Better late than never

Last Spring, the clinic asked students to blog, but busy schedules meant a delay in posting. Here are those posts:

25 March 2018 Student

In a world of uncertainty, filled with conflict between governments, inequality amongst people, and over 100 million homeless people worldwide, a shimmer of light manages to slip through the cracks. Due to extremely limited resources, this light shines every two weeks, at the St. Sidwell Community Centre, in the city of Exeter, and takes the form of 12 law students and two lecturers in law. Separately, they are just every day law students and lecturers at the University of Exeter, but when their unique skillset and intelligence is combined, they transform into the Access to Justice Clinic, with their main goal being to provide the most vulnerable citizens of Exeter with a free legal information service at a standard which cannot be found anywhere else. The Access to Justice Clinic was founded in 2017 and has made incredible strides since its creation. From barely having one client in the first few sessions to hosting over 10 clients per session on a consistent basis, the Access to Justice Clinic has exceeded the expectations of the law school and has been cemented as a permanent module with the University of Exeter. The controversial decision by the UK government to reduce legal aid benefits for those in need is one of the main reasons why the Access to Justice Clinic is needed now more than ever, and although there are an abundance of issues around the world which require attention, this small contribution by the students and lecturers involved with the Access to Justice Clinic may just be the one shimmer of hope which the community needs to remind itself that there is still good in this world, it just needs to be created when it cannot be found.

25 March 2018 Student

Working at the Access to Justice Clinic has opened my eyes to an array of institutional problems, the most alarming of which is the prevalence of sexual abuse experienced by female personnel in the UK Armed Forces. Research published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in conjunction with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in 2006 revealed 99% of servicewomen who took part in the survey said they had experienced sexualised behaviour. Furthermore, 67% of respondents said that sexualised behaviour had been directed at them personally. In 2008, the EOC were satisfied that the MoD made a “concerted effort to tackle the lack of official support for staff that wanted to report claims of harassment.” Despite this, in 2007, 24% of respondents had been sent sexually explicit material and 41% had experienced vulgar gestures or body language of a sexual nature.  Therefore it cannot be said that sexualised behaviour had been deterred successfully by those measures put in place.

Disappointingly, it comes as no surprise that over a decade later nothing has really changed. In 2015, surveys carried out in the Army, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines revealed that 90% of the respondents had experienced sexualised behaviours.

This is an example of a problem that the University of Exeter’s Access to Justice Clinic cannot solve overnight. However, drop-in sessions can provide people with the opportunity to air their grievances in a supportive and confidential environment. In turn, this enables people to come to terms with what has happened, putting them in the right frame of mind when thinking about possible ways to obtain a remedy. Although helping someone who has been affected by an institutional problem feels like swimming against a strong current, one individual helped is one small step in the right direction.

31 March 2018 Student

What I have found with the clinic is that people just want to be reassured that they are going in with their best foot forward when trying to make a case. Due to the socio economic background of most people who visit the clinic, they are often made invisible by their status and simultaneously the most affected demographic in regard to LASPO. This isn’t something that one can expect a legislator to completely empathise with, sympathise — yes, empathise, in its purest form would be rather difficult. They have a completely different paradigm of the world due to their differing socioeconomic upbringing. Yet laws are applies universally yet understood and address with a middle classed definitions and outlooks. The clinic has given a human face to law which would otherwise be lost or forgotten, it bridges the gap which LAPSO knocked down. Beyond that, it provides an ear to those who legally have no one. 


Exeter’s Access to Justice

Blog Post: February 14th, 2018

Well… what can we say?  Love is in the air.  It’s Valentine’s Day and what better way to start our first blog post of Exeter’s Access to Justice Clinic.  But, is love really in the air when Legal Aid has diminished over the years?

This is where we, as a clinic will try to help.  The Access to Justice Clinic is a third year module offered at the University of Exeter.  The purpose of the module is to provide pro bono public service to the community by holding drop-in-clinic sessions in Exeter city centre. The clinic focuses on a range of areas such as: criminal, housing, employment and disability law to name a few.

The experience and skills obtained here, are unlike what you would obtain from just sitting in a classroom.  We do not provide legal advice!  Rather, we assist in providing legal information, write letters, look up information regarding the law, and if we are unable to help, we sign-post to other members in the legal community.

Each blog will be written by various members within the clinic.  This can range from each of our own experiences/perspectives, client case handlings and even to just create a discussion regarding the law on legal aid.

We hope that you all enjoy our blog!  Keep checking back on us to see our progress and how we as a clinic have evolved!