Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 A Year I Will Enjoy Celebrating

2015 has been a hectic but exciting year. I have worked exceptionally hard and reaped the rewards. At 30, I now feel that I possess the confidence and dedication to ensure that all of my dreams become a reality. I think that life experience and surrounding yourself with allot of positive people helps! 

In 2016, I have continued to work hard volunteering with the vulnerable through various volunteering projects. My favourite moment was when my first case with NCDV was successful as I knew how important it was to the applicant, to enable them to make a fresh and safe start. 

I have spent allot of the year studying at the most antisociable hours to enable me to continue juggling the BPTC alongside full-time work and family commitments. There have been times when I have felt like I am sleepwalking and where I have lost track of what day or month it is. Nevertheless, I have made it through with my sanity still intact, thanks to supportive friends and a lot of determination. 

I was proud to have my volunteering accomplishments recognised when I won Volunteer of the Year.  My strong work ethic also lead to me securing paid employment with Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council. This opportunity enabled me to learn interesting new skills while supporting a charity that works hard to promote equality and human rights within the local community and beyond. While I was sad to leave this role it was not long before I was offered a new opportunity as a Paralegal at Tollers Solicitors, working in a friendly but professional environment. My new role is aiding my understanding of civil procedures. I am hoping this will aid me in my civil litigation exam in spring 2016. 

I was also excited to catch up with what I hope are lifelong friends, at my graduation in February 2015. I was ecstatic to attend the Star Wars Premier with one of these friends. I also made new friends and memories during my weekend away at Cumberland Lodge with Inner Temple. 

As the end of 2015 rapidly approached I was proud to see one of my closest friends commence on her training contract at 21 years of age which is a fantastic achievement. Similarly, it was refreshing to hear that one of my BPTC classmates had secured pupillage for 2016.  

2015 has opened so many doors for me. I feel that I have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. I am really excited for 2016. I know the first few months will require dedication while sitting my final bar exams. Nevertheless, I will continue to be motivated with the knowledge that Call Night is near and 2016 is the year that the world becomes my oyster. 

Best of luck to everyone completing their LLB, BPTC or Pupillage. I wish you all a fun, loving, healthy and prosperous new year, full of exciting life opportunities!! 

I look forward to having some more free time in 2016 to continue building on this blog. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Increase in Rape Victims Reporting Offences in Northamptonshire but Conviction Rates Remain Low

On the 05 November 2015, (HMIC) published new reports drafted by the Rape Monitoring Group. These reports compile data on adult and child rapes reported to each police force last year, 2014/2015. The reports have conveniently been broken down to disclose the data and statistics of rapes reported to each police force across England and Wales. This data has been helpfully separated into adult and child rapes and includes data from the Police, Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) and Ministry of Justice. It is broken down as follows:

Police-Recorded Data on Rape
Number of recorded rapes;
Number of rape reports later reclassified as no crimes;
How many reports lead to a suspect being charged with rape.

Data from the CPS
Number of cases referred to the (CPS) by the police
force for a decision on whether or not to charge with rape;
How many defendants were subsequently charged with committing rape;
How many people were prosecuted for committing a rape offence;
How many defendants were convicted.

Data from the Ministry of Justice
Number of prosecutions & convictions;
Time taken to complete proceedings, from date charged;
Average custodial sentences upon conviction.

You can find the report for Northamptonshire Police here. If you wish to compare this data with other Police Forces across England and Wales you can find the data for the Police Force of your choice here.

The reports disclosed that Northamptonshire Police had the 3rd highest number of rapes reported during a 12 month period in 2014/2015. Unsurprisingly for its condensed population, London had the highest number of rapes reported. Hampshire had the second highest number of rapes being reported. 
The fact that Northamptonshire Police Force has the 3rd highest number of rapes reported last year could be a positive sign of victims in the local community having trust and confidence in the local police. This was suggested in an article published this morning by Northampton Herald and PostDetective Superintendent Steve Lingley stated that:

"The rise in recorded rape offences in Northamptonshire is recognised by all agencies in the county as a mark of the increased confidence of victims to come forward, including victims of historic sexual offences, so we are not surprised to see an increase.


During the past year, Northamptonshire Police recorded 289 adult rapes and 138 child rapes, totalling 427 victims. In comparison, the City of London Police recorded an astronomical 3,742 adult victims of rape and 1,337 child victims. These figures are more than 10x higher than the reports recorded by Northamptonshire Police.

Below is a table comparing the population and reported number of rapes from Northamptonshire, Hampshire and City of London Police Forces.

Population and Rapes Reported

Data from 2014/2015
Northampton
Hampshire
City of London
Population 
710,000
1,930,000
320,000 + additional 320,000 tourists/workers
Adult rapes reported
289
839
3,742
Child rapes reported
139
359
1,337
Total reported
428
1,198
5,079

At first glance of the figures released I am proud to live in a country where victims have the courage to come forward and seek justice and prevent future victims. It takes allot of courage for rape victims to report such traumatic and personal incidents. These victims should be praised for seeking justice and preventing their rapists from destroying additional potential victims lives. The increase in the number of rapes reported in Northamptonshire is a positive indication of the local communities trust in supporting rape victims. However, I hope that this data is not a reflection of Northamptonshire being a hotspot for rape crime. I am concerned that this is not something the local police or media have contemplated when discussing these statistics today. Nevertheless, I will consider whether this could be a concern in a future blog to avoid going off track today. 

When comparing data between the three forces, I discovered that Hampshire had the highest number of referrals to the CPS at nearly 20%. Unfortunately, Northampton Police Force had the lowest referral rate of the three forces at less than 14 %. This lead to Hampshire Police having a slightly higher charge rate which unsurprisingly appears to have resulted in a slightly higher prosecution rate in Hampshire. However, the % of cases reported that lead to charges or a prosecution were very similar between Northamptonshire and City of London. 

