Author Archives: legalresearch

Advising in Austerity

By Prof Morag McDermont, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, and Mr Ben Crawford, Knowledge Exchange Fellow (University of Bristol Law School).

Research led by Prof Morag McDermont of University of Bristol Law School has explored the ways in which advice organisations such as Citizens Advice (CA) have become key actors in legal arenas, particularly for citizens who face the most disadvantage in upholding their rights. Findings from a four year study in partnership with Strathclyde University, highlight the importance of free-to-access advice in enabling people to tackle problems and engage with the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern their lives.

The advice sector, however, is under threat, as a new book Advising in Austerity: Reflections on challenging times for advice agencies (edited by Samuel Kirwan and published by Policy Press ) demonstrates. The book, co-written by the research team and advisers in the field, highlights both the possibilities and the challenges for an advice sector that largely relies on volunteers to provide a vital interface between citizens and the everyday problems of debt, health, employment and much more.  Despite the skills and enthusiasm of the workforce, many services are caught between rising demand and large-scale funding cuts, as traditional sources of revenue from local authorities and legal aid are dramatically reduced. Across the network, reductions in core funding are forcing agencies to reduce or reconfigure services. In particular, the face-to-face, generalist advice model that provides a holistic assessment of client’s problems is under pressure as services are reduced in favour of telephone or online support.

Advising in Austerity will be launched at an event on Friday 5th May, 12noon-1.30pm in the University of Bristol Law School. For more details contact Lucy Backwell (Lucy.backwell@bristol.ac.uk).  Continue reading

The Future of Banking Regulation

By Dr Holly Powley, Lecturer in Law, and Prof Keith Stanton, Professor of Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

© Crowdfund Insider.

The regulation of banks is a difficult and high profile task.  The banking industry is complex and plays a fundamental role in the UK’s economy.[1] The financial crisis highlighted the importance of the UK having a regulatory regime that can maintain the health and stability of the banking sector. Banks provide payment and funding services that are central to the successful operation of the modern economy. Regulation therefore needs to ensure that the banking sector is healthy. This blog post will briefly outline the main developments in the UK’s regulatory approach in recent years, and will identify the key areas of concern facing the regulators. Continue reading

Never Mind the Bake Off, here’s the Great Business Bake In?

By David Hunter, Knowledge Exchange Fellow (University of Bristol Law School).

It seems much of the UK will be focused this year on The Great British Bake Off and whether it will be quite the same, or as successful, as it was in its previous incarnation. Away from popular culture, but with an even more pervasive impact on the lives of the nation, it could be a baking in, rather than a bake off, that is significant in 2017. The ingredient is mission, or purpose, being baked into the constitutions and cultures of business. Continue reading

What Boko Haram Taught Me about the Right to Education

By Dr Foluke Adebisi, Teaching Associate (University of Bristol Law School).*

© Tony Karumba / AFP

On 14 April 2017, it will be three years since we heard the news that 230 schoolgirls had been kidnapped by Boko Haram, causing global shock and horror. Since then, some have been released, and some escaped. However, focus on the Chibok schoolgirls, often overshadows the greater tragedy.

Amnesty International suggests that over 2,000 girls and women have been abducted by Boko Haram across the North of Nigeria. Though, Borno state, (with a landmass slightly larger than Croatia) and its people have borne the brunt of Boko Haram. Boko Haram is the sobriquet for a group whose activities are predicted on a violent abhorrence for ‘Western’ education. The Arabic names they call themselves translate into ‘Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad’ and ‘Islamic State West Africa Province.’ Their vicious campaigns have kept an estimated 120,000 students from education of any kind. Andrew Walker’s book ‘Eat the Heart of the Infidel examines how Boko Haram trades on the currency of religion and the politicisation of education to sell violence to its adherents.

Obviously, if any case is to be made against them as regards the abductees, a cause of action would properly lie within national criminal laws or for crimes against humanity. However, due to the ESC nature of the right to education, the 120,000 students who have been excluded from school seem to have very little recourse to contest the violation of their right to education. This is because ESC rights are largely seen as non-justiciable. Also, the demarcation of rights into ESC and civil/political rights does not reflect the historicity and needs of the populace. An interesting approach to this incongruous distinction is taken by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR). What lessons, I ask, can we learn from the court? Continue reading

The phoney war is over. Theresa May has triggered Article 50. The clock is ticking. But clarity and legal certainty remain elusive

By Prof Phil Syrpis, Professor of EU Law (University of Bristol Law School)

In her letter to Donald Tusk the Prime Minister outlined the UK’s starting position in negotiations with the EU. The EU Council of Ministers responded by producing draft negotiating guidelines (to be confirmed by the European Council at the end of April). These guidelines create the framework within which negotiations on withdrawal, and those on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, will occur. Meanwhile, a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill was presented to Parliament, promising on the one hand to repeal the European Communities Act (ECA) and end the supremacy of EU law in the UK, and on the other to convert the acquis communautaire into UK law, so that ‘EU-derived rights’ (as we will need to get used to calling them) will, as far as possible, be unaffected.

The opening exchanges between the UK and EU have generated a lot of comment. Much of it has focused on the unlikely subject of Gibraltar (Michael Howard’s crass evocation of the Falklands conflict will have done nothing to lower simmering tensions). In relation to the White Paper, most attention has been devoted to the role of Parliament and the devolved assemblies. Rather less attention has been paid to many of the EU law aspects. In this short note, I focus on those. I first consider what new light has been shed on the way in which the Article 50 negotiations will proceed, drawing attention to the host of issues which remain unanswered. I then consider the EU law questions raised by the repeal of the ECA, and the conversion of the acquis into UK law. Michael Ford has already commented on this blog on the applicability of judgments of the European Court of Justice in the post-Brexit era; so there is no more on that subject here.

