Student Profiles

Rachael Blakey

Rachael Blakey
Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
Delivering effective family mediation in the context of a changing family justice system
Research Supervisor:
Dr Leanne Smith
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This project will examine the needs of individuals using family mediation services as a means of resolving family breakdown issues and ways in which mediation services are evolving to meet those needs.

I will use a mixed-methods approach to collect qualitative and quantitative data, using semi-structured interviews and surveys. My thesis aims to explore:

  1. The information that clients have available to them prior to and throughout mediation and the impact of this on their experience;
  2. How the environment has evolved and what challenges this creates for mediators when trying to effectively engage with clients;
  3. How mediation providers have responded to this new environment, such as the expansion of mediation methods;
  4. The experiences and outcomes of clients using mediation services.

My PhD is preceded by a Masters dissertation on the accessibility of information on family mediation. This will look at the complexity of language used, and whether sources reflect a changing mediation process providing tailored services. The overall aim of my 1+3 studentship is to inform the development by local providers of effective, tailored mediation intervention packages.

Emma Borland

Emma Borland
Start date:
October 2012
Research Topic:
Keeping Out ‘The Other’: Restricting Access to Justice for Asylum Seekers: An Equality and Human Rights Perspective
Research Supervisor:
Professor Luke Clements, Dr Bernadette Rainey
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship
External Sponsor:
Journal of Law & Society

Within the context of asylum law in the UK, there exists great tension between ‘the political imperative to maintain effective immigration control’ and the UK’s obligations (under international refugee law, human rights law, and the EU legal framework) towards those seeking protection. In light of these competing values, access to representation before a fair and independent adjudicator is crucial. Regrettably, cuts to legal aid and multi-layered procedural restrictions limit access to justice for asylum seekers and produce unfair results with potentially devastating consequences. I propose to unpick the rules, through empirical research and study, to reveal the moral corruption of a politically biased system that causes social exclusion and suffering. I further seek to find a solution to this inequitable situation by comparative study of the Scottish system (where legal aid is not restricted by the ‘merits’ of the claim); the French system (that follows an inquisitorial form of procedure); and the Canadian system (where asylum claims are arguably handled more effectively by independent magistrates).

Lauren Cooper

Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
Asylum Law
Research Supervisor:
Bernadette Rainey
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

Accessing Justice for Asylum Seekers- The Welsh story.

My Masters dissertation will focus on data from England and Wales which I will use as a template for my PhD project focused solely on Wales.

I am looking at whether recent legal aid cuts (LASPO) have had an adverse impact on the asylum process. the project will include information on 3 stages;

  • Access to justice (ability to make the claim)
  • Outcomes (who makes it to court)
  • Family reunion (once awarded refugee status- as legal aid has been removed.)

I will be using a mixed methods approach; employing quantitative techniques to identify gaps in present data and allowing me to assess the current situation regarding Asylum Seekers’ access to justice; and qualitative techniques to start to fill this gap, highlighting what the statistics fail to show.

Quantitative:

  • Secondary data analysis of immigration figures for England and Wales using data from:
  • Home Office
  • ONS
  • Court Services and
  • Charity figures (Asylum Justice, and Legal Resource Centre)

Qualitative:

  • Interviews with key stakeholders, showing the impact that these cuts have had on real people. Examples of these stakeholders are:
  • Ambassadors for Asylum Justice
  • Representatives from Welsh Government (Welsh perspective)
  • U.K. Government- Legal Services Commission
  • Leading academics

I am adopting a sequential explanatory approach; firstly collecting and analysing the quantitative data, then the qualitative, using these results to help explain and interpret the quantitative data.

Gregory Davies

Gregory Davies
Start date:
October 2011
Research Topic:
The Legitimising Role of Judicial Dialogue between the UK Courts and the European Court of Human Rights
Research Supervisor:
Professor Jiri Priban, Professor Luke Clements
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This study seeks to analyse the ever-shifting dynamic in the judicial ‘dialogue’ taking place between the domestic courts of the UK and the European Court of Human Rights. Endorsing the view that s.2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 is the principal ‘gateway’ through which this important dialogue can occur, it focuses in particular on the potential implications should a new UK Bill of Rights include a modification of that provision.

Holly Greenwood

Holly Greenwood
Start date:
October 2011
Research Topic:
Miscarriages of Justice
Research Supervisor:
Dr. Stewart Field
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This is the first empirical research to examine the role of innocence projects across the UK.

An innocence project is most commonly a university clinic where students investigate cases of alleged miscarriages of justice. Michael Naughton is generally considered the founder of the UK innocence movement: he established the Innocence Network UK (INUK) in 2004 and set up the University of Bristol innocence project in 2005. Following this, innocence projects spread rapidly across the UK, with INUK assisting the establishment of 36 innocence projects during its operation (2004-2014), and with two further projects existing independently. Despite this, the literature on innocence projects was only from a few authors, and there was little known about how projects were operating in practice across the UK. The research sought to examine this through semi-structured interviews with past and present innocence project leaders which explored their aims and objectives; their approach to investigation and casework; the problems and challenges they faced; and their views on the future for miscarriage of justice work in the UK. The innocence movement in the UK has been plagued by difficulties. Despite the large number of innocence projects, only three cases have ever reached the Court of Appeal and only one has ever been overturned. Furthermore, in the autumn of 2014, INUK ceased its role as a membership organisation for innocence projects meaning there was no longer a UK based network of projects. It is hoped this research will provide an important insight into the UK innocence movement, which has been of significant contribution to the miscarriage of justice field and to the development of clinical legal education.

