The round-up of the stories that a budding Student Lawyer should be aware of this week. Sign up here to get these updates in your inbox every week.
Appeals to murder convictions brought by domestic abuse victims
Reported by Ellena Mottram
Two women, Farieissia Martin and Emma-Jayne Magson are seeking to challenge their murder convictions following Sally Challen’s successful challenge of her own murder conviction earlier this year. They are the first cases of their kind to be heard following Sally Challen’s release from prison earlier this year and will provide an indication of how the criminal justice system has changed as a result of the Challen case.
Sally Challen was jailed for life for murder in 2011 for killing her husband in a hammer attack in August 2010, after suffering years of abuse. In February 2019 the Court of Appeal however quashed her conviction and ordered a new trial as new evidence regarding her mental state at the time of killing became available. The new evidence concerns a psychiatric report concluded she was suffering from an adjustment disorder at the time of the killing.
The Court granted Mrs Challen bail in February and set a further hearing for 7th June. At the hearing Mrs Challen admitted pleaded not guilty to murder but admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. It was argued Mrs Challen had suffered decades of abusive and coercive control. Coercive control was not recognised as a criminal offence as a form of domestic abuse until 2015 and refers to behaviour which is designed to make a person dependent on the abuser.
The prosecution said the crown accepted this lesser plea and therefore the planned trial on the 1st July did not go ahead. At the hearing Mr Justice Edis sentenced her to nine years and four months in jail. As she had already served this time following her original conviction, she was allowed to walk free.
Following this successful defence, the campaign group Justice for Women (who had backed Mrs Challen’s appeal, highlighted there are a number of women who are facing time in prison for murder convictions of their abusive partners. They argue this is because the criminal justice system fails to recognise coercive control as a factor in the sentencing.
The first of these cases is being heard on the 3rd of December, that of Farieissia Martin. Ms Martin was convicted of murder in 2015 after stabbing her partner with a kitchen knife. It is again being argued she had suffered violence and coercive behaviour, but her defence team had not obtained evidence of the impact of this on her mental state before the original trial.
A second case will be heard on the 10th December, that of Emma-Jayne Mason who was convicted of murdering her partner. Her lawyers argue she was suffering from emotionally unstable personality disorder which stemmed from childhood exposure to domestic abuse.
The cases will serve to indicate whether Mrs Challen’s case has had an impact on the factors the court consider in handing down murder convictions.
Intel call for action to improve diversity within the legal profession
Reported by Laurence Tsai
For over a decade, Intel has continuously pioneered for action to improve diversity in its own workforce and in the technology industry alike. For instance, in 2015, Intel committed $300m to reach a goal of full market representation of women and underrepresented minorities within its US workforce by 2020. They achieved this goal in 2018 by improving diversity and inclusion in the entire technology industry.
The corporation’s diversity and inclusion policy seeks to eradicate barriers which jeopardise minorities’ entry into the industry by supporting action to “expand the pipeline of technical talent” to ensure people with a diverse background can make a meaningful contribution to Intel whilst minimising any hindrances on their journey.
Additionally, Intel’s executive vice president and general counsel, Steven R Rodgers announced just last week that Intel is implementing further action to reflect its commitment to diversity by declaring that it will only work with law firms whose diversity performance is “acceptable” – in an effort to reflect the diversity of Intel’s employees, customers and the communities. This significant and impactful step is called the Intel Rule.
Beginning 1 January 2021, Intel will use outside law firms in the US that are average or below average on diversity. Firms would only be eligible to do legal work for Intel, provided they meet two diversity criteria, namely that at least 21% of US firm’s equity partners are women and at least 10% underrepresented minorities.
One of the main motivations for implementing the Rule is that data suggests that progress of diversity within the legal profession in the US has been “frustratingly low” – with surveys indicating that at large US law firms, only 20% of full equity partners are women and only 8 or 9% are underrepresented minorities. He makes a further observation that the largest 200 firms in the US will not reach equity partner rates of 50% women and 33% racial and ethnic minorities for at least another 50 years. Although the diversity criteria apply solely to US equity partners from the outset, the Fortune 100 company intends to develop data and apply diversity criteria to firms worldwide. It is hoped that such criteria would eventually filter down to encompass a range of employees in a law firm – which would align Intel with its own policy.
This step will face various challenges and Intel conceded that this would mean ending or limiting long-standing relationship with firms and may also deny itself access to exceptionally-skilled lawyers. However, it remains adamant that such action would prompt meaningful change in the legal profession – at a faster rate of progress.
There will also be instances where they must depart from the Rule, for example, in patent prosecution where there is a severe lack of gender diversity – but it intends to only depart from it in necessary or exceptional circumstances.
