Free Sanitary Products – the Landmark Ruling on Period Poverty

Despite being an existing issue since the beginning of time, it took several months of debating by individuals and members of parliament before the landmark ruling on period poverty was finally considered in the Scottish Parliament in 2017.

The year 2018 marked a remarkable achievement for Scotland in satisfying fundamental women’s rights as it became the first country in the world which granted access to free sanitary products for students. As described by Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell: “Being able to access free sanitary products is fundamental to equality and human dignity”.

However, currently free period products are only supplied under voluntary schemes which is why this year, Labour MSP Monica Lennon officially lodged the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill. This Bill aimed to make it a statutory requirement for schools, colleges and universities to provide free access to such sanitary products. How would this impact Scotland? Lennon has supported her reason for bringing this Bill into parliament by stating how this not only gives a chance for Scotland to “put access on a legal footing” but also to potentially lead the rest of the world in introducing similar laws.

In order to maintain current free provision, an investment of £5.5 million was made by the Scottish Government with local authorities receiving an additional £2 million and universities attaining up to £3.5 million in funding.

This proposed Bill aims to tackle the underlying stigma with addressing gender equality and “dignity issues” regardless of people’s income and will bring about many positive effects in Scotland. Sanitary products have been debated to be a “necessity for a very large part of a woman’s life” as opposed to the historic view of it being treated as a luxury product. Therefore, if implemented, the access to free period products becoming statutory will “scourge period poverty” and help reduce the current basic right imbalance.

Women in Law Project Week 3 – Gwyneth Bebb

After studying Law at Oxford and gaining the marks for a first-class honours degree, Gwyneth Bebb was rejected not only from gaining her award but from applying to sit her Barr exams also.  As mentioned previously in our first Women in Law blog, women could not practice as professional lawyers before the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 or even be granted the award they had studied for.

It was Gwyneth Bebb that was behind the movement fighting for woman to be officially recognised as legal professionals. In the famous case of Bebb v Law Society she fought for woman to be regarded as “persons” under the Solicitors Act 1843. Being female was classed as a “disability” and she lost on the grounds of precedent with the court ruling that it was the parliaments duty to change the law and not for the courts in this instance.

Despite losing the case and the appeal her actions went on the spark the movement which led to the introduction of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919.  She travelled around the country along with other woman raising awareness and spreading their cause, it was her persistence and determination that allowed for woman to become fully qualified and practicing lawyers.

Unfortunately Gwetyth Bebb died from child birth complications whilst studying for her Barr exam so she never got the chance to utilise what she had worked so hard to achieve but 176 years later: woman now make up 48% of all lawyers in the United Kingdom and 47% of the workforce, exceeding the number of male practising lawyers for the first time in 2017.

By Hannah Ritchie

GCU Law Clinic Volunteer, LLB3

Female Lawyers and University – Does Higher Education Match Reality?

What comes to mind when you think of a law student?

Do you think of a young, handsome, clever man in a fancy suit and tie? Or your best friend who went to law school just because they hated maths and were kind of good at winning arguments?

In fact, for the majority of human history, women never really fit in the picture. Although the symbol of law itself, Lady Justice, is female, women were mostly excluded from the profession until the 20thcentury. Nowadays the situation has actually considerably altered,and it may just be that women outnumber men in some Universities.

For those of you who are law students or lecturers- next time you are in class, look around. What do you see? Chances are, you would notice that the ratio of women to men in the room is significantly leaning towards the former’s side. According to recent statistics, the percentage of women studying the LLB in England and Wales works out overwhelmingly in their favour- 68,8%. This is reflected in a similar way across the pond in America where the statistic is 56,49%. Our own Glasgow Caledonian University does not fall behind in this trend with a staggering 72,4% of law students here being female in the academic year of 2019/2020.

But what does this mean? Have all hurdles for women disappeared with the progress of time? Why are we even doing this project since it is in fact men who appear to be disadvantaged in certain circumstances? The truth is, while there are more women in higher education than ever before, as the career progresses and as you look into different fields the numbers start lowering. Substantially. For example, according to the ‘first100years’ project, as of 2016 women amount to only 125 of the 462 Scottish Advocates, 21 out of the 112 QCs and 9 out of the 31 judges!

Although these are not the only legal professions out there, it is important to recognise the stark difference between how few women pursue them and how many study law in general. Are females looked at differently at interviews or do they simply avoid those positions due to their nature? The reason can be as sinister as women being seen as more unreliable in the long term due to childbirth or not a good fit for the job because of their “inherent femininity”. Or are we, as women, just not confident enough in our ability to tackle such male-dominated fields?

