Blakey, Rachael

Rachael Blakey
Start date:
October 2016
Research Topic:
Delivering effective family mediation in the context of a changing family justice system
Research pathway:
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.

Borland, Emma

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 pathway:
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).

Bunt, Jennie

Bunt, Jennie
Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
The Role of Bailiffs in Wales
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Wendy Kennett
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship
External Sponsor:
StepChange Debt Charity and The Marston Group

The aim of the project is to provide an empirical foundation for a comprehensive understanding of the position of bailiffs vis-à-vis public bodies within the justice system in Wales.

To achieve the well-being goals under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, public bodies must maximise their revenue-raising potential, which creates a tension between the structural dimension of public value whereby the well-being of the general public is enhanced through investment and the individual dimension whereby individuals vulnerable on account of their physical or mental health, or socio-economic circumstances, are protected.

This tension is particularly acute in the context of civil enforcement. Where routine requests for payment fail, public bodies will employ bailiffs to collect the debts owed. Bailiffs are thus the personnel within the civil justice system who meet debtors in their home. A recent report by StepChange highlighted that 50% of their clients in England and Wales visited by a bailiff claimed they were treated unfairly and, significantly, 51% of bailiff action was to enforce public authority debts. Debt advice charities campaign for reform, emphasising the links between bailiff action and poverty, and the risks to vulnerable debtors. This area of law and practice lacks transparency, and there is a dearth of independent empirical evidence on which to base reform.

From one perspective, bailiffs act as the operational arm of public bodies who make debt collecting decisions in relation to vulnerable individuals. However, arguably they should be characterised as representing the justice system, and thus tasked with well-being obligations, including the protection of vulnerable individuals. This characterisation has significant implications for the regulatory framework for enforcement, and should be factored into proposals for a Welsh jurisdiction.

Cooper, Lauren

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

The concept of Justice has frequently been discussed, yet never adequately defined. Dictionary definitions indicate ‘just’ or ‘reasonable’ behaviour, and ‘fairness’, yet these terms fail to clear up the ambiguity behind the concept. Authors adopt different frameworks of Justice, such as Rawls’ 2 main principles of Liberty and Equality. This project will consider what Justice should mean for asylum seekers including access to the legal system, due process, and success for valid cases. I plan to ask asylum seekers what their idea of Justice is, and compare it to that of other stakeholders as this may be the area of disconnect. The project will consider whether there is a relationship between structures and the agency of asylum seekers, citizens and other relevant actors; and access to justice. Structuration theory will be used as a conceptual framework to examine how the duality of structure operates to constrain and enable asylum seekers. This theory explores the relationship between structure and agency, giving primacy to neither. Anthony Giddens defines structure as patterns of rules and resources, which exist virtually. For Giddens, society is constructed through the ongoing activity of actors as they draw upon these structures. Structure is therefore the medium through which agents act, and the outcome of these acts.

It is well recognised that the form and function of structure/agency is a product of context and this thesis will explore the structure/agency debate in the context of access to justice for the asylum seeker population. From informal conversations with members of third party organisations dedicated to helping asylum seekers; I have found 3 key concerns relating to access to justice for asylum seekers.

  • A lack of (good) legal representation,
  • Highly complex and lengthy asylum system, and
  • ‘Failure’ on behalf of the government meaning that 3rd party organisations have to work beyond their role. Asylum policies are deliberately harsh and hostile, to deter large numbers of claims; 3rd party organisations see this as failing to protect asylum seekers.

These concerns can all influence access to justice.

In order to fully explore the question of justice for asylum seekers, the project will investigate the variables that influence legal aid provision and legal representation for asylum claims using a mixed methods approach. The study will investigate whether access to justice is influenced by both structural and agency-related factors. I will undertake:

  • Quantitative analysis. The official datasets (immigration and legal aid statistics (UK and Wales)/EUROSTAT/UNHCR) only provide basic demographic data of those seeking asylum. Drawing on the data held by Asylum Justice, this study will create a detailed data collection system, facilitating both descriptive statistical analysis and exploration of the characteristics which influence the decisions on legal aid and representation. There is little empirical data available to facilitate the analysis of the influence of representation in asylum hearings. This study will survey court users to assess the factors that influence successful outcome, comparing those who have legal representation through legal aid/charitable provision and litigants in person.
  • Qualitative analysis. The data will be enriched by semi-structured interviews with Asylum Justice clients, legal representatives and other relevant actors in the decision-making process. These interviews will focus on indications of ‘success’ including clarity, consistency and effective representation. I will also begin the study by conducting ethnographic observations at Columbus House’ Asylum Tribunal; looking at whether the applicant has agency; whether they are enabled or constrained in the process. These observations should give some insight into the structures that enable/constrain asylum seekers.