There is clearly more to be done across the industry and across the globe, and the latest announcement by Intel illustrates both corporations’ willingness to resist the sluggish change and to adopt disruptive tactics in a bid to promote increased diversity in all its forms. Change can not only come from within across all industries, so initiatives like Intel’s are to be applauded.
An update on the nature of “Secure Accommodation” in section 25 of the Children Act 1989
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
In Re B (Secure Accommodation Order)  EWCA Civ 2025’s ruling, The Court of Appeal gave further guidance on what constitutes a “secure accommodation” within the meaning of section 25(1) of the Children Act 1989.
Lord Justice Baker allowed an appeal by a local authority against HHJ Hayes’s refusal of its application for a secure accommodation order under s.25 of the Children Act 1989 for a 15-year-old girl, B.
The specialized local agency recommended to B an accommodation that was not Ofsted registered after the Local authority failed to provide her with a secure unit. Due to B’s exposure to violence at home, the proposal was approved and applied for a court order after the LA found a suitable accommodation (several hundred miles away).
HHJ Hayes refused it on the ground that it would be disproportionate to make such order. Jackson LJ later granted permission to appeal and brought in the Association of Lawyers for Children (ALC).
The case raised important issues concerning the term “secure accommodation” in section 25(1) including its meaning, relevant criteria, and evaluation of welfare.
According to Baker LJ, “The context in which this appeal is being considered is what can fairly be described as the crisis in the provision of secure accommodation in England and Wales,” having said that he also recognised that section 25 was “not a straightforward statutory provision”. Therefore, he had “considerable sympathy” for HHJ Hayes who had to make the decision.
In a nutshell, the Court settled on a broad definition of the term and concluded that the criteria that must be met include an evaluation of the child’s welfare and the proportionality test within Article 5 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is for the local authority to decide whether it wishes to pursue its application for a secure accommodation order.
Nevertheless, such cases where children’s welfare are involved raise broader procedural questions.
On Friday, the former prisoner Usman Khan, 28, from Staffordshire, was invited to the Learning Together fifth anniversary event in London Bridge. He was there alongside other guests who included former inmates and prison staff.
Khan had been attending the event, which included a workshop on storytelling and creative writing, before launching an attack that started inside the building and later spilled out on to the bridge.
Academics and former staff have praised the work of Learning Together, warning that the message of the charity should be remembered.
David Wilson, a professor of criminology at Birmingham City University and chair of the Friends of Grendon – a prison where the project ran – tweeted: “Cambridge University and their Learning Together initiative is wonderful. What they have achieved should not be undermined by the London Bridge attack. I am obviously aware that two prisoners were involved – the attacker and a second who tried to prevent it.”
His words referred to James Ford, who is also thought to have tried to save the life of one of the victims. Ford was jailed for life in 2004 for the murder of 21-year-old Amanda Champion. It has since emerged that Marc Conway, who has served time in jail, also intervened with others to suppress the assailant.
Law student Jake Thorold added: “Learning Together insists on seeing the best in people. It is unflinching in saying that – no matter someone’s past – everyone has something to contribute.
“The classes reflect this: students from unis and prisons learning alongside one another in genuinely mutual exchange.”
The Learning Together programme was set up by Dr Amy Ludlow and Dr Ruth Armstrong in 2014, with support from the University of Cambridge’s teaching and learning innovation fund. It involves students and prisoners learning together under the motto “Education as the practice of freedom.”
Jamie Grundy, an independent trainer, educator and researcher in prison education, said he had been to several events on the programme. “With these sort of initiatives, the idea behind them is twofold – to give the students practical experience to go alongside theoretical experience at university, [and] a way of breaking down barriers [between] prisoner participants and undergrad students who have not come into contact with those in a prison environment.” He added: “I have been around the prison education world seven to eight years and never heard of any incidents before. And also I have met plenty of people who have been part of prison education programmes, former serving prisoners, who are complimentary of these initiatives and the staff who get involved.”
Over eight weeks, those taking the Learning Together courses meet to read, study, discuss and write essays before “graduating” together. Prisoners do not get a formal qualification but gain credits towards an undergraduate degree in a related subject they may take later.
Since starting, the programme has been expanded nationally and to other prisons, with many similar programmes appearing. Another similar scheme called Inside-Out was pioneered in 2014 at Durham University, after two decades of success in US institutions.
Learning Together was highlighted as an example of best practice by Dame Sally Coates in her 2016 review of prison education.
At the University of Cambridge there are three Learning Together courses: one in criminology, which was formed in HMP Grendon, and a further two courses that have run since 2017 in literary criticism and philosophy and theology. The latter course is currently running in HMP Whitemoor.
Last year it was announced that Cambridge University was offering bursaries to prisoners so they could study at the institution for the first time. To qualify, those applying need to have completed a higher education course while in prison under Learning Together.
The conference was posted on Eventbrite, an event management and ticketing website, where it was described as a “day to celebrate, connect and collaborate”.