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Students tackle hate crime, meat production and fake online reviews in social mobility charity’s Model Law Commission

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They’re hot topics, but what do 16-year-olds make of them?

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Aspiring lawyers from non-fee paying schools have clubbed together to play law commissioner and scrutinise some of the most challenging issues facing society today.

This was all part of social mobility charity Big Voice London’s annual Model Law Commission. The programme’s participants — aged between 16 and 18 — are split into teams to examine one of four chosen areas of law: hate crime, fake online reviews, climate change and children’s social care. This culminated in a presentation event at Portcullis House, Westminster, opened by Norman Lamb MP and Law Commissioner Nicholas Hopkins.

The students definitely weren’t shy about criticising the law, and had a whole host of ideas about how it could be improved.

Take the criminal law team. Made up of 18 students, the group was tasked with thinking about the law on hate crime. Clearly a topical issue given the post-referendum wave of attacks, the students recommended increasing education both inside and outside of the classroom so victims are more informed about how to report incidents.

Aided by a number of criminal law specialists from the likes of Taylor Wessing and Garden Court Chambers, the group also identified online hate crime as a particular concern. Social media sites have a responsibility to ban perpetrators, the students concluded.

Over on the fake online reviews team, 17 students decided the law — the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations — is “insufficient” to tackle the issue at hand.

Norman Lamb MP pictured with two Big Voice London students
Norman Lamb MP pictured with two Big Voice London students

The group floated the idea of a new department to tackle fake online reviews. This task force would have the power to respond to complaints, fine perpetrators and ban entities — such as Amazon — from providing incentives like free or discounted products for good reviews. The students also suggested criminalising fake reviews, raising awareness of their existence through education and introducing a pop up disclaimer on review websites.

Ten students tackled the thorny, and equally topical, issue of climate change. After consulting with the likes of Tallat Hussain, a White & Case lawyer, the group made a number of recommendations including restricting meat consumption. In a time when deference to plant-based foods is all the rage, the team suggested taxing meat products as a long-term solution to help the environment. They realised this would cause a backlash:

Taxes should be put on meat products at a lower rate and should be increased over time so people can see the gradual increase in price and can still buy meat if they want to.

The final, and by far the most popular, topic open to the students was children’s social care. Falling under the umbrella heading of property, family and trusts, 38 students put their aspiring lawyer heads together and analysed Part 3 of the Children Act 1989.

Aided by barristers Damian Stuart, Shu Shin Luh and Tony Harrop-Griffiths and King’s College London’s Professor Jane Tunstill, the group concluded the statute was lacking a “clear and understandable definition” of the word “welfare”. There is a duty placed on local authorities to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area who are in need” but, the students said:

[T]his statement is far too broad and doesn’t provide an exact definition that local authorities can understand and act on when needed.

They also recommended reform of the statutory definition of “disabled”, which currently adopts “stigmatised language” (disorder, dumb, etc).

You can read the full Big Voice London report, which contains all the students’ recommendations, here:

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12 Comments

Anonymous

Great initiative. Well done.

(13)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

Moar laws! Moar government!

(2)(7)

Trumpenkrieg

Only 3 out of those students are non-BME and only 2 are male.

This is not representative.

(12)(9)

Anonymous

I really hope the police stop investigating all those murders and rapes and focus instead on people posting malicious one star reviews on yelp.

(6)(9)

Anonymous

Kind of missed the whole point of the charity…

(5)(1)

Josh

This is no doubt a great initiative. Whatever law firms want you to believe, state school children are still at a disadvantage when it comes to entering the profession. Fact.

(11)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

Turning state school children into Parsons’ daughter from 1984 will nullify that disadvantage. Fact.

(2)(2)

Scouser of Counsel

He was still very proud of her…

(0)(0)

Not Amused

We should teach law in schools. Anything that engages young people in the law is therefore an extremely good thing.

Not least of all because lawyers (people who study and practice law) are the only group of people in our society who are used to, on a regular basis, being wrong. Being wrong, or having your ideas or beliefs challenged, is becoming increasingly rare in our society. We are becoming a thin skinned species – incapable of dealing with even minor criticism, or else convinced that anyone who dares to disagree with us is ‘evil’ (or stupid, or mentally ill, or any other nonsense phrase).

Only studying law. Only being exposed early to the concept of being wrong – and that ‘being right’ depends entirely upon subjective circumstances which do change over time – only by doing that can we save our society.

(13)(1)

Anonymous

Whilst we are at it, introduce debates into education (at all stages), so that people can take on different roles and get used to voicing and challenging different opinions.

(2)(0)

Ciaran Goggins

“Son, I stood in that street before it was paved, learned to shoot or be shot before I could shave, the only thing I learned from a Colt 45, was the difference between being slow and being alive/ So buy me a drink, lend me an ear, cos you know I’m the only one here/ Who remembers the smell of the black powder smoke/ And to stand in the street at the turn of a joke”.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Was it cold or hot in that room? One student is wearing a coat, and another has nothing but a red shirt on. We can’t tell from the pictures!

(0)(2)

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