Ten law students from The Open University are taking part in a four-week project that will consider the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on civil liberties.
The ‘Civil Liberties in the Lockdown’ project is being run by the Freedom Law Clinic, which creates pro bono opportunities for students to access criminal appeal cases and offer virtual help to clients who cannot pay for legal representation. It is a collaboration with leading national campaigning organisation, Manifesto Club, involving several UK universities.
The OU students have been attending online seminars with leading speakers, to support them in creating a research paper looking in detail at the emergency legislation.
The research paper is expected to be published in June and will include examples of where the emergency legislation has been used, as well as testimonies from those affected by the law. It will be used to develop ways to help people who need support and to offer pro-bono legal advice to those who have been negatively impacted. Post-lockdown, the research will be used to lobby for changes to the law.
Hugh McFaul, Co-Director of The Open University Law School’s Open Justice Centre, said: “We are delighted to see our students taking part in this important, innovative project. They will be playing a crucial role in social justice and law at a time of national crisis. They will also gain incredibly useful insight into emergency legislation and research gathering, and will digitally network with prominent figures in the civil liberties arena. This is historical work and an opportunity for students to work on something like this – a pandemic which is having such monumental impact on our country and around the world – may not come around again in our lifetime.”
This project is part of the Open Justice Centre, which provides free legal advice and guidance to people and groups who may struggle to access appropriate legal support through other means. In doing this, it also provides opportunities for students to take part in pro-bono work.
Luke Gittos, Solicitor and Director of the Freedom Law Clinic, said: “We are really happy to be working with the OU and our other partners on this project. We look forward to contributing to a vital public debate on how the lockdown affects our everyday liberties.”
This is not the first time the Freedom Law Clinic and OU have worked in partnership. The Freedom Law Clinic regularly provides opportunities for small groups of OU students to assist in criminal appeals cases. These students support with advising clients on the prospects of appealing their case to the Criminal Case Review Commission.