Caer Smyth

Caer Smyth
Start date:
October 2015
Research Topic:
Grassroots Engagement with Climate Justice: the search for new forms of legal advocacy and hearing
Research Supervisor:
Anna Grear, Karen Morrow and Elen Stokes
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

I am interested in the theories underpinning our legal system, and the limits they place on our ability to protect the environment and to advocate for climate justice.

My research project firstly entails a theoretical enquiry concerning the ontological and epistemological structures underlying law and ‘participatory’ governance, drawing on the insights provided by new materialist thinkers.

The second element of this research project will be to conduct ethnographic research with climate justice organisations engaging with global and local governance structures, including the (1) the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, an international policy leader in climate justice and (2) Incredible Edible Bristol, a local community food sovereignty movement.

The aim of this research is to explore how advocacy practices might enable a wider range of voices, including non-human constituencies, to influence the normative character of the legal process. To what extent do existing law and governance structures exclude? What impact do these theoretical foundations have on the work of these grassroots actors? How might re-conceptualising their theoretical foundations allow for a greater diversity of political action, and a better response to the complexity of contemporary environmental challenges?

Alison Elizabeth Tarrant

Start date:
October 2012
Research Topic:
From rhetoric to reality: human rights and adult social care in Wales.
Research Supervisor:
Professor Luke Clements
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship
External Sponsor:
Journal of Law & Society

The language of rights is increasingly placed at the centre of the debate around the provision of services for disabled and older people, and permeates government policy in this area. However, it remains unclear how far the focus on rights has translated into improvements in service provision. Across the UK there are fundamental shortcomings in services for older and disabled people, including the rationing of services, chronic underfunding, lack of choice and significant geographical variation in the services provided. This study will examine whether the increasing focus on human rights in both policy and legal cases has been effective in securing improvements in the way disabled and older people using social services are able to live their lives.

Stephanie Theophanidou

Stephanie Theophanidou
Start date:
October 2015
Research Topic:
The role of legal services in law-making; the case of the legal service of the European Commission
Research Supervisor:
Professor Stijn Smismans
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This study seeks to explore the precise role of ‘legal expertise’ in the construction of EU law and policy. The Legal Service of the European Commission has hardly been researched. As this is one of the main institutional expressions of ‘legal expertise’ within the EU policy-making process, this study aims to uncover its precise role and features.

Oliver Wannell

Oliver Wannell
Start date:
October 2015
Research Topic:
The Impact of Proportionality on Access to Justice in Personal Injury Law
Research Supervisor:
Annette Morris
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

This project considers the nature and purpose of civil law in the 21st century to ask what we can and should expect of civil justice in the post-Jackson Reform era. These theoretical questions centre on access to justice and how we can define, or redefine, that all important phrase. The empirical element to this research explores the ways in which the legal profession functions under new cost rules in order to secure that theoretical aim for claimants within personal injury law.

It is particularly focused on the current and potential use of technology within legal practise to manage cases within the limitations of new cost rules and rationed procedures. This draws heavily on current work relating to Law and Technology; professionalism and expertise; and the contrasting natures of social knowledge artificial intelligence.

Empirical studies in law and socio-legal studies are distinguished, in substance and design, by their close connection to the concerns and methods of social science. The juxtaposition of legal research and social science generates a distinctive set of opportunities. Cardiff and Swansea Universities have diverse and vibrant legal research cultures, both scoring very highly in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework for their outputs, environment and impacts. In both, there is an established track record of research at the interface of legal and social science scholarship.

In combining the two settings, the Empirical Studies in Law pathway has supported studentships across a range of sub-disciplines, including: public and constitutional law; legal education; human rights and adult social care/disability law; asylum law; tort law and compensation culture; the rights of disabled children and their families; environmental law; European Union law and governance; family law; legal education; perceptions of risk in third sector sporting clubs; the application of human values models from psychology to judicial decision making; banking and environmental risk; comparative Welsh/English housing law/policy; constitutional perspectives on Welsh Devolution. Cardiff has recently consolidated strength in African socio-legal studies and developed interdisciplinary capacity in gender, law and politics as well has having emergent empirical research clusters in commercial and company law. The collaboration between Cardiff and Swansea provides areas of co-located specialism such as Environmental Law; children’s rights; criminal law; law and development; and maritime and commercial law.

Students on the ‘1+3’ route complete the specialist module Theoretical Themes for Empirical Analysis in Law as part of the interdisciplinary Social Science Research Methods Masters programme at Cardiff. Subject-specific training and student development continues throughout the doctorate. Students are active participants in a wide range of formal and very informal reading and discussion groups, roundtable sessions, and seminar series in both institutions. Students present their work at Cardiff’s PGR conference in Law and Swansea’s PGR colloquia which both run twice yearly. Students are also strongly encouraged and supported to attend and present at relevant national and international conferences.