What is clear is that University might not be a good indicator for women in the legal profession. Our research suggests that, even though there are less of them studying the LLB, men have a much higher chance to succeed in higher positions of power than their female counterparts. Through our ‘Women in Law’ project we aim to find out why that is, what hurdles women still face and what can be done to increase equality within the legal sector as a whole.

A UK first: the introduction of the ‘smacking ban’ in Scotland

On the 3rdof October 2019 Scotland became the first country in the UK to make it an offence to smack your child. The ban on all physical punishment was introduced by Green MSP John Finnie and was backed by 84 votes to 29.  Although Scotland may be leading the way in the UK, legislating against smacking children is not a ground-breaking concept. Sweden became the first country to ban smacking back in 1979, and Scotland is now the 58thcountry in the world follow suit. Wales is also on the verge of introducing a ban but there are no current plans for England or Northern Ireland to introduce legislation of this type.

The ban removes the defence of reasonable chastisement. When deciding whether the chastisement was reasonable, the courts would take into account factors such as; the nature of the punishment, its duration and frequency, the age of the child and the effect it had physically and mentally. Now children in Scotland have the same protection from assault as adults.

There are critics of the ban including the Scottish Conservatives and some child psychologists. There has also been a campaign against the ban led by ‘Be Reasonable Scotland’. They argue that the smacking ban is unnecessary, will not help vulnerable children and may lead to ‘traumatic intervention’ in ‘good’ families. In support of the ban, some Paediatricians argue that smacking can cause long-term harm and leads to the development of more aggressive behaviours. The passing of the Act has been hailed as a step forward for child’s rights and shows the change of societies view on physical discipline on children.

It will be interesting to see how the new legislation is utilised in practice and what changes we might see unfolding in the next few years.

By Carys McIntyre, Law Clinic volunteer, LLB3

Women in Law Project Week 2 – Claire McFadzean

As part of our ongoing ‘Women in Law Wednesday’ series on our social media we chose to put our Academic Director, Claire McFadzean, in the spotlight. As well as being the Academic Director of GCU Law Clinic, Claire is also a Lecturer in Law here at GCU, a Solicitor and a Senior Fellow (HEA). We have chosen Claire this week not only because she is a driving force behind the Women in Law project and the clinic, but also because she provides all of us here at the clinic with guidance and support in pursuing our own careers as women in law. Anyone that has taken a module run by Claire will know how valuable her lessons are. As well as taking you through what you need to pass the module, Claire’s classes always focus on skills that you can take forward into your career. When moving into 3rdand 4thyear and applying for traineeships, it becomes clear how important this is.

We asked Claire about her career journey so far, ‘I am very proud to have qualified as a solicitor and worked for a number of years within the legal profession as a commercial lawyer. In 2006 I decided to alter the trajectory of my career and moved from practice to academia. I now have the privilege of teaching the next generation of lawyers.’

We also asked her what being a ‘woman in law’ means to her, ‘throughout my career I have had the pleasure of working with a number of inspirational women who have provided me with both support and opportunity for development through their mentoring. As a woman in law I think it is important to pay this forward for the next generation of women’.

If you have any suggestions for who should be our next ‘Women in Law Wednesday’, please let us know @gculawclinic on Twitter and Instagram.

100 years of Women in Law – and the launch of our Women in Law project!

Last year marked a huge step in gender equality; one hundred years since women were given the vote in British parliamentary elections. This year we are celebrating another landmark moment. It is one hundred years since women entered the legal profession. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 allowed women in the UK to become solicitors, advocates and to sit on a jury.

This anniversary is particularly important to the West of Scotland as the first woman to practice law after the introduction of the act was a University of Glasgow graduate. Madge Anderson, born and raised in Glasgow, gained her LLB in 1919 upon the changes made by the act. GCU Law Clinic have chosen Madge Anderson as our first ‘Woman in Law Wednesday’, a series we will be running on our Instagram throughout the project (@gculawclinic). We will be inviting suggestions for who should be our ‘Women in Law Wednesday’ each week, so head over to our Instagram to let us know.

In order to mark this important occasion, the GCU law clinic will be starting a “Women in Law” project. This project will feature interviews from influential women in the Scottish Legal Profession, as well as informative talks, blog posts and social media posts. These will be used to highlight the successes, and struggles, of women within the Legal Profession. The project will be running from now until March 2020, in the run up to International Women’s Day. We hope to use this project to provide information about the female journey into the legal profession and hopefully use this information to inspire a new generation of female law students.

By Emma Smith, GCU Law Clinic Volunteer, LLB1

Ex-Student Director: Evan Crainie

Where They’re At Now…

Ex-Student Director: Evan Crainie

Evan Crainie was one of the founding members of the GCU Law Clinic who started off as Assistant Office Manager in 2013. Over the year in this role, Evan worked closely with the other managers in the running of the Clinic. His role involved organising the volunteers, managing all documents for the Clinic and assisting with the initial stages of setting up the clinic as it had only just opened.