My overarching concern is that the Government, in particular in the White Paper, has failed to provide a clear sense of the size of the task which lies ahead. It is impossible to know whether this is because the Government itself does not appreciate the magnitude of the challenge, or because it is trying to conceal the difficulties. The Government has, for months, struggled to articulate just what Brexit might mean, and has made a series of disparate promises which a range of different constituencies have, if so minded, been able to rely on, or cling to. It will now start making hard choices. It has not prepared the ground well. Continue reading

The Great Repeal Bill, Workers’ Rights, Henry VIII and the ECJ

By Prof Michael Ford QC, Professor of Law (University of Bristol Law School).

The key words in the recent White Paper, Legislating for the United Kingdom’s Withdrawal from the European Union, are ‘certainty’ and ‘clarity’ in the interests of a ‘smooth and orderly Brexit’, repeated in the forewords and the text.  To that end, the envisaged Great Repeal Bill (GRB) will initially convert the existing acquis of EU law into domestic law, including directly effective EU laws, such as Article 157 of the TFEU on equal pay. Also in order ‘to maximise certainty’ the meaning of EU-derived law will be determined ‘by reference to’ – note the vague words – the case law of the Court of Justice (ECJ) existing on the date of Brexit. This means, the White Paper happily explains in a user-friendly example in a shaded box, that workers’ rights will ‘continue to be available’ after Brexit, giving ‘certainty to service providers and users, as well as employees and employers’. In this way the GRB will apparently deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise in October last year that workers’ rights ‘will continue to be guaranteed in law’ post-Brexit.

Despite being thin on the detail of the GRB, so far all appears so good. But scratch the surface and things are not so simple underneath. Continue reading

Roundtable on Comparative Law and Interdisciplinarity: Practical Approaches

By Dr Jule Mulder, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

The University of Bristol Law School hosted a roundtable on Practical Approaches towards Comparative Law and Interdisciplinarity on 8 February 2017. It was organised by Dr Giorgia Guerra (University of Padua, Italy) and Dr Jule Mulder (University of Bristol, UK). The roundtable brought together a number of comparative law researchers and provided a small and informal forum to consider interdisciplinary approaches within the context of European comparative private law and constitutional law. It explored how research on modern technologies, social sciences and arts and humanities can enrich comparative law projects within the context of (European) private and constitutional law. The presentations were chaired by Dr Athanasios Psygkas and Prof Paula Giliker. Continue reading

The Rape Trial and the Limits of Liberal Reform. And Why Legal Scholars need to do Theory Better

By Dr Yvette Russell, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

Orestes Pursued by the Furies (1922-25) by John Singer Sargent

In recently published work I engage in a philosophical and psychoanalytic excavation of legal discourse on (and in) the rape trial.[1]  In this post I briefly summarise my key claims arguing, while I do, that legal scholars must diversify the theoretical tools they draw on in confronting issues of social justice.

Much feminist scholarship on rape asserts that the law has reached a best practice plateau and justice for victims is now being held back primarily by the aberrant ‘attitudes’ of criminal justice actors charged with implementing the law. Those attitudes, it is argued, militate against the best intentions of law makers charged with stemming burgeoning attrition rates. Attrition refers to the phenomena – not anomalous in the criminal justice system, but particularly marked in cases of sex crime – whereby alleged instances of sexual violence drop out of the criminal justice system.  This occurs at multiple points, the most notable of which is the first point where a victim makes the decision to report to police.  Continue reading

Panorama: Behind Bars: Prison Undercover

By Dr Michael Naughton, Reader in Sociology and Law (University of Bristol Law School).

The BBC Panorama programme, Behind Bars: Prison Undercover, aired on Monday 13 February 2017. Culled from footage from an undercover reporter in HMP Northumberland, it claimed to “reveal the reality of life behind bars in Britain’s crisis-hit prison system.”

Leaving aside the obvious methodological issues with such a claim, i.e. that such a generalisation cannot be made from a few insights in a single, adult, male, category C, private prison, what we got, instead, was an entirely biased, one-sided view. On this occasion, it was the fears of clearly overworked and overwhelmed prison staff that was the central focus of concern. The narrative depicted was simplistic: prisoners are both out of control and in control of the day to day running of prisons, supported by images of drug taking, drunken and abusive prisoners. A strong case was being made for more prison officers, which is totally justified in the context of overcrowded prisons and savage cuts to prison staff.

A major problem was that this was at the expense of a more balanced programme that took account, also, of the prisoner side of the story – the desolation, monotony and periods of sheer terror of everyday life behind prison bars. This is well documented in the research and it might, also, go some way, at least, to contextualising and/or explaining the images of the relatively small handful of misbehaving prisoners that were selected to persuade viewers to accept the underpinning narrative without question. Continue reading

Rape Investigations and police accountability: the case of the Black Cab Rapist

By Prof Joanne Conaghan, Professor of Law (University of Bristol Law School).

The case of the Black Cab rapist, John Worboys, may well qualify as one of the most egregious failures of modern policing of our times. Alleged to have assaulted over 100 women using his taxi as a lure and a crime site, Worboys terrorised women in the London Metropolitan area for the best part of a decade before eventually being apprehended and imprisoned in 2009 for 19 separate sexual assaults.  This week the Worboys case is once again in the public eye as a claim by two of his victims, DSD and NBV, that the Metropolitan Police violated their human rights by failing adequately to investigate their claims comes before the Supreme Court.

One has to wonder how such serious criminal activity in a public setting could go unchecked for so long. The simple answer is that the Metropolitan Police failed Worboys’ victims utterly and unequivocally, their investigation marred by multiple systemic and operational failings, as elaborated in painstaking detail by Mr Justice Green in a High Court judgment in 2014.  Continue reading