How Do We Create Good Online Classrooms? Through Strong Expectations!

By Kit Fotheringham, University of Bristol Law School

“Treat someone as they are and they will remain as they are. Treat someone as they can and should be and they will become as they can and should be.”

― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The question of how to achieve good outcomes from online classrooms is a problem that has recently faced teachers and lecturers in all disciplines and at all educational levels. In this blog post, I reflect on the experience of leading online classes in a number of different contexts during the course of the global pandemic. I argue that good online classrooms do not emerge from nowhere, instead good online classrooms are created through strong expectations. (more…)

A Realist’s Take on the Future of the Internet: Can we keep the good but jettison the bad?

by Matthew Burton, Lecturer in Law, University of Bristol Law School

The explosion in social media platforms and their ever-increasing role in our lives since the mid-2000s has forced us to consider deep and important questions about how we interact, how we talk to each other and communicate in the 21st century. There are a litany of charges levelled against social media platforms, including the incitement of hatred and violence (there are credible claims that Facebook enabled a genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.); encouraging polarization and echo chambers; harvesting our data in pursuit of surveillance capitalism and promoting false and harmful lifestyles. Discord, Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. All of them have come under justified fire. (more…)

Theories of Clinical Legal Education

by Omar Madhloom and Hugh McFaul

In a recent article, one of the authors of this blog posed the question whether Clinical Legal Education (CLE) requires theory. In an effort to address this question, we invited academics and law clinic directors from various jurisdictions such as Brazil, Canada, England, Ethiopia, Israel, and the United States to consider the theories that underpin their CLE programmes. This resulted in an edited collection entitled Thinking About Clinical Legal Education: Philosophical and Theoretical Perspectives. The intention of this volume is not to obscure or eclipse the practical and experiential by focusing on theory, but to invite the reader to consider whether the practice of CLE can be enhanced by paying more explicit attention to its theoretical underpinnings. (more…)

How are international courts dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

by Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, University of Bristol Law School

UN Photo/CIJ-ICJ/Frank van Beek. Courtesy of the ICJ.

Since the commencement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, different international courts and tribunals have been engaged as means to invoke international responsibility for the various violations of international law that have occurred. As is often the case in international law, however, the proceedings initiated before these tribunals reflect a very particular legal framing of the broader invasion and conduct of hostilities (I wrote on this theme a few years ago in relation to the post-2014 litigation between Ukraine and Russia). This is a consequence of the absence in international law of a single, integrated judicial system with compulsory jurisdiction. Instead, there are many different courts that, for the most part, have limited subject-matter jurisdiction. (more…)

Bill of Rights: An unexpected surprise in relation to the s 3 HRA duty to interpret

 

by Robert Craig, the Law School, University of Bristol

The long awaited Bill seeking to reform the Human Rights Act 1998 (‘HRA’) was released on 22 June and is complex enough to cause an immediate outbreak of cold towels and hot-water-in-bowls amongst the legal Twitterati. No doubt there will be many hot takes on the substance of the new Bill of Rights Bill (‘BoRB’) but an early and fairly comprehensive analysis has been provided by Mark Elliott. For an even more aggressive response to BoRB see Daniella Lock on the UKCLA blog, published on 27 June. This post examines one slightly unusual aspect of the proposed new regime which is the effect of BoRB on legislation that has been expansively construed under s 3 HRA. This is by no means the only example of complications thrown up by the Bill and no doubt others will emerge in discussion on twitter and elsewhere. One well known legal commentator has amusingly described a particular twitter thread on 22 June as “legal geekery of the gods”. (more…)

Why is entering into multiple procurement-related free trade agreements problematic?

by Albert Sanchez-Graells, Professor of Economic Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Global Law and Innovation

Banana stem cross section. Photo Credit: Ian Jacobs

Post-Brexit, the UK has been repositioning itself in the global trade scene. Focusing on trade-related public procurement liberalisation, the first two moves for the UK were: one, to join the World Trade Agreement Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), of which it had been a member via the EU, and two, to enter into a comprehensive procurement chapter with the EU in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). As a result of these two moves, the UK largely consolidated the pre-Brexit status quo and ensured continuity in market access for UK suppliers abroad, as well as foreign suppliers in the UK.

The next move is now for the UK to expand procurement-related trade liberalisation via free trade agreements (FTAs), of which it has signed one with Australia and another with New Zealand. The UK is also seeking accession to other multilateral FTAs covering procurement, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Interestingly, both Australia and New Zealand are parties to the GPA and to the CPTPP, so the UK is about to create a triple layer of regulation of procurement liberalisation with these two countries, as all relevant procurement exercises will be subjected to the GPA, the CPTPP and the FTAs. Is this a problematic strategy? (more…)

Why the police in England and Wales must do more than just learn lessons

by Clare Torrible, University of Bristol Law School
Sandor Szmutko | Shutterstock

 

Police accountability is crucial to trust and confidence in the police. Quite what form that accountability should take, though, is a matter of debate.

Isolated incidents of excessive force may correctly be seen as culpable and requiring disciplinary action. Others might more appropriately be interpreted as indicating that training is needed. The question, then, is whether the aim of good and fair policing is best served by greater emphasis on officers being sanctioned or on them learning lessons. (more…)

What Should You Know about the Global Law Clinic Movement and Human Rights Education?