(This data can be compared in the table I have compiled below. )

 Comparing Outcomes of Rape Crimes Reported

Data from 2014/2015
Northampton
Hampshire
City of London

No                           %
No                            %
No                            %
Refereed to CPS
58                       13.55
239                       19.50
791                       15.57
Charged
40                         9.35
122                       10.18
482                        9.49
Prosecutions
43                       10.05
144                       12.02
550                       10.83
Convictions
11                         2.57
15                          1.25
188                        3.70


(% of reported rapes to that police force during 2014/2015)

When I analysed the data for prosecutions and convictions, I was disappointed to see that only 11 rape reports lead to a conviction in Northamptonshire, in 2014/2015. That means more than 97% of rape victims who report their traumatic attacks do not secure justice. These statistics are devastating when you take into consideration the number of victims you could add to these statistics who fail to report rape for various reasons. The successful conviction rate in Hampshire is even more concerning considering their conviction rates represent only 1.25% of the incidents reported. The City of London Police has the highest successful conviction rate between the three forces at 3.7%.

While Northamptonshire Police force should be pleased that they have one of the highest report rates in the country I do feel that they need to look into ways that they can contribute to securing higher conviction rates in order to protect the local community. Without a doubt, none of the police forces are solely responsible for these horrendous conviction rates. In fact, I am sure that this data is disheartening for officers who work hard to identify suspects and obtain evidence with the objective of protecting the public. Nevertheless, this data must not be ignored. 

A successful conviction rate of less that 3% means that more than 97% of rape victims are being let down. You may be wondering why I have reached a calculation of 97% of victims when we live in a State where you are rightfully 'innocent until proven guilty'. Nevertheless, regardless of whether all reports are honest and whether the correct person has been investigated you can still be sure that the number of victims let down by the legal system remains the same. For every rape incident truthfully reported that does not result in a conviction there will be a victim unable to draw closure on their distressing attack. For every dishonest report made that leads to an innocent suspect wrongfully being accused of rape, there will be a victim whose reputation is destroyed for the rest of their life with serious consequences. Either way, these victims deserve more!  

Celebrating National Pro Bono Week 2015

In celebration of National Pro Bono week 2015, I have drafted a blog discussing my volunteering experiences. The blog was published in 2 parts on the LawBore website, in partnership with City University. As a BPTC student at City Law School and winner of the Volunteer of the Year award 2015 I hope that these blogs will inspire other law students to volunteer in their local community.

You can read part 1 of the blog here.
You can read part 2 of the blog here.

I hope that these blogs inspire other law students to volunteer in their local community and benefit from the rewards of supporting those most in need.

Offering pro bono services can aid the local community in many ways. This can include:

  • Enabling people in poverty to have access to legal advice or alternative key service that they would not otherwise be able to access due to lack of finances;
  • Preventing the most vulnerable from having their rights infringed;
  • Improve the standard of service offered to clients. You may find that you can offer skills that other members of the team do not have. Particularly if you offer your services for a project with less legal influence. (Remember to provide your unique and more advanced skills, sensitively without behaving like a 'know it all'.Remember they will also have knowledge or skills that you do not possess!)
  • Improves the reputation of the legal profession within the local community.


Conducting pro bono can also have benefits for the person donating their time and skills. This can include:

  • Putting your academic skills into practice in a professional environment;
  • Building confidence in communicating with real clients and colleagues;
  • Opportunities to create new professional contacts with fellow volunteers and other professionals that you may be interacting with; 
  • Developing your commercial awareness;
  • Provides you with a guilt-free escape from your studies;
  • Opportunity to feel like you are making a difference;
  • Understanding the effects of funding cuts to legal aid, Local Authorities, Community Projects, etc. It is not until you are working in an environment where you are faced with the consequences of funding cuts, that you can appreciate the adverse effect that these cuts are having on people most in need of support;
  • Unlock new career opportunities including more advanced pro bono work and paid employment;
  • Increase the different scholarships available to you. There are some scholarships and other awards specifically aimed at applicants who have made a positive change within their local community or the legal system etc. For example my previous dedication to volunteering enabled me to stand out when applying for the Rosie Keane Memorial Scholarship. Consequently, I was awarded this scholarship worth £5,000 off my BPTC tuition fees in 2014;
  • Building new friendships and being an active part of your local community;
  • Make a difference where it is most needed;
  • Opportunities to participate in free training workshops;
  • If you are a visual or practical learner, it may improve your understanding of a topic covered in your studies, depending on what role you decide to volunteer in.

You will find further information about some of my volunteering experiences in other posts on my blog. 

The Law Society have an area on their website dedicated to Pro Bono facts and statistics. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

What Do You Do When Your A Victim Of Hate Crime & The System Repeatedly Fails To Support You?

So you are probably thinking this blog has a theoretical title? Unfortunately, you are WRONG!!!

Campaign of Abuse
Mr Loyan Ali endured fourteen months of racial incidents at his allotment that he used to rent in Harlestone Road. He suffered from incidents of hate crime during the months of April 2014 to November 2014. The campaign of hate crime against MR Ali and his family included multiple incidents of racial abuse and physical threats towards Mr Ali, some of which were in the presence of his wife and children. This also included destruction to his allotment produce and the killing of his poultry which he kept on the allotment. (Who on earth threatens to kill someone’s pets/livestock? )


Failure to Act on Reports
He reported these incidents to both Northamptonshire Police and Northampton Borough Council. (Northampton Borough Council are responsible for managing the allotments with Enterprise.) However, no action has ever been taken against any of the perpetrators of the anti-social behaviour and hate crime towards Mr Ali and his allotment. It is clear that Mr Ali has been unacceptably let down by the 'system' in respect of decisions made by Northamptonshire Police not to take action against his reports. In fact, one Police Officer from Northamptonshire Police carelessly told Mr Ali that the reason that he was experiencing racial harassment was due to 'him reporting incidents'. The same police officer then recklessly advised Mr Ali to cease reporting incidents.

