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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Never mind Oxbridge...

Never mind Oxbridge...

Afua Hirsch's blog post It's not just law students who are learning how to sue failed to take into account that prisoners are too.

"Law lecturers often joke about the fact that they are providing students with knowledge that could be used against them. If a law student slips on a wet floor, their instinctive reaction is likely to be a personal injury claim in the county court. And if they don't like their grades, well they can sue".

I couldn't believe it when I was in Hull Prison Special Unit (1989-1991) and the education based regime allowed me to study law and the Prison Service supplied me with law texts. And that there were no strings attached such as "Whatever you do, don't sue us!". I quickly saw that they had supplied me with the weapon with which to beat the system.

The then No1 Governor of Hull Prison, Phil Wheatley, a law graduate, went onto become the Director General. Within days of getting my first text I was challenging the system through its new Request/Complaint procedure, and the submitted CARP Form required the Governor to provide a written reply within 7 days. I watched his eyebroughs raise as he scanned the Form and read familiar terms like "ultra vires" and "Wednesbury principle". He said that I am very bright and a fast learner and grasp complex issues easily. He did offer some advice, that the law is not the answer to everything and that negotiation and compromise around the table sometimes resolves issues.

Later, when he was DG, he would tell me about the smile on his lips as other Prison Board members raised my name with a grimace as they recounted all the problems I had given them as they tried to carry out their administrative duties.

I smile at the thought of Charles Falconer reading law at Queen's College Cambridge and going onto be Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, and yet he was unable to beat the formally legally unqualified Jailhouselawyer who read law at the "University of Crime".

1 comment:

James Higham said...

There's some witty maxim in there somewhere but I can't quite put my finger on it.