Tag Archives: 2013

Moving Employment (sort of) in January 2014

This is just a short update with some major news. I will be leaving the law group at the University of the West of Scotland in January 2014. I will not, however, be leaving the University, rather I am taking a sideways move away from the Business School within the Faculty of Business and Creative Industries, and moving into the School of Social Sciences within the Faculty of Health, Education and Social Sciences. There, my post will be specifically as a Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice within the Centre for Criminal Justice and Police Studies.

By 2014, I will have had a near sixteen year association with the Business School (and the same subject grouping prior to it being known as the Business School) of UWS (formerly University of Paisley), having initially been a student there as far back as 1998, then taking evening classes in the early – mid 2000s, full time postgraduate study after that, and then working within the School from 2007 to date. As such, it will of course be very sad and somewhat of a wrench to leave them. That said, I am immensely looking forward to taking on the fresh challenges that a move to another School and Faculty will bring. There are a number of exciting areas that the Criminal Justice and Police Studies group are involved in, which no doubt I will update within this blog as time goes on, and once settled into the new role after commencing it on Monday 6th January 2014.

Of course, any of you who have read my blog will know that Criminal Justice is not a new area for me to be involved in, having recently spent over a year working on an HEA project which involved familiarising two cohorts of students with the Scottish Criminal Justice process and observing a number of live court cases, albeit within the field of the laws of evidence. This is in addition to the fact that I have previously reviewed criminology and youth justice textbooks for the Scottish Legal Action Journal, and of course the area of my own PhD research is in common law contempt of court.

Although I will be finishing my current post and commencing my new one in eary January, I will still have a transition period, and will still have some responsibility and ties to my old group until the end of the 2013 / 2014 academic year as I will be setting and marking assessments for the current modules I am coordinator for, and will be continuing to supervise all of my dissertation students through to completion in summer 2014.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Elish Angiolini installed as new Chancellor of UWS

Yesterday, the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini, the former Solicitor General and Lord Advocate for Scotland, was installed as Chancellor of the University of the West of Scotland at an official ceremony held in the Thomas Coats Memorial Babtist Church in Paisley (the same church where graduation ceremonies are held), followed by a reception in the Brough Hall of the University’s main campus.

It was very pleasing and uplifting to see an excellent turnout of both staff and non-staff alike, as approximately a hundred academics (myself included) took part in the robed procession, with several hundred students, members of the public etc. seated in the church itself.

The ceremony itself kicked off with Elish being awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University, and there were addresses to the congregation by both the University’s new Principal, Professor Craig Mahoney and the Dean of Students, Professor Anne McGillivray.

Whilst the robing itself took place, there was a musical interlude from the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, and speaking as an ex-Orchestra player myself I have to say that they were absolutely fantastic, especially so given the young age of the majority of their members. Special mention should go to their rendition of the Lament on the Death of his second Wife composed by Niel Gow, a very unusual and softly played work, which was handled beautifully.

Following an excellent and heartfelt closing speech by Dame Angiolini herself, the ceremony was closed. I was lucky enough to have a brief chat with Elish after the ceremony in the robing room, and she certainly seemed every bit as thrilled to be appointed to the position as the University is to have her accept it. I have no doubt whatsoever that Dame Elish Angiolini will be an inspirational ambassador for the University of the West of Scotland. Hopefully too with an appointment from such a background, it will be a shot in the arm for the law department at UWS in what has been a very trying past couple of years.


Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Charities call for age of criminal responsibility to be raised in Scotland

First non-HEA post in a while, but I simply had to take a few minutes to comment on this news I have seen today. 12 charities have called on the Scottish Government to make provision to have the age of criminal responsibility raised from 8 to 12 in line with the age of criminal prosecution (which was raised as a result of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, from 8 to 12 three years ago).

See the report at :

What angers me about this is the ignorant misunderstanding about how youth justice actually works in Scotland, and the call itself demonstrates that senior figures in these charities simply do not have a clue how the law is applied in this area.

