this has not stopped the Legislative and Executive branches from introducing wide-ranging counter measures at home and abroad to keep Americans safe.

There were several other great papers at the conference. Of these, I particularly enjoyed ‘Verbosity: the Expanding Legacy of the Roberts Court’ by Professor Meg Penrose from the Law School at the Texas A&M University in Fort Worth. Meg was particularly concerned at the length of judgments given by Justices of the US Supreme Court, so much so she had drawn up a code for them: ‘A, B, C’. ‘A’ was for ‘accuracy’; ‘B’ was for ‘brevity’ and ‘C’ was for ‘clarity’. Inaccessible laws are a threat to the Rule of Law, as any Public Law student will know. On the issue of brevity for example, Meg noted that the US Constitution itself was only 4500 words but recent key judgments of the US Supreme Court eg Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) were in excess of 50,000 words – ten times longer than the US Constitution! Indeed, the recent ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), allowing same-sex couples to marry, was longer than 19 of Shakespeare’s plays! In comparison, one of the most famous cases at the US Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education (1954), outlawing states’ racial segregation in schools, was less than 4000 words.

On the issue of Obergefell, another presentation I particularly enjoyed was ‘An Obergefell Right to Military Service Eligibility’ by Professor Eric Merriam of the University of Central Florida. Eric was saying that, traditionally, discrimination in the military – eg age, gender, sexual orientation – was lawful. Perhaps this was due either to deference shown to the military or a particular class in society was simply ‘wrong class, wrong time’. But the current decision of the administration of President Trump to exclude transgender persons, in particular, from being eligible to serve in the military was unlawful, in his opinion, because of the reach of the judgment in Obergefell. Eric noted that he was simply discussing ‘eligibility’ to serve, since taking his argument further the US simply could not afford to fund the rights of all potential Americans from actually serving in the military.


Dr Ian Turner

Reader in Human Rights and Security


LLS Students compete on the UK’s biggest legal “stage”!

4 Lancashire Law School students headed down to London in April for this year’s William Bramwell Mooting Competition, held for the first time ever at the Supreme Court and judged by none other than President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger!

The teams comprised of Josiah Raphael and Sophie Piper against Alkesh Pratap Singh and Ben Whittingham and were required to present submissions on a fictional criminal scenario based on the defences of duress and automatism.

Sophie, who was declared the winner alongside teammate Josiah, said that mooting in front of Lord Neuberger was an incredible opportunity. For her, the final is one of the most significant memories of her UCLan experience: “I think we were all nervous when we first arrived, however as soon as we got to work finalising our bundles, my nerves disappeared… until I was on my feet about to address the President of the Supreme Court.

Lord Neuberger, was extremely personable to us and was nice enough to give us all individual and team feedback. This was the most memorable part of the day. It was such an invaluable experience, to have a constructive conversation with the highest judge in the U.K. Whom was commenting on our submissions, strengths and giving one to one advice.”

Josiah adds that as a law student you know that you are about to enter arguably the most competitive profession in the country, aware that you need more than just good grades to stand out. He comments: “It was amazing to be able to go out and prove ourselves on the biggest stage in the UK legal system. It is not every day you are dubbed ‘charming’ by the President of the Supreme Court! I absolutely loved the opportunity … I was privileged to be working with an extremely talented partner and the chemistry lined up perfectly. I feel like we demonstrated the importance of embracing your personal strengths and how you can emphasise them even further by working together in the right team; it’s a learning curve for sure…”

A number of Lancashire Law School students were able to watch this exciting moot and cheer on the competitors following a fascinating guided tour of the Supreme Court. Very many congratulations to all of the students who participated in the competition and were able to benefit from this unique experience.

competitors in the mooting competition