Support for Human Rights

Law students from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are helping Glasgow school pupils to stand up for their human rights.human-rights-and-notice-to-quit

 Human Rights Day, (10th December 2016) commemorating the day in 1948 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The 2016 campaign urges the public to ‘stand up for someone’s rights’, a call being heeded by Bachelor of Laws (LLB) students through the GCU Law Clinic.

Since its launch in 2014, the Clinic has provided advice to a wide range of clients and taken to Glasgow city centre to offer its services.

Our Street Law programme runs interactive workshops with pupils, making them more aware of the laws that affect them in their daily lives. Six schools have taken part so far, with further sessions planned in the New Year.

“Human rights are a key theme for Street Law and always spark great discussions amongst the pupils,” explained fourth year LLB student Rachel Bond, the Law Clinic’s Student Director. “And the Human Rights Day campaign of standing up for someone’s rights is exactly what the GCU Law Clinic is about. We are proud to provide free and confidential advice to people who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for Legal Aid or afford professional legal advice.”

GCU Law lecturers are involved in a wide range of human rights-related research, including examining organ donation law and end of life choices as well as access for socially disadvantaged people to the European Court of Human Rights and legal remedies for the victims of historic sex abuse.

Law Lecturer Dr Andrew Tickell said: “Human rights now underpin a startling array of our legal scholarship and teaching. They are at the heart of our constitutional law, central to immigration, animate ongoing Scottish debates on land reform, and go to the core of the law of international development. For lawyers, human rights issues are everywhere.”

And human rights is also a major focus for public policy analysts at GCU who lead research into the impact of public spending cuts on women, disabled people and carers.

GCU delivers the MSc Citizenship and Human Rights, a popular part-time programme for professionals and volunteers in the third and public sectors.

Dr Angela O’Hagan, Lecturer in Social and Public Policy, said: “In Scotland just now we have opportunities to respond differently on issues of equality, care, migration, public services – issues that are central to the MSc in Citizenship and Human Rights and are shaped by what is going on across the world.  All of this reinforces the importance of human rights principles and the need to develop human rights based approaches to policy and services in Scotland.”

Mock Court Involvement

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The High Court held the mock trials.

From the 29th of November to the 1st of December, Glasgow was fortunate enough to host the mock court competition!  We at the Law Clinic were fortunate to be involved in lending our services to clerk for some current Sheriffs, in a welcome break from our typical studies.

Primary schools from Glasgow and the West descended on the Saltmarket as soon as regular court business had concluded in the matter of Talk ‘n’ Text v Telfor.  Donning homemade wigs and gowns (which frankly put the real ones to shame…), some of the legal professions future leading lights took their places in courtrooms, and set to work for their respective clients.

Leading evidence from their witnesses, the sides did battle over whether or not a contract was formed; with some interesting results – the same set of facts in separate courtrooms often produced different results!  This was only a testament to the ability of the pupils involved.  Clerking for Sheriff Miller, our Outreach Manager Rachel Campbell said:

“Some of the skill shown were extraordinary.  The productions were well organised and the lawyers questioned their witnesses with a clear plan and considerable confidence.  I only wish I was that good in primary school.”

Assistant Outreach Manager Ross Wilson, clerking for Sheriff Murphy QC, also added:

“I’ve been lucky enough to witness some of the top advocates in Scotland cross-examine witnesses, from Donald Findlay QC to Gordon Jackson QC.  The pupils would have given them a run for their money – I felt uncomfortable sitting outside the witness box.”

Also involved was our Senior Operations Manager David Scott, who commented:

“I only wish I had the confidence to stand up in the infamous North Courtroom of the High Court and lead evidence in front of a Sheriff at that age.  The pupils were a credit to themselves, their schools and their communities.  I hope to work with them someday, although certainly not in opposition.”

As a team, we had a great time assisting with the project.  It shows pupils from a very young age that courts aren’t just for criminals, but for everyone.  It also helped them too see that the courts aren’t so terrifying, the Sheriffs were kind and understanding, and this showed in the confidence displayed by the pupils.  As an aside, our volunteers benefitted from seeing behind the scenes of a court and to network with some of the most experienced jurists in the country.