Mr Ali Made Every Effort to Resolve
Mr Ali took every opportunity available to resolve issues using what should have been 'appropriate reporting structures'. He even made formal complaints about the lack of support that he had received as a victim of hate crime.  He even contacted Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council (NREC) for support. NREC have worked hard to help Mr Ali and have regularly raised concerns over the way the District Council and Police failed to support him, at local hate crime meetings. 

Even when the law failed him, Mr Ali expressed willingness to attend discussions and mediation to resolve the ongoing issues. Nevertheless, both Northamptonshire Police and Northampton Borough Council continued to let him down by cancelling meetings at the last minute and failing to reschedule.

Mr Ali Makes a StandUnfortunately, Mr Ali's experience of racial hatred and the incident that lead to his arrest resulted in him feeling that he was left with no alternative option but to terminate his contract at the allotment on Harlestone Road. Mr Ali ceased using his allotment back in November 2014. This is another example of Mr Ali taking steps to prevent future altercations between himself and other allotment users who were responsible for the hate campaign against Mr Ali, before his conviction in July 2015.

Victim Unfairly Convicted
As you can imagine the failure to support Mr Ali lead to incidents progressing. Then one day Mr Ali felt so threatened that he retaliated spontaneously in response to a threat, in fear that the perpetrators would cause further damage to his property on his allotment and his family. Despite all of his previous complaints never progressing to any action. The moment Mr Ali responded in self-defence, he was arrested and charged under s4 Public Order Act. This is despite the fact that Mr Ali was the real victim and despite the fact that Mr Ali did not physically harm anyone.

Mr Ali's distressing journey did not stop there as unfortunately the Crown Prosecution Service let him down too. The CPS failed to consider adequately the reports that he had previously raised with Northamptonshire Police during April-August 2014. 

This has been a long and distressing procedure for Mr Ali which resulted in him recently being convicted in the local Magistrates Court. Subsequently, he was sentenced to a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £350 costs (don't even get me started on new court costs) and £15 victims surcharge on 17 August 2015.

It is difficult to identify any justice in this man being convicted after a counter allegation was made by the hate incident perpetrators when his own reports were unfairly dismissed.

NREC believe that Mr Ali's distressing situation was aggravated by the lack of specialist expertise within Northamptonshire Police since the closure of their Hate Crime Unit which has led to a lack of hate crime specialists within the force.

Mr Ali Reflects on this Distressing Experience
“As a result of my experiences my self-worth and self-esteem has been badly damaged and the trust I had in the justice system has been eroded. I have been unfairly treated by the court, the police and the Borough Council.” (Extracted from NREC website)

So What Should Victims of Hate Crime Do??
I am still unsure how to respond to this question. What do you do when the system that is in place to support and protect you fails to take positive action to support you and keep you mentally and physically safe? Other than logging a formal complaint and seeking 3rd party support you are very vulnerable and limited. Even raising complaints can seem lengthy and unproductive. As you can see Mr Ali pursued both of these options. Nevertheless, the degrading treatment that he faced continued until he felt that he had no other option other than to stand up for himself. I am also concerned about what could have happened to Mr Ali if he had not have made a stand. How far would this victimisation have gone? Would he have woken up in a hospital bed instead of a police cell?

How is it fair or just when a victim loses everything including their hobby/ source of food, good name, and confidence to then also be penalised by a system that failed to act? Even if the local Police Force and Borough Council take steps to prevent future reports spiralling out of control this will not give comfort to Mr Ali. 



Are You A Victim Of Hate Crime?
  • Report incident to the police and any public bodies that may hold responsibility for assisting you.
  • Speak to a third party for support and guidance to avoid hasty action.
  • Contact Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council or similar for support and advice.
  • Avoid taking things into your own hands.

  • If you feel that you have no other option other than to challenge the perpetrators actions make sure that there are independent witnesses present and try to remain calm and inoffensive. 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Internship Secured at Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council

I am pleased to confirm that two weeks ago on 13 July 2015 I began a three-month paid internship with Northamptonshire rights and Equality Council. This has relieved some of my stress over raising September's BPTC fees.

I have been really enjoying my new challenge over the past two weeks. It has been exciting working back in an environment where I am working with colleagues, after being self-employed for several years. I already feel that the depth of my knowledge of equality and human rights has significantly improved. I am currently in the process of developing new training courses to improve the financial stability of NREC's future. I have also attended meetings in the local council chambers, conferences and fairs.

I  will post a more in-depth blog on my experience in a few weeks when I have more time and more experiences to share.

The Race Relations Act @50-Dame Jocelyn Barrows

Dame Jocelyn Barrows does not need any introducing to those of you who campaign against racism within the United Kingdom. For those of you who have not heard of her she has been a leading campaigner for racial equality for around 50 years. Dame Jocelyn Barrows was born in Trinidad but arrived in her home country, the United Kingdom in the late 1960's.

Dame Jocelyn has been an academic for all of her life until recently retiring at the young age of 86. She decided to stay for a ‘while’ in England after discovering that Caribbean children were not fitting in or reaching their full potentials in UK schools. Their parents lacked understanding of the UK education system and the schools lacked knowledge of Caribbean school customs. The teachers needed to be taught how to deal with Caribbean children in order to teach the children successfully. Teachers needed to understand that parents and teachers in the Caribbean BOTH instructed children rather than the UK tradition of ‘teachers asking and parents telling.’ In Dame Jocelyn’s speech, she expressed the importance of parents and teachers working together for the children's welfare and education to ensure that both parties have the same aims and objectives. I believe that this continues to be important for children development today, regardless of whether they are used to British customs.

Dame Jocelyn explained that the British government offered incentives to Caribbean people returning to the Caribbean after the second world war to encourage them to return to England to work in labour roles. Nevertheless, there was still a huge amount of racial tension present in the UK. While there have been improvements in tackling racism over the past 50 years, its presence remains, but more discreetly.