To clarify – and it really is incredibly simple which is why I have a real problem with such a call being made – we currently have a two tier approach to youth justice in Scotland which can be separated into two distinct age groups:

1. Children aged 12 and over.

These children can be prosecuted in the adult courts and be given a criminal record if appropriate. However it has to be pointed out that up until the age of 16, the vast majority of children between 12 and 16 are not in fact prosecuted in this way. Over 95% of children in this age bracket are dealt with by the children’s hearing system (more about that below). It is only those very rare and gravely serious offences such as murder and rape where a child offender is actually dealt with in the adult courts, and even then there are various safeguards put in place as the child offender is legally classes as a vulnerable witness. In fact, beyond the age of 16, if a child is a repeat offender who has had a previous care package in place then they can actually remain in the children’s hearing system until the age of 18.

2. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 (8, 9, 10 & 11)

Until 2010, the age of criminal responsibility and prosecution in Scotland was simply 8, and it was changes made as a result of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 that created the two tier system we currently have. Now, those children in this age bracket (8, 9, 10 & 11) cannot be prosecuted and can only be dealt with via the children’s hearing system. Again, it has to be pointed out, that prior to these changes there was a misconception that many children were being hauled in front of the adult courts. This could not be further from the truth. In fact less than 0.5% of offences committed by children in this age bracket were dealt with by the adult courts. The other 99.5% were dealt with by the children’s hearing system. Again, of course, these were only the very most serious of offences.

As a result of the changes made in 2010, the only real difference is that the discretion within this age range as to how a child of this age can be dealt with has been taken away and now they must be dealt with only in the children’s hearing system.

One thing I have to point out here, is that if a Thompson and Venebles type situation were to happen in Scotland now where two 10 year old children were to intentionally kill a younger child, we no longer have the option to prosecute even if it can be established beyond doubt that in reality those offenders knew and understood the consequences of their actions. Just a thought.

In any case, regardless on your opinions on the above, just to clarify the role of the children’s hearing system, where currently all offenders in this age bracket must be dealt with. It is not a punitive system and never has been. There is no criminal record attributable to a child who has been in the system. Instead, it is a purely welfare based approach that is taken based on what is in the best interests of that child. The result of a child being found to be responsible for their actions is that a care package is put in place that could involve social work intervention, counselling etc. Regardless of what care package is put in place, it is all about helping that child, to enable them to create a brighter future for themself, and most certainly is NOT about stigmatising, punishing or belittling them.

This is where the EU, the UN and all of the political commentators got it wrong when debating and creating the new laws in 2010. Sadly, this is also where ALL of these charities are also getting it wrong today in 2013. The incorrect assumption seemed to be back in 2010 that just because Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility was the age of 8, that this meant that all, or at least a sizeable number of children were actually being prosecuted. As such, a rash and needless change to the law was made. Sadly, the people calling for these changes today still just don’t ‘get it’. Again, the children they are discussing are not currently being hauled in front of the courts, quite the opposite, they are being cared for.

The thing is, this wasn’t a damaging change in 2010, as those children aged 8-11 could still be dealt with appropriately within the children’t hearing system as illustrated above. On the other hand, the potential changes being discussed today would be hugely damaging to the welfare of identifiable ‘at risk’ children in this age range, as no formal welfare based approach could be taken, and no care package put in place. Of course, there are other potential grounds for referral that could still be used in some cases (say based on truancy, or being outwith parental control etc.), but these would not be able to be used in all, or even a majority of cases in their current forms. Indeed, it may be that the ages attributed to these would end up being raised in line with the proposed changes were they to come to fruition, so we simply cannot bank on being able to use those grounds as a fall back option.

These proposed changes cannot be allowed to proceed, if they do then it is a sad day for both the law and also the welfare of children the length and breadth of Scotland.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HEA Teaching Development Grant Project Update 31st May 2013

Just a short update to let anyone reading know the latest on my Higher Education Academy funded project. I presented an update on my progress along with some preliminary findings yesterday, Thursday 30th May 2013 at a small HEA half-day conference that happened to be held at the University of the West of Scotland – so it was only a 5 minute walk from my own office to get to the venue! The conference was titled: Disseminating outcomes of Teaching Development Grant projects in Scotland, with the given remit “Disseminating practice and the benefits of undertaking a Teaching Development Grant project“.

