New online resources

Excerpts from the Open Justice Student Hub Live event are now available on YouTube, including lots of discussion on the role of pro bono and public legal education and advice on legal skills and dealing with practical legal issues.

1, Opening and Webtour –

2, Giving legal advice –

3, Developing professional legal skills –

4, Opening with Paul Catley –

5, Taking part in Open Justice Activities –

6, Public Legal Education –

7, Public Legal education in Prisons –

3 May Open Justice: live interactive event

The Open University Law School presents a live interactive event on 3rd May from 1.30pm – 3pm, and 7pm – 9pm (BST). We hope you can join us!

This event will be of interest to people studying, or intending to study, law at The Open University and also for those who have an interest in accessing legal support.

We will be showing you around the website and demonstrating how students would give pro bono advice, and we will fill you in on how The Open University have delivered public legal education to schools in areas such as human rights and social media law. There is also a session about how to meet the need for public legal education in prisons.

You can see the full programme and find out more about each session on the website
The event is online, interactive and open to everyone. The chat room will be open from 1pm and during the live event from 1.30pm you can send your tweets to @StudentHubLive (#StudentHubLive17), email us at, complete the online voting tools, send us your comments and take part in the online discussions.

For more information and to join the event visit (please use Chrome or Firefox). If you are unable to join the event on the day, a recording will be made available shortly after the event and you can watch this available in the following few days on the Student Hub Live website.

The Tumbling Lassie Seminar

This guest blog is by Open University law student and Open University Law Society Officer for Scotland, Lidia Dancu.

If you would be interesting in contributing a guest blog, please contact us at

Modern slavery and human trafficking are burning issues both at home and abroad and it appears surprising that, in 2017, slavery can still pose a challenge. Criminalising the enslaving and trafficking of people does not appear to be a sufficient deterrent.


The case of Reid v Scot of Harden (1687) (Mor. 9505), concerning a 17th century nameless girl brought in front of the Court of Sessions in Edinburgh inspired a group of advocates (Scottish barristers) to set up a body designed to raise awareness about the plight of victims caught up in modern day slavery and trafficking. The “tumbling lassie”, as she was known, had been “bought” from her mother and used as a performing acrobat by a travelling salesman, until, physically worn out, she fled her manager, one Mr. Reid and took refuge with Scot of Harden and his wife. Mr. Reid sued the Scots and demanded the return of his “property”, causing the courts, notwithstanding his production of such compelling evidence as a contract, to proclaim: “But we have no slaves in Scotland, and mothers cannot sell their bairns.”


On Saturday 28 January, the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh held their Tumbling Lassie Seminar: Trafficking in the UK: demands and dilemmas for justice, marking the 330th anniversary of the decision of the Court of Sessions in Reid.  It is astounding to consider that, 330 years later, slaves still exist in the UK.  Even in Scotland, most parts of which are often considered too remote for such illicit operations, people can still be bought, sold and trafficked under false pretenses, sexually or commercially exploited without the means of obtaining help.


The seminar was opened by Gordon Jackson QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and featured leading speakers on human trafficking, including Alison Di Rollo, QC, the Solicitor General for Scotland, the award winning human rights barrister Parosha Chandran, and Pam Bowen, CBE, a senior policy advisor at the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as presentations from Andy Bevan of International Justice Mission (IJM) and Bronagh Andrews, of TARA, the two charities supported by Tumbling Lassie.


The speakers referred to the estimated 4 billion people worldwide who live outside the protection of the law, and the over 45 million held in slavery, and emphasised the importance of advocacy in rescuing victims and bringing criminals to justice. If in certain regions of the world corruption, lack of training and lack of system reform coupled with overstretched and underfunded social services are the main system failure, the UK faces its own challenges.


The introduction of the non-prosecution of victims of human trafficking principle in UK legislation, as a defence in throughout the UKunder Art.8 of the 2011 Directive of the European Parliament, has been a much needed and welcome step in the right direction: that of affording some humanity to those who had been stripped of it.


The law, in response to the ever shifting slave trade, is evolving still. On 31 May 2016, the Lord Advocate made and published instructions for prosecutors in Scotland when considering the prosecution of victims of human trafficking and exploitation, covering any person over 18 accused of an offencecarried in the course of their having been trafficked or exploited, or as a consequence of the trafficking, and provided that any reliable, credible information from any source exists. The overall aim of the policy has been that of “making the invisible, visible”, by ensuring that all prosecutors in all crime areas are aware of its existence and by removing any onus on the victim to advance the proposition that s/he is a victim of human trafficking.


The speakers went on to consider the poor take-up of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). This is the framework for identifying and recording victims and ensuring that they receive appropriate support, and to discuss the potential reasons for this.  Consequential cases which changed the legal backdrop for human trafficking victims were considered and legislation, both domestic, European and international was duly examined.


The discussion was taken up by a panel, which concluded that when inconsistencies in the legal justice system fail to deliver objectivity and equity and when, as a last resort, legal actors must employ extensive court room strategies in order to minimise the resultant gap, much work still remains to be done. Training on trafficking, reporting and inter-agency collaboration, but above all, perhaps the good old Scottish approach suggested by the Solicitor General of Scotland, of dealing with matters with ‘a good deal of common sense and humanity’, would all lead to what has now become a call to ‘march with a firmer step’.


For that, however, we must first accept that, uncomfortable as it may be, in this country trafficking does exist. The way a society deals with its victims and its most vulnerable is the true measure of its worth.


The Tumbling Lassie Committee: Alan McLean QC (Chair), Patricia Comiskey (Treasurer), Maryam Labaki, Iain Mitchell QC, Eric Robertson, Isla Davie and Janys Scott QC.

  • website copyright The Tumbling Lassie Committee 2015

Attending the Avocats San Frontieres conference


Last week, Open Justice attended the Avocats San Frontieres (ASF) conference in Brussels to discuss how lawyers can work to bring about social change. There were more than 250 participants, from 15 different countries who shared experiences and ideas on how to increase access to justice and considered the link between legal problems and the broader issue of sustainable development. The conference was an opportunity to promote the work of Open Justice and meet with organisations who will support the development of our project. We were really impressed with the quality of the presentations which provided a real insight into the challenges that organisations and countries face securing access to justice and the rule of law. Some delegates discussed the particular challenges presented in embedding the rule of law in countries such as Myanmar which are in the process of transitioning to democracy after a period of authoritarian rule.

There are many ways in which pro bono legal services are being delivered and much work is being done to improve legal systems and legal education with the overall goal of improving access to justice for all and particularly the poor and vulnerable.

We discussed with colleagues from other Universities the importance of including clinical legal education within a law programme to help ensure access to justice in the immediate and long term future. It was fascinating to learn how justice education is being delivered in Uganda, Singapore, Italy and the US. We learned more about their teaching methodology and it has provided us with different ideas and case studies that we can incorporate into our module.

The conference proved to be a great chance to extend our network of pro bono practitioners to support the work of Open Justice. We met with a number of organisations with whom we hope to develop collaborative activities and so provide our students with a chance to engage in the process of lawyering for change!


Hugh and Francine at the conference.


More images from the conference.