Evan Crainie, Student Director 2014/15

 

After his initial year, Evan then took up the post of Student Director. In this role, Evan was responsible for the drive to recruit more volunteers and get younger years involved in the Clinic to ensure that once he graduated, there were many students who could take on new management roles and perform at the same high standard. In recruiting more volunteers, the Clinic worked at a more efficient pace and could provide a better service for the clients.

 

Evan thoroughly enjoyed his time as Student Director and credits the experience gained as one of the reasons for securing his traineeship.

 

Evan is currently in his second year of his traineeship at Shepherd & Wedderburn LLP and is due to qualify as a solicitor in August 2018.

The Glasgow Legal Walk 2017

Another year, another 10K legal walk in honour of raising funds for the Access to Justice Foundation.

The annual 10K Legal Walk took place on Monday 9th October 2017 in order to raise money for free legal advice charities. These charities help those in society who do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford a solicitor. The GCU Law Clinic understand the importance of this and we share this same goal of increasing access to justice.

Our volunteers ready to go!

A staggering 2/3 of the UK population do not know how to access legal advice and 13 million cannot afford it. Our aim is to widen access to legal services within the local community. Since cuts in both government funding and legal aid have forced many advice centres to close, we are working extra hard to raise funds to help bridge this gap.

Some of our volunteers and members of our management team headed down to Buchanan Street to represent the Law Clinic in the sponsored walk.

Fortunately a dry October evening!

Throughout the evening, we walked alongside other advocates of access to justice such as members of Legal Spark and The Law Society of Scotland. The 10K took us all around the city centre before finishing up where we started, where all participants were invited to go for well-earned snacks and drinks.

The GCU Law Clinic managed to raise £175 for the Access to Justice Foundation. The Legal Walk is always a great opportunity for our volunteers to connect with other people in the same field and learn more about their ways of increasing access to justice.

 

GCU Law Clinic Alumnus Lands Prestigious Traineeship

GCU LLB Law and Law Clinic Alumnus, Ian Laing, made his mark on the legal world when he landed an unprecedented traineeship at the WS Society.

Ian Laing was an honours law student here at GCU and in his 4th and final year, he earned the position of Student Director of the GCU Law Clinic 2015/16. During this whirlwind year, Ian had great success in the Law Clinic, forming an excellent team with great rapport. This was also the year the Law Clinic were finalists in the Scott + Co Scottish Legal Awards 2016, and the year that Ian and his fellow classmate, Ryan Bell, led the Law Clinic to victory in their first ever court appearance. Ian was also shortlisted for the GCU Student Associations ‘Student of the Year’ award, which is university wide.

Both the law department and Law Clinic here at GCU were sad to part with Ian upon his graduation as he went to embark upon obtaining a Diploma in Legal Practice. However, Ian has continued to support the GCU Law Clinic in a supervisory role as he remains a passionate advocate for increasing Access to Justice.

Ian Laing (right) being congratulated by CEO Robert Pirrie WS (left) on his first day as the first trainee solicitor (@thewssociety).

Following the successful completion of the diploma, Ian began his journey as trainee solicitor for the WS Society in September 2017.

The WS Society is the incorporated body of an exceptional brand of Scottish lawyers known as Writers to the Signet or “WS” with over 500 years of heritage – Ian being the first trainee ever to exist in these 500 years. Ian spoke of how he achieved such a unique opportunity, saying:

I would definitely say I am humbled by my Director, Anna Bennett WS, having enough faith in me that she would create the first traineeship in the 500+ year history of the WS Society for me. It is an exciting opportunity to train right in the heart of Scotland’s legal fraternity and for her to build in two secondments to the traineeship which are tailored to my interests – a litigation seat in Halliday Campbell WS and a sports law seat in Lombardi Associates are incredible. A tailor made traineeship is rare!”

Ian stated that, unlike a typical traineeship, there was no application process to land this role, as he already had a foot in the door. Ian initially secured a place on the WS Society summer internship programme in 2016, which he said he felt was due to the opportunities he had received as part of the GCU Law Clinic team.

Being able to say I had already acted for a client in court and been part of a student-led team ranked as finalists in the Scottish Legal Awards really helps you to stand out.”

As his time on this summer internship came to an end, Ian was then offered a legal assessment role within the team for the remainder of summer 2016 and subsequently part-time during his diploma year 2016/17.

Luckily for both Ian and the GCU Law Clinic, Ian’s director is supportive of his desire to retain involvement in the Law Clinic and has even extended an invitation to the Law Clinic to attend WS events throughout the year. The Law Clinic is grateful that it will have the continued support of such a successful alumnus and ambassador for his successors of the Law Clinic, and we look forward to see what the future holds for Ian.