Law Professor made a Fellow of Academy of Social Sciences

Professor Sally Sheldon has been made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, the representative body of the social sciences in the United Kingdom.

Fellows are drawn from academics, practitioners and policymakers across the social sciences who are recognised after an extensive peer review process for the excellence and impact of their work addressing some of society’s most pressing issues.

The Academy describes Professor Sheldon as a ‘pioneer in socio-legal research, particularly in the area of the sociological understanding of the dilemmas and effects of abortion law’.

Professor Sheldon of Kent Law School is widely regarded as one of the UK’s leading researchers in health care law and ethics. She has an outstanding record for producing independent, peer-reviewed research, and regularly contributes to public debate in these areas.

Head of Kent Law School Professor Toni Williams said: ‘We’re delighted that Sally has been appointed to the Academy of Social Sciences – it’s fantastic to see her feminist socio-legal scholarship and citizenship recognised in this way.’

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Law Clinic students host event offering insight into UK criminal justice process

A one-day event offering an insight into the UK criminal justice process for individuals and organisations supporting foreign national prisoners and detainees was hosted last week by a team of students from Kent Law Clinic.

The event, ‘From Arrest to Appeal’ featured presentations by legal professionals as well as contributions from the Prisoner’s Advice Service (PAS) and the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). It was held in the Moot Room on the upper floor of the Wigoder Law Building, the new home for Kent Law Clinic.

Students working in Kent Law Clinic’s Criminal Justice Project (CJP) were prompted to organise the event after receiving a request for advice on the criminal process from Kent Refugee Help (KRH), a local organisation helping to support refugees and migrants in prison.  KRH contacted the Law Clinic in the hope of seeking a better understanding of the legal issues that could help them to support refugees and migrants who are imprisoned, detained and on trial.

Supported by Law Clinic Solicitor Hannah Uglow, the students compiled a comprehensive information pack and enlisted the involvement of expert speakers. They also decided to open up the free event to other organisations in the community working in prisons as well as to fellow Kent Law School students.

The day began with a presentation on the process from arrest to charge by Chidi Umez from CK Law Solicitors and was followed by an introduction to trial proceedings by Barrister Laura Charlton. After lunch, attendees were given an overview of prison law by Jane Finnis from the PAS followed by a talk on criminal appeals by Justin Hawkins from the CCRC. The event concluded with a Question & Answer session.

Law student Kinga Stabryla, a member of the organising team, said: ‘I was delighted to be an organiser as well as a participant of this great event! A big thank you goes to Hannah Uglow, as notwithstanding her work on the Criminal Justice System module (LW633), she has continued to run the CJP for volunteers like myself. The day was a real success for our team and it is definitely something that we hope to run annually. It was our aim to be of help to those with less technical knowledge on the criminal legal system and I am proud to say that we have achieved that. Not only did the event have an educational aspect for students, by contextualising their studies, but it also provided a great insight into the law for charitable organisations. I’m certain the 89-page information pack we provided will help develop that insight. It was a pleasure to design it (along with all the marketing materials and the presentation) and to be able to do something of so much societal value and impact. I urge any law students to join the Criminal Justice Project next year, for great opportunities for development.’

KRH Caseworker Kate Adams enjoyed the lively exchange of dialogue between speakers and audience during the sessions and is keen to see the event repeated for an even broader audience. She said: ‘Generally I thought the day was excellent and the students did really well. The information pack produced is extremely helpful.’

Hannah Uglow said: ‘This was a first for the Criminal Justice Project and the day was a triumph. The plans began in mid-February and the students worked tirelessly to organise an event in a short space of time that had the hallmarks of a professional conference. The speakers were all experts in their fields and the insights from each session meant I too learned a lot after many years of practice in criminal law.

‘Kent Refugee Help originally approached the Clinic hoping to get some pointers on criminal law. Instead they and other similar volunteer agencies got a full day’s training covering every stage of the criminal process. I am in no doubt they feel better placed to understand the position of the foreign national prisoners and others they assist in immigration matters. Many stayed on to mingle with students and speakers, keen to thank everyone involved.