Preparing to start my presentation – HEA Teaching Development Grant Conference, UWS, 30th May 2013. Picture courtesy HEA.

The results I was presenting were indicators from the summative assessment for the law of evidence module which covered the areas used by students in their courtroom observations during phase one of the project. By comparing their results to those results of students who did not take part in the practical phase and only learned about the subject via traditional classroom teaching, this allowed for some analysis on the areas of understanding and retention of key concepts. Thus far, the results are positive as the indicators are that indeed those students that took part in the practical phase of the project have improved performance relative to those that only learned in the classroom. These results will only be corroborated following some further analysis of both the summative assessment and also the set questions given to students during both phase one and two. At present I am still awaiting receipt of a few of these sets of questions prior to the final focus group to round off the project. It is anticipated that all of this will be complete within the next 4-6 weeks, allowing the remainder of the summer for analysis, refinement of results, and creating a full dissemination plan.

Further updates will be made as progress continues.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Higher Education Academy Project Update – 26th February 2013

Just a short update on the progress of my HEA teaching development grant project. As mentioned in the last update, I presented at the joint HEA / SHEEF conference ‘Disseminating Innovative Practice‘ at the Radisson Blu hotel in Edinburgh on Tuesday 19th February. There were some pictures taken at various times during the conference, but no video that I could see, and so I decided to video a little recreation of the paper I presented. Due to memory restrictions on uploading videos I had to compress and split the video into two parts, but in any case, here is my presentation:

Part One

Part Two

The quality of presentation was extremely high on the day from all of the presenters that went before me, and to be honest I was somewhat nervous as a result when it came time to carry out my own presentation after lunch (always prefer to present before lunch so that it’s not hanging over you and you can enjoy eating more!!). However what I presented seemed to go down relatively well as I was asked a number of questions following the conclusion of the session.

In the run up to the conference, in the two weeks prior to it, I managed to carry out the final focus group with the student participants on the project to complete phase one, the practical stage of the project. The group was well attended, with nine of the twelve students attending (this was exactly the number I expected), and there were very good levels of contribution from all present. The session was recorded to allow for a proper transcription and to ensure that conclusions and emerging lessons / indications can be drawn in an accurate context. This will hopefully allow for at least one further interim dissemination, whether written or oral, to be drafted in the coming weeks.

Finally, I managed to complete my interim report (circa 2,500 – 3,000 words), which had to be written and forwarded to the HEA by the 18th February, and surprisingly I managed to get this finished and submitted by the 14th. Unusual to not be still writing on deadline day!!!

So now it is on to phase two of the project, and to be honest I don’t think I will have too much to report on relating to that until close to the end of that, but I will of course note anything of interest as and when it crops up.

At this stage I would like to go on record as thanking a number of people for their contributions and help to date, and I feel that having completed the first phase it is an appropriate time to do so:

Professor Angus McAllister – now Emeritus Professor of Law, UWS, who gave me great support relating to my taking on the project prior to his retiral earlier this month.

Mrs Valerie Finch – now retired former subject leader for law, UWS, who allowed me to take on the project in the first place and gave me space in my activity plan to do so prior to her retiral late last year.

Dr Julie Thomson – from the Innovation and Research Office, UWS, for helping me get everything officially set up to run the project and approved at the outset.

Mr Ron Livingstone, head of the business school, UWS, who gave support to the project and said that it was exactly the sort of thing that he was happy for staff of the business school to get involved in.

All of the students who volunteered, successfully or otherwise, to take part in the project. Without their input, the project would have been impossible to get off the ground. In particular, the levels of engagement of many of these students has been absolutely superb and has helped enormously with being able to draw valid indications and conclusions thus far.