This study will be used to support policy development with relevant Welsh public bodies and will make a significant contribution to academic debates surrounding access to justice in Wales.

Davies, Gregory

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 pathway:
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.

Evans, Rhys

Rhys Evans
Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
Providing legal protection for Grass Roots Rugby
Research pathway:
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship
External Sponsor:
Welsh Rugby Union

The project will examine the resistance of local rugby union clubs in Wales to take effective steps to protect against personal liability. The data from the project will inform the development of effective information packages to protect the local rugby clubs at the heart of Welsh communities.

There are just over 300 amateur local rugby union clubs in Wales. The majority are run as unincorporated associations with all legal liability remaining with the volunteer trustees of the club. This personal liability has seen individuals and communities hit by tribunal and other claims. A legal analysis will therefore be carried out, identifying the current legal position and the best vehicle for protection of clubs based on size, membership and other relevant factors.

Greenwood, Holly

Holly Greenwood
Start date:
October 2011
Research Topic:
Miscarriages of Justice
Research pathway:
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.

McGarry, Daniel

Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
Child Labour Law
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Daniel Newman and Professor John Harrington
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC 1 + 3 Studentship

This project is designed to evolve conceptual and theoretical understanding of Child Labour, employing an inter-disciplinary approach to gain insight in this area. It will be geared to ascertain the feasibility of having a single legislative standard for what constitutes unsafe child labour.

Owens, Anneka

Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
Securing equality rights and access to justice in Wales
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Sara Drake, Dr Lydia Hayes
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship
External Sponsor:
EHRC

As part of my PhD project, I will be determining current levels of inequality and access to justice in Wales. This project is in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for Wales.

This research is vital in light of times of austerity and a rapid decline in free legal advice centres juxtaposed with an increase in legal problems, such as increased hate crimes and abuse post-Brexit, and subsequent demand for legal services.

Together with the EHRC, we aim to design and implement policies that will not only secure equality rights and access to justice for Welsh citizens, but will improve those rights.

Smyth, Caer

Caer Smyth
Start date:
October 2015
Research Topic:
Grassroots Engagement with Climate Justice: the search for new forms of legal advocacy and hearing
Research pathway:
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?

Tarrant, Alison Elizabeth

Start date:
October 2012
Research Topic:
From rhetoric to reality: human rights and adult social care in Wales.
Research pathway:
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.

Theophanidou, Stephanie

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 pathway:
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.

Wannell, Oliver

Oliver Wannell
Start date:
October 2015
Research Topic:
The Impact of Proportionality on Access to Justice in Personal Injury Law
Research pathway:
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.

Wile, Emyr

Emyr Wile
Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
An exploration into whether prospective parents are being given sufficient information by medical practitioners in relation to genetic testing to give informed consent
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Prof Karen Morrow and Trish Rees
Supervising school:
College of Law and Criminology,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

My PhD project aims to assess the quality of information delivered by medical practitioners to prospective parents in relation to genetic testing and whether informed consent to such testing is being sufficiently received. The interests of the unborn child will be taken into consideration and the ethical arguments surrounding this.

I will aim to assess the quality of information delivered in conversations between medical practitioners and prospective parents and decipher whether the parents feel able to make an informed decision based on the information received.

My goal is to reduce the number of unnecessary terminations and increase the understanding and knowledge of prospective parents in relation to the genetic testing process. I also aim to increase the quality of information being delivered by medical practitioners to eradicate decision-making that is based on fear or uncertainty. The objective is to ultimately make every decision the correct decision under the circumstances.

Wrennall, Dafydd Huw

Huw, Dafydd
Start date:
September 2017
Research Topic:
The Legislative Style of the National Assembly for Wales: Implications of the First Decade
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Huw Pritchard and Professor Richard Wyn Jones
Supervising school:
School of Law and Politics,
Primary funding source:
ESRC

The objective of the proposed research is twofold: (i) to identify the legislative style of the National Assembly for Wales and (ii) to identify the social implications of that style.

The research will aim to undertake a legisprudential analysis of primary legislation hitherto enacted via documentary and content analyses, before submitting an empirical and qualitative evaluation of said analyses, deriving data from key informant interviews.

The research will contribute to the under-researched fields of legisprudence and legislative style generally, and to the specific devolved context.

Using Wales as the main case study, the research will also invite comparative and historical and linguistic study of the United Kingdom’s other devolved legislatures and other Commonwealth common law countries and bilingual legislatures.

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.