‘I expect to run the event again in the next academic year. All KLS students with an interest in criminal justice can enhance their understanding of academic law by hearing about the workings of the system from experienced practitioners.’

Law student Melanie Lafresiere, who attended the event, felt it was of particular benefit to students taking the Law of Evidence for Forensic Scientists and/or Criminal Law for Forensic Scientists modules: ‘I thought the conference was utterly interesting and well-organised. As I am taking the Evidence and the Forensics Science modules, the conference was extremely useful to understand the proceedings side of criminal law. For this reason, I believe the timing of the conference was great since I had an insight into the proceedings before coming to the conference. This helped me get the most out of the talks.’

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Law School student awarded £19,750 Inner Temple scholarship

Kent Law School student and aspiring barrister Rachel Bale has been awarded a £19,750 scholarship by the Inner Temple.

The scholarship – one of the highest available – will fully fund the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) which Rachel plans to study in London after her graduation at Kent this summer. It will also enable her to pay for membership of an Inn of Court, a formal entry requirement for the BPTC.

The one-year BPTC is the vocational stage in training for anyone wishing to become a barrister and is designed to ensure that students acquire the skills, knowledge, attitudes and competence to prepare them for the specialised training of pupillage.

Rachel, a final-year student studying English and French Law, was interviewed for the scholarship at Inner Temple in London earlier this month by a panel of four. Thirty minutes before the interview began Rachel was given a case to read that she was subsequently questioned about by the panel. During the 20-minute interview, she was given a minute to explain the civil justice system in layman’s terms and asked to select and discuss a legal issue that had recently featured in the news. She was also asked about her participation in the 15th Annual International Law School Mediation Tournament held in Chicago last year. Rachel was one of a team of four Kent Law School student mediators who were awarded the H Case Ellis Spirit of Mediation Award after being voted the best international team by more than 400 fellow competitors.

Rachel was thrilled to hear of her scholarship success a few weeks after the interview: ‘I feel incredibly honoured to have received such a prestigious award which demonstrates Inner Temple’s confidence in my abilities as a barrister. Without this award I would not have been able to fund my BPTC year at Law School, which made the interview all the more crucial to get right. I cannot thank Kent Law School enough for the support and opportunities they have given me over the last four years, as without these key experiences I do not think I would have been so successful. Mooting has given me the conviction to stand my ground – entirely necessary when facing a panel of four opinionated barristers, mediation competitions have given me the resilience and composure to deal with pressurised situations and the constant support of the Law School staff has given me confidence to push on, even when it feels impossible. I am really proud of my achievement, and look forward to this next chapter of my legal career. I hope to see many other Kent Alumni there as well!’

Rachel has plans to specialise in property law, an area she finds fascinating due to its complex legal principles. Rachel quoted Stack v Dowden [2007] UKHL 17 as a particular case that helped fuel her passion for this area of law. Stack v Dowden is a leading English property law case concerning the division of interests in family property after the breakdown of a cohabitation relationship. Now in her fourth and final year of her degree at Kent (which also included a year spent studying abroad in Paris), Rachel is currently working on a dissertation on mortgages from a feminist perspective.

During her time at Kent, Rachel has been an active participant in the Law School’s mooting programme – most recently, Rachel (together with her moot partner and fellow student Tony Cunningham), secured a place in the finals of the Southern Varsity Mooting Competition. She is also one of the School’s Student Ambassadors, a Kent Law School Mentor and President of the University’s Erasmus Society.

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Professor Nick Grief invited to speak at Controversial Weapons Webinar

Dean for Medway (and Kent Law School professor) Nick Grief was invited to share his research expertise with investors across Australia and New Zealand this week for a webinar cautioning against investment in controversial weapons.

The Controversial Weapons Webinar was organised by CAER (an agency offering responsible investment research services in Australia and New Zealand) and the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (a regional social investment forum). It was facilitated by Simon O’Connor from RIAA.

Professor Grief began the hour-long webinar by outlining the treaty and international humanitarian law framework regarding controversial weapons. The other speaker was David Cockburn, Head of Specialised Research at Vigeo Eiris, a global provider of Environmental, Social and Governance research and services to investors and private, public and non-profit organisations.