It was clear throughout Dame Jocelyn's speech that she has got through life successfully with a good sense of humor to address crass questions such as “where are you from” and “where did you learn English”. She made a joke about how she is proud to tell the staff at customs that she has been British since long before they were born! (As Jocelyn is a British national born in the British Commonwealth of Trinidad.)

Dame Jocelyn moved on to discuss the Race Relations Act 1965. She described the Race Relations Act 1965 as a gesture of good will, with the real changes being implemented in the Race Relations Act 1968. The Dame was part of the Community Relations Commission. In the 1970’s the CRC became part of the Commission for Racial Equality. The Commission for Racial Equality was a non-departmental public body that aimed to address racial discrimination and promote racial equality. Its work has since been merged into the new Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Race Relations Act 1973 allowed people suffering discrimination to seek justice. However, the Dame explained that this was not plain sailing! The Commission conducted research to identify the true extent of racism within the United Kingdom. They selected Caribbean people with high academics and qualifications to apply for jobs in the city alongside white British applicants. However, despite the white applicants having lower academics they were always offered employment. Only one Caribbean person was offered employment in the city over white applicants, which was for a job to open up a branch in 'Africa'.

The Dame spoke about the difficulty in seeking justice in cases of racial discrimination because people are reluctant to go to court. However, this results in inequality and discrimination such as racism becoming stigmatic and prevents change. This continues to be a serious issue in irradiating racism today. Particularly since people developed the 'they are playing the race card' attitude when people attempt to challenge racial discrimination. 

Jocelyn discussed the media's role in promoting diversity. Initially, programmes aimed at showing people that different races could live together were unsuccessful. For example programmes such as 'love they neighbour' and the'mixed lessons’. Nevertheless, over time, racial acceptance has improved with the increased presence of ethnic minorities on television. Dame Jocelyn discussed the importance of all ethnic people being fairly represented across the board from road sweepers to government. This was similar to the message that Sir Lenny Henry was trying to raise in 2014 when he raised concerns over the racial imbalance that continues to exist on the television. 

Nevertheless, with cuts to funding anti-racism is being pushed aside to promote equality for other protected characteristics such as gender and sexuality. (This is something that unfortunately I am all to familiar with from working at Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council.) Therefore, Dame Jocelyn urged everyone to continue to ensure that campaigning for racial equality continues. She wisely stated that there is no reason why the second and third generation of the Commonwealth can not have equal rights and opportunities along with other British nationals.

The Race Relations Act @50-Dean Blake Morant

This blog was inspired by my attendance at a recent conference held at The British Academy on the 09-10 July 2015. The conference was titled ‘The Race Relations Act @ 50’.

On Thursday morning, the conference was opened by a powerfully intense speech by Professor Charles Lawrence. After Professor Lawrence's speech, we heard from the distinguished Dean Blake Morant. Blake Morant is the Dean of Montana Law School. He is also the President of the Association of American Law Schools.

Morant described the three key areas to focus on in order to increase change and development as:
 1)Education (particularly within Law Schools)
2) Business 
3) Legal/political change

Morant explained the strong ethos of diversity behind the Association of American Law Schools. He highlighted the importance of diversity throughout the American legal system to mirror society.  He moved on to discuss his career journey from a poor background where his mother was the first of her family to attend college. His motivation to be successful was influenced by his mother who taught him to "be academic or to be dead". His parents were strong believers in the importance of education in social and racial developmental change.

Morant stated that you can legislate rules and formalities but it is the context in which they are applied! This made me recognise the fact that it does not matter how many laws are implemented or how much effort goes into developing change if we do not also change the attitudes of society. This led to me assessing the importance of changing the attitudes and perceptions of both the wider public and members of the legal sector. Without positive and universal shifts in the attitudes of both judges and jurors, they can continue to enforce inequality based on their attitudes and interpretation of the law when delivering verdicts, judgements and sentences. Therefore more balance and diversity are needed across the American legal system, particularly the judiciary so that it represents the diverse population across America, subsequently encouraging change.

Morant also spoke about the ways his law schools teach students the importance of getting involved, in order to create social and legal change. He discussed the importance of teaching law students diversity in professionalism. He emphasised the point that without diversity and acceptance of people's differences you restrict yourself within the current legal climate. It was disappointing to hear some of his stories about white American law students intolerance of fellow students from other backgrounds. 

The Deans stories have made me analyse cultural and racial acceptance at UK law schools. I have not observed any direct racism towards specific students during my time at bar school. However, students who's first language is English have expressed intolerance of some students who speak English as a supplementary language. Some of these students concerns may be justified due to the level of accurate use of language expected of law students when studying at both undergraduate and professional training levels. Nevertheless, comments such as foreign students should attend separate classes are still subconsciously racist even if the legitimate reason for the suggestion is to divide people based on their ability to engage and exceed on the courses. If this was a legitimate reason to segregate students based on their nationality, students from private schools could argue that students from state schools hold up their development too. To separate students for either reasons would be like going back 50 years to a divided society where we do not use the same facilities as each other. Therefore instead of undermining international students abilities to engage in courses due to their level of oral English, perhaps we should be respecting their bilingual intelligence and appreciate the diversity that they bring to the course. It is clear that both American and UK law school students still need educating on equality.

The Race Relations Act @50-Professor Charles Lawrence 'Black Lives Matter'

This blog was inspired by my attendance at a recent conference held at The British Academy on the 09-10 July 2015. The conference was titled ‘The Race Relations Act @ 50’.

On Thursday morning, the conference was opened by a powerfully intense speech by Professor Charles Lawrence, who is a distinguished professor of law at the University of Hawaii. Professor Lawrence has been acclaimed for his work in anti-discrimination law, equality protection and critical race theory. He has sat on numerous public interest boards including the District of Columbia Board of Education. The title of the paper that he discussed at the conference was called ‘Black Lives Matter: Black Freedom, Mass Movements, Race Laws and Lessons from America’s Past and Present’.

