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Volunteering with the City of London Criminal Appeals Clinic, written by Nora Wannagat

RoseIreland16 December 2016

Nora Wannagat is an LLM student at UCL that previously completed a BA in Jurisprudence with Law Studies in Europe at the University of Oxford. In this post, she summarises her experience volunteering for a new project at UCL CAJ this year – the City of London Criminal Appeals Clinic.

The City of London Criminal Appeals Clinic is a new pro bono project set up to help those convicted of criminal offences bring their cases to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and, eventually, to the Court of Appeal. Several London universities are involved. At UCL, two teams of students each started working on one case in October, under the supervision of a criminal solicitor. Both of these cases have long and complicated histories (being over ten years old), and naturally a lot of material has been accumulated. Essentially, we have been trying to bring this material into a useful form for submission to the CCRC.

For my team, this involved taking document bundles of roughly 5,000 pages in total, making charts describing the documents and their location in each bundle (some of which contained over a hundred witness statements), writing a chronology as well as a dramatis personae, summarising information on certain pieces of evidence and researching relevant legal points.

As to the cases, both are concerned with very serious offences. My team has been working on a case involving several murders and robberies. Certain aspects of the investigation, as well as the conduct of the client’s initial solicitors, presented significant problems. There were issues with some of the most important pieces of evidence, one having gone completely missing from the police station, making it impossible to examine it any further. The client’s first solicitors drew up defence statements without ever consulting with him, and have, apparently in an effort to appear “street smart”, made mistakes that go far beyond merely unprofessional conduct.

Through this project, we have gained rare insights into the workings of the criminal justice system in practice, and we very much hope that our work, the final results of which we are scheduled to submit in January, will be a good basis for the CCRC and the Court of Appeal to review the many troubling aspects of the case.

For more information about pro bono opportunities at UCL, please visit the UCL CAJ website.

Contributor for the Centre for Access to Justice Blog

Klara K MHoldstock23 September 2016

About the Project

The UCL Centre for Access to Justice Blog is a new online forum through which students and staff that are involved in pro bono work and passionate about social justice can write and share blog posts reflecting on their experiences and/or discussing pressing access to justice issues that give rise to the need for pro bono work today. The aim of the Blog is to raise awareness of the importance of pro bono work and the major hurdles that currently limit access to justice for all. The Blog will also analyse the role of law in society and the ways in which law can be utilized as a tool for individual justice, as well as the barriers lawyers and individuals face in achieving this end.

The posts publishable on the UCL CAJ blog will broadly be divided into three categories:

1. Pro Bono Experience and Reflection: in these posts, you can share your volunteering experiences. How did beneficiaries respond to the pro bono project? Were there any individual cases that particularly stand out? Were there any unexpected challenges? What was the impact of the project? What did you learn about law and its role in society? Did your view before you volunteered for the project change after you finished the project?

2. Access to Justice: in these posts, you can explore issues surrounding access to justice, for example, changes to legal aid, the importance of pro bono work in different contexts and the multifarious impacts of limited access to justice.

3. Law and Society: these posts are broad in remit and can cover topics relating to justice and human rights as well as the place of law in society more generally. This can relate to the work of the CAJ, for example, analysing aspects of the criminal justice system, social welfare, the role of social mobility and diversity in the legal profession and human rights issues such as FGM. These posts need not be limited to these topics and we are always open to new ideas, provided that they relate to justice, human rights and the role of law in society.

Student Roles

The role of Student Contributors is to write a minimum of 2 – 3 blog posts per term. These blog posts should be between 500 – 700 words and fall into one of the three categories listed above.

This is a fantastic way for students to improve their written communication skills and have their written work published online. Students involved in UCL CAJ projects can reflect and share their experiences. Students can also explore current issues that interest them that are not necessarily covered in their university modules.

How to apply

This opportunity is open to all law students (LLB and LLM) and PhD candidates.

Before you write a post, first you need to register your interest. To register your interest in this role, please e-mail your name, student number and year of study to Rose Ireland, CAJ Fellow (rose.ireland@ucl.ac.uk).

Please note that we expect you to write your first blog post within one month of registering as a Student Contributor.