Professor Grief said: ‘One highly topical issue is whether investing in companies that manufacture cluster munitions is illegal under the Cluster Munitions Convention 2008. Article 1(1) of the Convention provides: ‘Each State Party undertakes never in any circumstances to (a) Use cluster munitions; (b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions; (c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.’ I expressed the view that if we interpret the Convention in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning of its terms in their context and in the light of its object and purpose, as required by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, there is a compelling argument that the term ‘assist’ in Article 1(1)(c) includes such indirect financing.’

Earlier this month, Professor Grief chaired a colloquium at Kent’s centre in Brussels that discussed the future of the UK’s relationship with the EU, with particular reference to energy, digital technology and competition. The Brussels colloquium, entitled ‘New bi-lateralism? ‘Prospectives’ for future UK-EU relations’, was attended by 35 delegates from industry, academia and diplomatic missions.

Speakers included Professor Richard Whitman, Head of Kent’s School of Politics and International Relations (and Director of the Global Europe Centre); David Powell, Head of the Office of the Vice-Chancellor at Kent and former British ambassador to Norway; Leonard Hawkes, Solicitor (Juriste Conseil) at DBB Law in Brussels (and Kent Law School alumnus); John Higgins CBE, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE (which represents the digital technology industry in Europe); and Joanna Goyder, Senior Knowledge Lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Brussels.

Professor Grief teaches Public International Law and EU Law at Kent Law School. His research interests include air and space law and the domestic implications of international law. He has further interests in human rights, especially the right to protest, conscientious objection to the payment of taxes for military purposes and the use of international law by protesters in UK courts.

In March last year Professor Grief, who also practises at the Bar from Doughty Street Chambers, was a member of a legal team nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its work at the International Court of Justice. The team represented the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in nuclear disarmament cases against India, Pakistan and the UK. The RMI alleged that each State was failing to comply with its obligation under international law to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.

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PhD student wins Slaughter and May African Essay Prize

Kent Law School PhD student Damilola Odetola has been named the winner of a prestigious essay prize established by Magic Circle law firm Slaughter and May.

Damilola won the firm’s inaugural African Essay Prize for her essay on the question ‘What can customary law teach the “modern” world?’ As well as being awarded £2,000 in prize money,Damilola has won a work placement at the firm.

In her essay, Damilola explored the “profound and timely lessons” offered by customary law, including its flexible application to commercial contexts, and was unanimously awarded the top prize with judges citing her stimulating and well-researched work.

Slaughter and May is an international commercial law firm with offices in London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Beijing. The company launched the competition in November, giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their commercial and legal skills in an African context.

Africa is described by Slaughter and May as an increasingly important part of their practice. Many of the firm’s clients have operations in African jurisdictions and it is frequently necessary for the firm to find solutions to challenging legal issues in Africa, in collaboration with outstanding local law firms across the continent. Slaughter and May also provides advice to various African governments.

The Slaughter and May Africa Essay Prize was intended to stimulate debate among university students around the important issues to which African commerce and law give rise. Students were invited to submit an essay of no more than 1,000 words on one of two questions. The alternative question to the one selected by Damilola was ‘What challenges does the end of the commodities boom pose for Africa?’. More than 100 entries were submitted.

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CeCIL event to highlight careers in public international law

Students considering a career in public international law are invited to a special Careers’ Panel event on Tuesday 28 March organised by Kent Law School’s Centre for Critical International Law (CeCIL).

Leading lawyers from the world of international law will talk informally about their careers and offer advice about internships and job applications before answering questions from the floor.

Panel members comprise:

  • Iain Bryne: Head of Refugee and Migrants Team (acting), Amnesty International
  • Elizabeth Howe OBE: President International Legal Assistance Consortium
  • Professor Nick Grief: academic at Kent Law School and practising barrister, Doughty Street Chambers
  • Clare Hamilton: Deputy Head, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Jayne Instone: Employability and Career Development Officer, Kent Law School

The evening will begin at 6pm in Keynes Lecture Theatre 5 (KLT5) and will be followed by a drinks reception from 7.30pm to 8pm,  providing an opportunity for networking and informal discussion.