Professor Lawrence began by reiterating African-American’s past connection to slavery. He described how African-American slaves who escaped the cotton fields achieved more than freedom. They challenged power and the ideology that property was more important than humanity. He quoted that a slave once said that the land should be owned by those who worked it!
The distinguished Professor described the role of activation in promoting racial equality while explaining the importance of activists learning about themselves during their protests.  He discussed how slavery and prejudice favors ownership of property over humanity. Professor Lawrence also explained how exposing the constitutions lies assisted in the restructuring of the legal system and policies. He also explained that what activists learnt through demonstrations was more important than what they actually achieved!

The most profound challenge came from young black revalued people through demonstrations in the Deep South in a non-violent manner (SNIP). Black activists in the 60s and 70s seemed more and their visions went beyond ideology. They saw themselves as part of a civil struggle rather than legal change. They learnt the beauty and strength of their own humanity as racial segregation became an embarrassment.

After the assassination of Martin Luther King and the implementation of new legislation demonstrations continued as legislation was insufficient. The politics of black civil rights was actually formed through the violent demonstrations during the mid 60's as groups of black people set up their own schools etc.

Professor described how in 2015 black people continue to be disciplined through continued deaths carried out by white people. These deaths continue to highlight racism and the reality that black lives do not matter to the states in the USA. You do not have to dig too deeply to appreciate the lack of justice that continues to exists for African-American men in the USA when at least two are killed each week by police in the USA The State refuses to spend a 10th of what is spent on imprisonment on assisting children in poverty, who are predominantly from non-white backgrounds. Disproportionate prison occupancy, homeless families, hungry children, separate ethnic schooling all highlight the continued division and injustice that African Americans face.

Professor Lawrence chillingly signified how his wife reads aloud daily to him Tweets relating to racism and anti-racism, including the #icantbreath and #blacklivesmatter. He emphasised the all too familiar injustice that we hear of within the media and social media. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as Professor Lawrence reeled of cases such as the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner in New York. He described the shock that the public demonstrated in these high profile cases as subconsciously existing due to the lack of injustice being expected, rather than shock.

He moved on to discuss the recent events in Charleston and quoted the killers chilling words "you are raping our women and killing our children". 'The mayor of Charleston publicly described the racist murders as "Pure concentrated evil". Since these inhumane deaths, there have been huge demands to remove the racist confederate flag. Businesses including Walmart and eBay have joined the fight against racism by publicly refusing to sell the Confederate flag in future! "We can't look away and use the law to pretend that racism has been cured!" "The black youths of today must now face the challenges of making sure all black lives matter across the USA."

Professor Lawrence moved on to explain the radical changes that are needed to ensure that his dreams of racial justice and equality become a reality. He explained how the redistribution of land was essential in achieving this. He also discussed how revolutionary transformation is achieved.

At the end of Professor Lawrence's speech, I was left contemplating the fact that historical changes to racial equality have only been accomplished due to the powerful white wanting 'peace' rather than humanity existing in their soles.

Inner Temple Student Residential Weekend- Preventable Deaths: Life in the Hands of the State, Does it Really Care?

On a sunny Friday afternoon in March 2015, I arrived at Cumberland Lodge, set within the beautiful grounds of Windsor Great Park. I attended Cumberland Lodge as one of my Inns annual residential weekends, held for student members of the Inn. The weekend was worth 3 of my 12 dining points which all BPTC students are required to complete before being called to the Bar of England and Wales. 

The weekend was a fantastic opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with fellow BPTC students from different course providers across the country. It was also a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere to network with senior members of the bar and other professionals who had kindly given up their weekend to offer their expertise and support. During the weekend there were also opportunities to attend lectures with experienced and senior professionals involved in preventing and investigating deaths of prisoners in custody. 

I have a keen interest in prisoner welfare as a Lay Observer, Independent Custody Visitor and Appropriate Adult. Therefore, I was very excited about attending this event from the moment I discovered that I had successfully secured a place to attend this residential weekend. This was prior to me discovering the details of the successful professionals that were in attendance. Professional speakers included Dame Anne Owers DBE (the chair of the IPCC), Helen Shaw (Co-Director of Inquest), Marin Casey (HM Coroner), Professor Keith Rix (Forensic Psychiatrist) and Lesley Thomas QC. We also had the opportunity to interact with members of the bench and several barristers. 

On the Saturday afternoon members of the bar held an interactive mock trial/advocacy masterclass for students to observe. Student members of the Inn also participated in advocacy exercises daily, benefiting from advice from skilled barristers and lecturers. These sessions were particularly useful for BPTC students with upcoming advocacy assessments. I found the advocacy classes useful for building on my advocacy confidence when performing in front of people who I am unfamiliar with. At Bar School, you quickly build confidence when performing in front of your peers due to knowing each other. In fact, it must have been my lucky week as I was placed in the advocacy group judged by Lesley Thomas QC which meant that I dined in a group with him and his guest speakers. As someone who has dedicated the past few years to prisoner welfare, it felt like I had won the lottery sitting in the presence of the most senior campaigners for prisoner welfare. To suggest that the conversations were inspiring and thought provoking would be an understatement. I also found that Lesley was one of the most friendly but professional senior members of the legal profession that I have ever met. That is probably why he is held in such high regard throughout the legal profession and beyond. It was only last week that Dame Jocelyn Barrow praised Lesley's work during her speech at the 'Race Relations Act @ 50' conference.