Patricia Meiklejohn and Graeme White from Paisley Sheriff Court and Hamilton Sheriff Court respectively, both of whom were so welcoming to myself and the students taking part in the project. Patricia in particular really helped by spending some time with the students on their first court visit, explaining various aspects of the court and personnel, as well as answering student questions. This was very much appreciated by both myself and all of the students.

The various other personnel of the courts, many of whom took the time to come and speak to the students including at times the fiscal depute on duty, defence agents, clerk of court, court officers, police officers and others.

The HEA and all of the hard working staff there. Without their hard work (and money!), projects like mine would be unlikely to exist. In addition, the events and conferences that they organise ensure that results and indications can be disseminated to a number of relevant people, which of course helps enormously.

And finally, anybody else that I may have overlooked in the few minutes I have been typing – if you have helped, then I am grateful, and apologies for not mentioning you by name. I would also include here anybody who has taken the time to come to this blog and read / watch the videos of my ongoing progress, hopefully you have found something interesting on your visit.

As mentioned, I’ll of course make further updates as and when necessary.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HEA Project – Phase One Dissemination

A happy new year to all. This is just a short update on my ongoing HEA teaching development grant project: (Legal Education – academic or practical? The use of flexible learning to compare undergraduate students observing professional practice with those learning in a traditional academic setting).

The focus group which officially ends phase one of the project was delayed slightly so as not to interfere with the exam diet for the students who have been taking part. This has now been confirmed as taking place on Tuesday 12th February 2013.

February will be a busy month for working on the project as in addition to the focus group and (immediate!) transcribing and analysis of results, the official interim report is then due to be completed and sent to the HEA by Monday 18th. Immediately following the submission of the interim report I am presenting the activity and results of the project to date at a conference on Tuesday 19th.

The conference, which is being hosted jointly by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in conjunction with the Scottish Higher Education Employability Forum (SHEEF) is:

Disseminating Innovative Practice
Tuesday 19th February 2013
Radisson Blu Hotel,
80 High Street,
Royal Mile,

My presentation is simply titled “Learning via traditional academic methods versus learning by observing professional practice” and will last fifteen minutes followed by five minutes of plenary questions.

Hopefully this all passes without any major issues and I will update with a further blog toward the end of the month.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HEA – Teaching Development Grant – Update December 7th

This is just a short update on how the HEA project (Legal Education – academic or practical? The use of flexible learning to compare undergraduate students observing professional practice with those learning in a traditional academic setting) I am leading has been going.

Thus far, as suspected, of the participants there have been a few students who have been inconsistent in terms of attendance, but on the other hand at each of the two locations (Paisley and Hamilton) there have been a core group that have attended either all sessions, or indeed missed a maximum of one. The students that have missed sessions have all indicated that they will (or in some cases have) voluntarily attend an additional court session to ensure that the total number of hours spent in court will reach the minimum threshold to ensure fair comparison across all participants.

As of the end of today (Friday 7th December) there will have been ten court visits in total, to a large range of court types including:

– Solemn trial (Trial with judge and jury)
– Summary trial (Trial with judge alone)
– Custody court
– Summary court (where accused has pled guilty)
– High Court of Justiciary (Trial with judge and jury)

At both Paisley and Hamilton there have been cases with witnesses giving oral testimony, and also physical evidence presented. In at least two sessions there have been objections lodged by one of the counsel based on the evidence being presented.

From my own observations, it would be possible to have answered a number of the questions the students have been asked to attempt to answer, whilst there have been other areas that a limited amount of information might have provided an indication, for which a student may be able to find the answer with a little investigation. There are other questions which I would not expect the students to have been able to answer yet unless they have taken the initiative to source answers elsewhere.

There has been some adaptation to the original research plan as initially there were seperate days scheduled for feedback sessions, however due to time constraints this was restructured to instead seek feedback and ask questions directly after each court visit. In many cases there have been questions to clarify what has been observed, or probing questions to lead on from questions raised during the course of the session.

The final court visits will be next week (week beginning 10th December) with a final focus group (to be filmed) thereafter. It is expected that an interim publication will be possible in January following the observation of the focus group and analysis of student responses to set questions. A further update will be made on this site prior to the end of January.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,