The event is open to undergraduate students, postgraduate taught and research students and all those interested in exploring a career in international law.

CeCIL is an innovative research centre which aims to foster critical approaches to the field of international law, and other areas of law that touch upon global legal problems. It offers a regular annual programme of activities for Kent Law students including an annual lecture (which this year is being delivered by Professor Vasuki Nesiah on Thursday 23 March.) The Centre also organises workshops designed to engage scholars based at other institutions, and strives to engage students, scholars and practitioners interested in the critical study of international law around the world through developing collaborations and joint research efforts.

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Kent LLM students awarded LW906 module prize

Kent LLM students Isabela Rogowska and Chudamas Panpangapan have been awarded a prize for top performance in the International Environmental Law module.

Isabela and Chudamas won £50 book vouchers, sponsored by publishers Cambridge University Press, for obtaining the best overall marks in International Environmental Law – Legal Foundations (module LW906). Both students achieved the top grade of Distinction (having obtained at least 70% overall).

The prize was established and awarded by module convenor Martin Hedemann-Robinson.

The module is designed to examine and assess the core foundational legal principles and regulatory structures underpinning international environmental law (IEL) and policy. Specifically, it considers the various core sources of IEL, the principal international institutions involved in its development as well as legal issues involved relating to its implementation and enforcement.

The Law School has developed an international reputation as a leading centre for research and teaching in environmental law, offering Kent LLM specialisations in Environmental Law, and International Environmental Law. The Kent LLM is a one-year Master’s in Law taught at Kent’s Canterbury campus.

Kent LLM students can also study environmental law in combination with other areas offered by the School. More information is available on the Environmental Law mini-site.

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Kent abortion law expert acknowledged in parliament

Legal advice provided by Kent abortion law expert Professor Sally Sheldon has been acknowledged in Parliament after MPs secured the right to introduce a Bill that would decriminalise abortion in England and Wales. 

Currently, under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, a woman who has an abortion without conforming to strict medical controls is punishable by life imprisonment, with anyone who helps her also potentially guilty of a serious criminal offence. A Ten Minute Rule Bill calling for these sections to be repealed, was successfully passed in the House of Commons on Monday. 

The Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2016-17 was introduced by Diana Johnson, MP for Hull North, under the Ten Minute Rule, where backbench MPs can make a case for a new bill in a speech that does not exceed ten minutes. 

During her speech (from15:58 minutes in), Diana Johnson thanked Professor Sheldon for her legal advice and for her support. Professor Sheldon had previously coordinated a group of more than 200 law professors and legal experts to sign a letter (published in the Guardian) which commended Diana Johnson for her Bill. In the letter, the bill was described as ‘an important first step towards taking pre-viability abortion out of the criminal law’. 

In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Sheldon said: ‘Why do we want to keep the framework and the criminal prohibition? I don’t hear people saying it is a good idea to be able to send women to prison for life for having an abortion outside of medical control.’

The new Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill, which also aims to regulate the termination of pregnancies by medical practitioners, is scheduled to have its second reading debate on Friday 24 March 2017. It will be brought forward by a cross-party group of MPs.  Professor Sheldon said: ‘While constraints of time make it unlikely the Bill will proceed beyond that point, it nonetheless is significant as representing an important first step in building momentum towards reform.’

Professor Sheldon teaches health care law and ethics to undergraduate and postgraduate students at Kent Law School. She is a leading expert and commentator on the regulation of abortion in the UK and previously contributed to a discussion about the decriminalisation of abortion at the House of Commons in October 2014. She is also a trustee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Her recent Medical Abortion and the Law project is one of two research projects in this area. The second, awarded a £0.5m research grant by the AHRC in 2016, is a two-year historical study, entitled The Abortion Act (1967): a Biography.

Professor Sheldon has published widely in the area of health care ethics and law with books including Beyond Control: Medical Power and Abortion Law, a co-edited collection of essays on Feminist Perspectives on Health Care Law and a socio-legal study of fatherhood called Fragmenting Fatherhood, co-authored with Richard Collier of Newcastle Law School.

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Call for papers on the role of law in meeting contemporary global challenges

A call for papers exploring the role of law in meeting contemporary global challenges has been issued for the fifth interdisciplinary Graduate Research Conference to be hosted by Kent Law School on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 of June 2017.

The conference offers Kent LLM students and postgraduate research students from across the humanities and social sciences faculties, an opportunity to meet over two days to critically discuss the legal and theoretical framework underpinning a broad variety of global challenges. These challenges include (but are not limited to): economic and environmental issues, global policymaking, technology, targeted killings, international and transnational crime, the internet and communication technologies, mass migration, and shared security/global policing.

Abstract submissions should be no longer than 300 words and should be sent to lawgradconference@kent.ac.uk by Saturday 15 April 2017. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by Sunday 30 April 2017.

Contributors who would like their paper to be considered for the best internal paper prize, the best external paper prize and/or the best poster prize are asked to submit full paper submissions no later than Thursday 25 May 2017.

As well as offering an important opportunity for postgraduate students to gain feedback on dissertation research, the conference will also include a keynote address by Professor Philippe Cullet of SOAS University of London. The annual Clive Schmitthoff Memorial Lecture will also feature and this year, will be delivered by Professor Fiona Macmillan from Birkbeck University of London at 4pm on Monday 5 June 2017.

All students are welcome to attend the conference which will be held on Kent’s Canterbury campus. Further details are available from the Graduate Conference Committee via their Facebook page, their @KLSPGConference Twitter account or via email: lawgradconference@kent.ac.uk

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CeCIL lecture offers critical re-examination of reparations

Public international law scholar Professor Vasuki Nesiah from New York University will offer a critical re-examination of the issue of reparations when she delivers the Centre for Critical International Law’s annual lecture at Kent on Thursday 23 March.

In her talk, entitled ‘Reparations: The jagged time of catastrophe’ Professor Nesiah will suggests new perspectives for a discussion of reparations by looking again at claims made throughout history.

Professor Nesiah said: ‘The Magistrate, the official custodian of justice and the rule of law in J M Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, confesses that “I am the same man I always was; but time has broken.” The call for reparations is a call for recognition that time has broken – that it has fragmented and accumulated differently across history and geography in constituting our subjectivity. It is a recognition that we are located “not in the smooth recurrent spinning time of the cycle of the seasons but in the jagged time of rise and fall, of beginning and end, of catastrophe.” International law often claims the mantle of justice by dressing the jagged time of catastrophe as the smooth cycle of seasons. This paper is part of a larger project rethinking that narrative and exploring how we may reframe the discussion of reparations by examining reparations claims across different historical contexts, from proximate human rights abuses to the legacies of slavery and colonialism.’

The talk will begin in Keynes Lecture Theatre 2 (KLT2) at 6pm and will be preceded by a reception in Keynes Foyer from 5pm.

Professor Nesiah teaches human rights, law and social theory at NYU. She also teaches at Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP), delivering summer and winter workshops in Cambridge, Doha, and Capetown. Her main areas of research include the law and politics of international human rights and humanitarianism, with a particular focus on transitional justice. Her past publications have engaged with international feminisms and the history of colonialism in international law. She has also written on the politics of memory and comparative constitutionalism, with a particular focus on law and politics in South Asia. Her most immediate project includes a volume which she co-edited with Dr Luis Eslava from Kent Law School and Michael Fakhri, A Global History of Bandung and Critical Traditions in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

She is one of the founding members of the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and spent several years in practice at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), where she worked on law and policy issues in the field of post-conflict human rights.

Professor Nesiah has been brought to the UK by the Centre for Critical International Law (CeCIL) at Kent Law School in collaboration with the London School of Economics and the Transnational Law Institute at King’s College London. CeCIL is an innovative research centre which aims to foster critical approaches to the field of international law, and other areas of law that touch upon global legal problems.

In addition to an annual lecture, CeCIL offers a programme of activities for Kent Law students. The Centre also organises workshops designed to engage scholars based at other institutions, and strives to engage students, scholars and practitioners interested in the critical study of international law around the world through developing collaborations and joint research efforts.

Current and past activities of the Centre have focused on key themes in critical international legal scholarship, including the production of victimhood in and through international legal frameworks and interventions, and economic and social rights in the neoliberal age.

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