In the daytime, there were breaks in our busy timetable to enjoy walking around the grounds and a chat over coffee and cake. In the evenings, we enjoyed dining in our groups, a few drinks in the bar and a game of pool in the basement of the lodge. On the Saturday evening, we were entertained by both students and benchers who took part in a tasteful but energetic talent competition, followed by karaoke. In fact, the atmosphere was so energetic and friendly on the Saturday evening that even a member of the bar staff decided to join in on the karaoke and entertained us with a few hits.

There was also an opportunity to attend The Royal Chapel for Sunday service where we were blessed with the presence of HRH Queen Elisabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh. It was very exciting to see HRH outside the chapel; her Majesty had a very positive aurora. I am not usually enthusiastic about attending church but on this occasion so many people were attending in hope of meeting the Queen, so I though it would be a nice experience. The service exceeded my expectations and was my most pleasant visits to church. I think it is very nice that the Queen allows visors of the grounds to attend The Royal Chapel, in her presence (subject to security clearance).

Although the weekend focused on discussing deaths in custody and developing our advocacy skills, there was plenty of time to unwind, network and make new friends. I have built new friendships with people who I may not have had an opportunity to have met if I had not have attended this weekend. Four months after this training weekend and I am still in contact with several people that I met that weekend and hope to meet up again soon.

The residential weekend at Cumberland Lodge was an amazing experience and I will forever cherish my memories of that weekend. In fact, I enjoyed the weekend so much that I wish the opportunity was available annually through my Inn. It was a very positive way to network and build positive relations in a relaxing but educational environment. I would like to thank Lesley Thomas QC and Inner Temple for organising an interesting and memorable weekend in friendly and knowledgeable company.

I hope my blog encourages all BPTC students to take advantage of the one-off opportunity of attending a residential weekend with their Inn, before being called to the bar.

Friday, 26 June 2015

UPDATE ON MY STEM CELL RECIPIENT - 1 YEAR AFTER TRANSPLANT

I wanted to share some positive news with you all today. I was excited this morning to receive a letter from Anthony Nolan, providing me with an update on the recipient of my stem cells. (I can not believe that it was nearly a year ago that I donated my stem cells to an anonymous recipient, with the support of Anthony Nolan.) I am pleased to confirm that I have been informed that he is still alive and fighting, thanks to Anthony Nolan finding me as his match. While it does not appear that he is back to perfect health, it is still amazing to think that courtesy to modern technology and amazing charities like Anthony Nolan, this individual has at least a chance of returning to good health or extra time to make special memories with loved ones. (Anyone who has lost a loved one to any form of cancer knows how invaluable 'hope' can be.)

To all my fellow bloggers lucky enough to be healthy and under 30, please sign up as a donor with Anthony Nolan and give someone a second chance. It is quick and easy to register here

If you are over 30, you can sign up to the British Bone Marrow Registry here, as they accept donors aged 18-49.

Make 2015 the year that you became a superhero and join the register to give someone a chance of life. You never know, one day it could be one of your friends or family members in need of a strangers help!

There is another post on this blog titled 'Donating Stem Cells and Fundraising for Anthony Nolan', which discusses my experience of donating stem cells, to reassure you all how simple it is to save a stranger's life.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Law with Law Studies in Europe is the 6th hardest Oxbridge Degree to get Accepted On

After reading today's article in the Telegraph titled  'The 10 Hardest Oxbridge Degrees to get Accepted On', it seems that reading law at Oxbridge really is something to boast about. The Telegraph reported that 'Law with Law Studies in Europe' is the 6th hardest Oxbridge Degree to get Accepted On, with a 12% acceptance rate. In 2014, there were 287 applications for the 'Law with Law Studies in Europe' course at Oxbridge. This means that around 250 applicants were unsuccessful. So if you were one of the lucky 30 something who were accepted I would highlight this in future interviews!

Are you wondering what the hardest degree to get accepted on at Oxbridge is? The Telegraph reported this as 'Economics and Management', with 1,149 applications in 2014 and a 7% acceptance rate.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Challenges for the Criminal Justice System in the 2015 Parliament

On Thursday 04 June 2015 I attended a conference in Northampton, organised by the Institute for Public Safety Crime and Justice Northampton. The conference  concentrated on 'Challenges for the Criminal Justice System in the 2015 Parliament' and was lead by guest speaker Tom Gash, Director of Research, at the Institute for Government.

I found out about this event through a post on The University of Northampton Law Departments Facebook page. When I originally signed up to the event, I assumed that the event was predominantly being held for current UoN students, including those studying law and criminology. I graduated from The University of Northampton in February 2015 but did not think this would be an issue as it was an open event. I decided that I would sign up to the event through Eventbright as the event looked very interesting and relevant to my current roles within the criminal justice system. I also thought that it would be useful to build on topics to discuss in future Pupillage interviews etc. 

However, I was surprised when I arrived to discover that there were not any students present. Delegates included a mixture of academics and professionals that work within various roles within the criminal justice system. This included a Magistrate and members of Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioners Office.This was a bonus, except for the fact that I felt very underdressed in casual clothing. I nearly always wear professional clothing or dresses. However, I had decided to dress down for the event when I mistakenly assumed that most delegates would be students in their casual wear. Thankfully nobody appeared to be concerned about my choice of footwear being a pair of Converse instead of my usual heels. 

It was clear from the start of yesterday's conference that Tom was very knowledgeable about the criminal justice system, government and policing. It is no surprise when Tom is currently the Director of Research, at the Institute for Government and was previously a Crime Adviser in the Prime Ministers Strategy Unit. Tom demonstrated outstanding people skills. He encouraged everyone present to contribute to the topic and made everyone feel that their contributions were valued. In fact, there were times I could see him writing bullet points on the issues people raised so he could refer to them later on. I am curious to see whether any of these additional ideas end up in his new book that is going to be released in January 2016. (After attending this event and meeting Tom I am genuinely excited to read his book which is conveniently being released in January 2016, my birthday month, yay.)