By Omar Madhloom, University of Bristol Law School

 

Many law firms now not only have dedicated pro bono departments, but also engage in pro bono in other jurisdictions. Broadly speaking, pro bono is the provision of legal services to individuals or groups who do not have the means to enforce their claim rights. Violations of human rights are now able to affect every member of the global community, and globalization facilitates human rights issues. Consequently, there is a global language of morality which includes the concern for justice, which inevitably extends to a discussion over protection of human rights. The question, therefore, is how to teach and train future lawyers to identify and respond to global injustices? One answer to this question is by embedding human rights education into Clinical Legal Education (CLE). (more…)

Mental Health Awareness Week: Tackling the loneliness epidemic in the wake of the Covid pandemic

by Judy Laing, University of Bristol Law School

A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ’.

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.

 

Mental Health Awareness week this year is focusing on loneliness. As the Chair of the Mental Health Foundation explains, loneliness is a ‘significant public health issue’ and ‘remains one of the key indicators of poor mental health’. (more…)

Risk assessment at work during the coronavirus pandemic and while ‘living with’ COVID-19: What can England learn from Sweden?

by Peter Andersson, University of Gothenburg and Tonia Novitz, University of Bristol Law School

The crisis which arose in March 2020 regarding the coronavirus pandemic immediately centred on risk. Predictions had to be made swiftly regarding how the virus would spread, whom it might affect and what measures could be taken to prevent exposure, including in the workplace. As part of a broader Swedish Research Council project (2018 – 2022), we have conducted a comparative study of English and Swedish responses to the pandemic, focussing on their treatment of risk.

It was apparent that the two countries took very different approaches to COVID-19. For example, ‘lockdowns’ like those implemented in the UK were not imposed in Sweden, although Swedes were requested to work at home as much as possible.

We recognise that risk assessment plays two key roles. One is pre-emptive, namely to prevent harms rather than only compensating for such harms after the fact. The second role is defensive, protecting an employer from liability by demonstrating that due care was taken. We have found that the Swedish approach is more pre-emptive, while in the UK risk assessment is used more defensively in criminal and civil litigation.

The pre-emptive role of risk assessment, or the scope of any ability to prevent harms, is inherently limited by who is identified as the legitimate subject of risk assessment: ‘employees’, ‘workers’ or ‘independent contractors’? This has been the subject of a judicial review action brought by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) against the Secretary of State for Law and Pensions. A significant outcome of the judgment delivered by Chamberlain J, which sought to implement the European Union (EU) Framework Directive on Health and Safety and the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) Directive, was the extension of entitlement to PPE to so-called ‘limb(b) workers’ (as designated under UK statute) as opposed to merely ‘employees’. Moreover, the judgment recognised the right of ‘workers’ to refuse to work where there is serious or imminent danger under section 44 of the Employment Rights Act (ERA) 1996 without detriment. However, only those workers deemed ‘employees’ could claim protection from dismissal under section 100 of the ERA.

By way of contrast, Swedish work environment law has long recognised that a broader range of persons qualify for health and safety protections as ‘employees’ or ‘equivalent to employees’. A specific project was created extending protections to self-employed platform workers. After legal challenges in which employers successfully argued that they did not have ‘employer responsibility’, the Swedish Work Environment Authority abandoned this scheme, but a proposed EU Platform Work Directive (if adopted) may enable its reinstatement. In this sense, EU law has a significant effect on the coverage of risk assessment, which raises important issues regarding protection of those at work in the UK post-Brexit.

There is also a vital difference between England and Sweden in terms of the statutory funding and powers of relevant supervisory bodies. While both countries have comparable statutory agencies engaged in promoting assessment of risk by employers and its amelioration, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Swedish Work Environment Authority (SWEA), there were notable disparities between their capacities in the context of the pandemic. Both actively advocated that employers undertake additional risk assessment during the pandemic. However, funding of the HSE had declined dramatically in the years preceding the pandemic (from £331 million in 2009/10 to £226 million in 2019/20), such that a temporary injection of £14 million in May 2020 could not readily revive its supervisory functions, nor did the HSE intervene with detailed advice as regards what risk assessment in English workplaces should entail. Instead, it appeared that the HSE had ‘gone missing’. It was the English Government that issued sometimes questionable guidance on what was ‘COVID-secure’, with prominent advice from what was ‘Public Health England’ (since October 2021 replaced by two bodies, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, which places health-related issues more directly under UK Government control). Risks identified in such guidance tended to be solely physical and not psycho-social, despite forms of stress created by combined teleworking and home schooling, especially for women. It remains probable that in England, few civil and criminal cases will be brought, given that employers did follow the bare bones of this guidance. In this sense, risk assessment in England has served its defensive function for employers, but the rates of deaths and long-COVID now being reported suggest that the workforce did not go unharmed.

Finally, there is a significant difference between England and Sweden regarding the extent of collective worker representation promoted in OSH. In publications issued by the HSE during the pandemic, recommending that employers ‘talk to’ their workers, statutory requirements to inform and consult workers were glossed over. By way of contrast, the SWEA received more complaints and carried out more inspections, prompted by the active statutory role which trade union representatives play. There are wider ranging entitlements in Sweden to call for a stoppage of work until OSH issues are addressed and these were deployed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic on 328 occasions.

In February 2022, most COVID-19-related public health restrictions ended in England and Sweden, despite criticism from scientists and medical professionals, giving further cause to reflect on different responses to management of risk assessment and their effects. While coronavirus variants spread globally and other issues concerning viral contagion remain, we consider there remain compelling arguments for legal, policy and institutional reform that deserve continued attention.

See further: