15 Sep 2018

Human Rights – Part 5:

Reminder: What are human rights?

If we go back to Part 2, Shestack (1986) described rights as:

“an array of legal relationships. Rights can be seen as entitlements, immunities (from having a legal status altered), privileges and powers (e.g. to create legal relationships)."

  • Entitlements

  • Immunities

  • Privileges

  • Powers”

Human rights constrain governments to act in a certain way. The government’s behaviour is moderated to the extent that the government ought not (pay attention to these words) breach your rights without lawful authority. The government is also, to a certain extent, a guardian of rights, in that it has ‘agents’ in place to assist the general public to protect and assert their rights, for example, the police, and the judiciary. Keep in mind though, that the responsibility lies with those whose rights are breached to take action, to assert their rights.

The law, like equity, “aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights”.

Human rights are encapsulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) but students should keep in mind that rights vary from place to place, culture to culture. One argument against the UDHR is that it encapsulates the ‘Western’ idea of rights and the issue of rights is further complicated in that every individual has an opinion on this topic.

“These views are influenced by upbringing, culture, religion, friends and family, among other factors. The most difficult aspect of freedom has always been that the concept requires us to recognise that other people have ideas that may not align with our own. This tension is demonstrated by movements underway to try and reframe certain civil rights, such as the right to private life as exercised by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community, as infringements of religious freedom (Michaelson, 2013). The landscape of rights is continually shifting.”

© The Open University, 2014

Given the above then, now is a good time to remind readers/students that this LLB is about law in England and Wales, and therefore considers all topics as the law is currently applied here.


14 Sep 2018

Thought for the day

Justice and truth are the common ties of society; and therefore even outlaws and robbers, who break with all the world besides, must keep faith and rules of equity amongst themselves; or else they cannot hold together.

(Locke 1690, I.ii.2.)

3 Aug 2018

A little advice for newbies

A whole bunch of newbies will be starting in October. As a 'seasoned' OU law student (and Learner Experience Rep), I would like to share a little advice on what studying law entails… This is from my own experience of course! I will not speak for anyone else.

First, the law is not that difficult to understand. It teaches a logical and strategic thinking process even while you are learning the content. At first, probably the first four months of W101, you will be confused and find the concepts a bit difficult to understand. This is only natural. However, by the time March or April comes around in 2019, you will find that everything is falling together in place. In the beginning, what I found was that the concepts appeared to be isolated from each other. But then, when you begin to see how it all fits in together, it is far easier to understand.

Try not to put things off at the last minute, whether it is reading that unit or doing that TMA. Falling behind makes it difficult to catch up but not impossible. Your tutor is usually your first port of call. If you have difficulties contacting your tutor then, by all means, contact student support (SST). You will find the link on your student homepage. You will also find that the OU is very flexible and very willing to help you catch up if you fall behind. The most important thing is not to panic, don't feel that the task ahead is impossible, and to take it one small step at a time.

When you are starting off, try not to pay too much attention to what your peers are saying – you will find that there are often misconceptions and bad ideas promulgated on different groups! Remember that they are also new to law, and may be having the same struggles in understanding the concepts just as you do. This is why I am stressing, and I am sure the University will support me in this, please try to contact your tutor first! Your tutor is paid to help you, so do not feel guilty about contacting them.

During the course of your law studies, you will begin to learn many new things, some of which are:

learning how to learn

learning how to write academically

learning how to do proper referencing

learning how to read critically

learning how to think critically

learning how to analyse complex ideas

learning how to summarise these complex ideas

The above list is not exhaustive of course.

If this all sounds complex, don't panic. You will be gradually eased into these, and in most cases, you will never know that you are learning.  smile

Important:

1) Pay attention to your grammar and spelling. Law requires words, to explain and to convey ideas. Avoid complexity, by thinking that you are explaining these concepts to your grandparents or someone who is less educated than you – as will be your future clients. You can set Microsoft Word to check your grammar as well as spelling, and it will give you a "readability score" on how easy your writing is to understand.

2) Do not take tutor feedback personally. Tutor feedback is usually given in positive terms, but because it is a critique of your writing skills and thinking processes, it is difficult not to feel offended or disheartened. Keep in mind that your tutor is there to help you, not to discourage you and that if you follow their feedback, you will certainly improve – there's no question about that. By following my tutor's advice my grades jumped from the early 70s to the early 90s.

3) Begin to bookmark important legal websites. I will add some of my favourites at the end of this blog post to start you off.

4) Read as many judgements as you can. I love judgements coming out of the Supreme Court because they are written in very simple English, explains complex ideas very simply, and are very good examples of how to write for law.

5) Many law firms have part of their websites dedicated to explaining concepts of law. These are written by experienced solicitors and barristers and will offer you an opportunity to understand the concepts in a simpler format than many of the textbooks. Again, this has been my personal experience. I do not use these websites for reference, merely to understand and break down complex ideas.

I have another post in this forum on software, telling you how to get free software to assist you in your studies and give some examples of useful software that I have used over the years – I have 20+ years ICT experience. Still, you are free to choose whatever your preference is. I only recommend my personal favourites and I am not a replacement for the IT helpdesk at the OU. smile

Tips:

I have created a folder in my computer with many subfolders inside. The subfolders are named for each course example, W101, W102, et cetera. Inside of these subfolders, I have further subfolders for the TMAs, judgements, statutes (Acts of Parliament) et cetera. Think of your computer like a filing cabinet, and begin by arranging things neatly. You will find that this is beneficial later on for finding stuff – especially after a few years of study when you need to go back refer to previous studies.

Do try to make time to attend your local courts to see how the judicial process works. Most local courts will have volunteer opportunities as well. I appreciate that many of you will be fully employed and also busy with studies, family life et cetera, but it is well worth the sacrifice and time spent. After all, you are studying law to get into this world – hopefully.

Some of my favourite websites:

http://www.bailii.org/ – a repository for cases. You will find almost any case here, and it is an acceptable official source.

http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules – the Civil Procedure Rules 1998

http://e-lawresources.co.uk/Home.php – website explaining very simply and briefly important concepts with case examples

https://www.cps.gov.uk/ – homepage of the Crown Prosecution Services

https://www.jcpc.uk/ – homepage of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), the final court of many Commonwealth countries.

https://www.supremecourt.uk/ – the UK Supreme Court

https://publications.parliament.uk/ – webpage dedicated to publications arising out of the UK Parliament at Westminster.

Blogs I like:

http://oulawstudent.blogspot.com/ – my personal blog where I document my own study journey

http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/openjustice/ – the Open University's pro bono blog

https://howtogetafirst.wordpress.com/ – how to get a first-class honours degree in law by someone who did it smile

https://publiclawforeveryone.com/ – Prof Mark Elliott's blog – beautifully and simply written

http://www.thingslegal.co.uk/forum/index.php – a forum that I set up for discussing ideas about law, with a lot of resources uploaded. Members include already qualified lawyers, so the advice given is sound and based upon actual practice.

I hope that you find these tips useful. Good luck with your studies.

12 Jul 2018

Is it worth it, part 2

Remember when I wrote about a student who pretended to know the law at an expert level when she didn’t? This person sadly has not learnt any lessons. The crux of the matter is as follows:

The student made large claims that she was ‘a solicitor with 25 years practicing experience’. This has been continually affirmed in writing, that is, the student continues to make this claim even though there is no evidence of this… in fact, the evidence points to the opposite, a rather low understanding of the law, and basic English Language.

A polite request wondering why the student wanted an(other) LLB when that student was already a practicing lawyer returned the response that ‘the student wanted to become a judge’. Basic Google searches reveal that a ‘second’ LLB is not a requirement to be a judge.

You may be wondering why I brought this up again… well, the matter is now in the public domain as the student filed a claim for defamation in the County Court where it was dismissed because (a) it was the wrong court, and (b) the case had ‘no prospect of success’.

Not to be deterred, the valiant warrior for the underdog again took up cudgels and, armed with a mighty misunderstanding of law on the whole, and defamation law (and the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR)) in particular, strode boldly into the High Court to seek and do justice. The fight was short and not especially vicious, and didn’t even raise a sweat on the defendants’ brows as the referee (judge) took one look at the wandering of the wayward warrior’s mind and ruled “particulars of claim and accompanying documents are an abuse of the court's process or is otherwise likely to obstruct the just disposal of proceedings”.

The gist of the circumstances at the High Court is this – the claim was initially stayed to give the claimant (our student and intrepid warrior) opportunity to rewrite it because the original claim was some 10 pages of incoherent rambling and which was not in compliance with the CPR (16 and 53). The revised claim was 79 pages (nearly 270 paragraphs) of even more incoherence which led the judge to ask if the claimant even knew the meaning of the word ‘concise’. The claim was then dismissed in its entirety because ‘it had no real chance of success’ as the claimant appeared to have no understanding of law or of how civil litigation works.

Nevertheless, our intrepid warrior refuses to stay down. A request to appeal has been made, itself having no ‘real prospect of success’ but further reiterating how this person lives in a world created entirely within her own mind.

Sadly, among the evidence submitted to the court was a medical letter which affirms that this student has mental health problems. What is even sadder is that even such a person is allowed to make mistakes in making decisions, because under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a person is deemed to have capacity unless “it is established that he lacks capacity” and “a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision merely because he makes an unwise decision”.

Her mistakes in this case has caused her over £8,000 so far in awards against her for defendants’ legal expenses.

As I said before, pretending to know the law is not advised, especially among people who actually know the law.