During this conference, Tom outlined some of the policy concerns that the new Conservative government need to address. Tom also emphasised the practical problems that need to be resolved to enable services within the criminal justice system to provide high-quality services to this government's cuts to budgets. Tom asked how we can manage an increasing demand within the criminal justice system and prisons under current budgets. 

This is a concern that I have had for some time as a Lay Observer, Independent Custody Visitor, Appropriate Adult and aspiring barrister. Particularly when I see the police and prisons reducing staff at the same time as detainee numbers are increasing. I am very concerned that the pressure is going to continue to increase on these service providers under the current government. Especially when the Conservatives are known for tough love. The Conservatives have already cut legal aid and have a low tolerance for criminals. These factors alone will add to the burden that the criminal justice faces. This is without considering the continued benefit cuts to people on low incomes or unemployed. I am concerned that we will see an incline in petty crime figures when more people are going to face times of poverty and despair. It is interesting how our morals and behaviour change when our survival mode kicks in. 

Tom also explained that sometimes reductions are not directly related to law enforcement. For example changes in car security technology has resulted in a decline in car crime since the 90's. Also, youth offending figures decline when young detainees leave their teen years and enter their 20's. This led to me contemplating whether the criminal justice system should even be used to deal with young offenders guilty of petty offences. It should always be used for people who are a genuine threat to members of society. For example sexual offenders and dangerous offenders. However is it productive or cost effective to have hormonal youths with a lack of self-discipline or parental guidance, entwined in the criminal justice system when they are at a vulnerable age. I have always been concerned that criminalising youths for minor offences is counter productive and leads to some youths believing that there is no way out or that they no longer have anything to loose. This could be significantly damaging to their future prospects, resulting in a continued life of crime.

Tom moved on to discuss the errors in tackling crime which is down to myths. For example, the perception that prison is effective when you only have to look at the high statistics for re-offenders to see that prison is the least effective and the mostly costly. In fact, I know from my training with Catch22 that statistics suggest that ex-prisoners who re-offend actually move on to commit even more serious offences. I am looking forward to discovering Toms opinion on this matter in his book as he appeared to lack confidence in both prison and rehabilitation. He did mention the USA's three strike test very briefly, though. I will conduct some research into this and write about it in a future blog.

During yesterdays seminar, Tom emphasised the need for a change in the structure and culture of both the police and the criminal justice system. There is a growing pressure for the Police to investigate historic child sex exploitation which adds to the pressures that the criminal justice system is subject to. There is also a rise in the use of the internet has resulted in crimes such as grooming shifting over to the internet, creating new demands on police investigations.

One delegate, who was from the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioners office was passionate about increasing the visibility of police on the beat through special constables. However, Tom suggested that customers are concerned more about service delivery when they are a victim of crime than the visibility of officers on the streets. Tom went on to discuss studies which have proven that police presence and police car patrol has no effect on reducing crime. I have to agree with Tom. As someone who works with offenders and in particular young offenders I know that they lack respect for special constables anyway a they know that they lack powers. Nevertheless, Tom explained that when police presence is targeted to particular areas suffering high crime, their presence can be effective.

It was obvious from yesterday's session that the criminal justice system faces a difficult task alone as the political focus has shifted to debating other issues including our membership within the EU. Something that I am sure all of you are aware of, regardless of whether you are pro or anti-EU, membership. With this in mind, we worked in groups to identify and discuss the challenges that we believe the criminal justice system faces over the next 5 years. As part of these discussions, we considered ways in which the current government could resolve these challenges. We considered shifting public attitudes, engaging businesses and citizens to reduce crime, ways to provide more cost effective justice, a collaboration of services, meeting the public's needs and local accountability.

I found the session very interesting and thought-provoking. It was also a fantastic opportunity for networking. I am looking forward to future events held by the Institute for Public Safety Crime and Justice Northampton

The next conference to be held by the Institute for Public Safety Crime and Justice Northampton is ''Reappraising the measurement of violence'. It will take place on Thursday 02 July 2015 at 12:30 pm. It will be held at Sunley Conference Centre at The University of Northampton. You can reserve a place for free on Eventbright

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Tips on Increasing your Professional Networking Opportunities

This post is aimed at undergraduate LLB students. However, most of the information in this post can be adapted to anyone at any level in any profession or field. I hope you find in useful!

Networking Opportunities


Blogging

Create a blog that’s relevant to your chosen field of law. This will aid you in building commercial awareness and making new contacts. If your blog is good, it will also aid in building your professional reputation. However, remember that future employers may see your blogs, etc. so think carefully before writing something controversial. I am not saying that you should not write anything controversial as this could have as much of a positive impact as it could a negative impact (depending on the subject). For example, if you are discussing women’s rights and flaws in the legal system it could demonstrate your interests and research skills etc. However writing a biassed blog aimed at a set group of society may make you look like a bigot. Therefore, you should use your initiative to decide what message you are likely to send. If you do not trust your judgement, ask a friend to approve your blog posts!


Social Media

Use Twitter to follow professionals and firms/chambers of interest. You will quickly find that if you use Twitter to share professional opinions you can quickly increase people's interest in you. I suggest that you use your account to professionally market yourself, using other social media for socialising with friends and family. Twitter is amazing for gaining new professional contacts. It can also be minimal effort for improving your commercial awareness. Once you have invested time in setting up a professional account, following people and organisations of interest, you can quickly update yourself on current news stories, legal changes, etc. You should aim to follow some respectable news accounts, fellow law students, lawyers, judges, charities, human rights campaigners and government bodies such as the Home Office, who will all tweet interesting updates. Never underestimate the power of Twitter. I have previously received mentoring advice and a genuine job offer (which I accepted), through Twitter.


Memberships

Join local societies and associations. There are a wide variety of societies and associations for law students, junior lawyers, solicitors, barristers and other members of the legal profession. There are local student law societies that are usually set up within universities. Your local region will usually have a law society for junior lawyers. They usually accept membership from law students, trainees, case handlers, etc. and lawyers up to 7 years call.  There are also other various societies and associations aimed at law students and professionals working in the legal sector, including The Association of Women Barristers. Joining societies will provide you with an increased amount of networking opportunities. Some events will be formal; others may be educational or sociable. 


Public Speaking

You could even volunteer to speak at conferences and events. People are more likely to approach you afterwards to thank you or to ask questions. This will provide you with extra opportunities to network with a broader range of people. It will also provide you with a rare opportunity where people are interested in your knowledge or work, providing you with an opportunity to talk about yourself for a change.


Organise a Networking Event

You could hold your own networking event. This will allow you to target the types of people you wish to network with. For a networking event to become successful, it is recommended that you hold it regularly on the same day and time. People are more likely to remember when it is and their attendance becomes a habit.  It is also recommended that networking events last 90 minutes. Less that this can be insufficient time for people to relax and feel comfortable networking. If it is too long people start to lose interest and people start feeling awkward when conversations run dry.


Fellow Students

Never underestimate the knowledge of fellow students. Some have very interesting part-time jobs or previous careers. You may be surprised what knowledge they can share with you if you actually take the time to ask questions!


Initiate Contact

You could contact some of your professional role models by email or letter and ask them if they would be happy to provide you with informal advice. This may be over a coffee or by email or letter. While they may be extremely busy, you will still find that the odd professional that is willing to free up some time to assist you. You do not know if you do not try and people respect people who use their own initiative.


Mentors

You can also ask your university, Inn, law society, etc. if they have any mentoring schemes. I had a mentor assigned to me from Shoosmiths in my first year of my LLB, who I found invaluable. The insight I gained from her allowed me to make a decision on progressing onto the BPTC, rather than the LPC. I have also been assigned a mentor from my Inn, who is a practising member of the Bar. He has been equally as supportive during my first year of the BPTC, offering me advice and securing me a mini-pupillage within his chambers. While on the subject of mentors, you could also become a mentor yourself! You could join a scheme mentoring people lower down the career ladder to yourself. For example, if you are studying your LLB you could support someone studying their GCSE’s or A-Levels. This could include giving them insight into university life as a law student or helping them with filling in university application forms and deciding on the best university for them. I have mentored youths with Catch22, undergraduate students as an alumni mentor at my previous university and an A Level student as part of Big Voice 2015.


Building and Maintaining Contacts


Be Yourself and be Sincere

Networking is not just about making contacts that are of benefit to you. People talk and dislike insincere people who are not themselves. Make conversation with people who you are naturally drawn to who you get along with easily. You do not have to talk about work; you can talk about genuine interests like football and local restaurants. After all, most people are the same in the fact that we like people that we can relate to and can get bored talking about the same things. Building contacts with people you genuinely like will help with future work. For example, if you was a solicitor and had the choice of instructing a barrister you liked and another that you did not, you are more likely to instruct the barrister you like so you do not have to deal with a person you dislike.

It is also important that you 'stay in the conversation'. If you allow someone to 'talk at you' while you zone out they will notice and you will look rude. This also includes scanning the room for 'important contacts' while ignoring everyone else. It is alright to embrace an opportunity of gaining powerful contacts, but this does not mean that you should not make an effort with other people in the room. After all, you will be surprised what and who 'ordinary' people know. I have also found that the contacts that you make who are at a similar level to yourself are usually more helpful later down the line than the more senior and powerful contacts who have forgotten you a week later. You will also be surprised what you can discover in a natural conversation.


Be Reliable and Dependable

If you promise to do something for someone, follow it through. If you are unsure weather, you can commit to something make sure the person knows at the first instance to avoid future embarrassment. Being someone that people can depend on demonstrates that you are an organised and trustworthy individual. The type of person people are happy to introduce to other contacts or provide references for. After all, when you introduce people to each other, these people are trusting your judgement. It can reflect badly on the person making the introductions if things end badly between the parties being introduced to each other. Also, remember that the legal world is a very small place. People talk! Also, the person that you let down this year could be the same person interviewing you or referring cases to you in 10 years time!


Be Supportive and Helpful

Throughout my legal studies, I have built a reputation with fellow students as someone who is willing to help and reliable. Luckily this is part of my natural personality. Nevertheless, this has led to me usually being the first person they contact for work or study related advice and support. I always try my best to help if I can. If I can not, I always explain why, whether it be because I am unavailable or I genuinely do not know the answer. Not surprisingly, my genuine interest in supporting those around me has lead to these same people helping me in my hour of need, because they know that I would do the same. This is not the reason why I help others. Nevertheless, it is much harder to say no to someone that you know would help you!


Sharing Contacts

When networking it is important not to be possessive with your contacts. It is important to introduce other people to each other too. If they are of use to each other, they will remember your recommendation. Also, people will be more willing to offer support and advice to people that they know would do the same, particularly fellow students. 


Storing Contact Details

Have a good system for storing contact details. Always include date, where you met, their company/place of study and position. If possible include a couple of personal facts that you remember about them. This will aid you in initiating future contact and makes it more personal. You could store all of this information in a database. This would aid you if you were looking for a particular type of contact. For example to see if you had met someone from a specific firm or chambers, before applying for a job/internship. A quick and simple way of storing this information is to have a jar or box to store business cards in. Then you can request a business card off each new contact. When you leave the venue, you can quickly make a note on the back of the card where you met, the date and any personal information that will aid future conversations or aid you in remembering them.


Maintaining Your New Contacts

Send new contacts an email every now and again to maintain contact. This could be general chit chat, or you could notify them about an upcoming event that may be of interest to them. You could even include a link to an interesting article in the news or on your own blog etc. This will depend on the seniority of your contact, how well you know each other and how relaxed they are with you. Some senior members of the legal sector will be very supportive and volunteer themselves as a mentor while others will keep contact strictly professional and will only communicate with you if necessary.