What is this event about?

We are bringing together a wide range of experts, from across the courtroom and beyond, to talk about the future of inclusion and special measures in UK courts. We are partnering with law reform and human rights charity JUSTICE

When and where is it?

The half-day conference will take place on Friday 3 November, 9.30-2pm, at Aspire conference venue in Leeds city centre. You can choose to attend in person, or remotely via the livestream. Speaker sessions will run from 9.15am-1pm.

We know that barristers and solicitors are finding themselves under increasing pressure in the current legal landscape. When a client has a communication difficulty or vulnerability, that job gets harder. It is very difficult for counsel to juggle the demands of representing that client, with monitoring and supporting their participation in legal proceedings. 

This event will explore the issues that affect inclusion and special measures in the courts. It will share best practice and spark conversation around inclusion, adaptations, and adjustments. The conference will equip all attendees with fresh tools, outlooks and approaches, which can be implemented whenever a court user has communication needs or other vulnerabilities, whether an intermediary is allocated or not.  

Who are our speakers?

The Access to Justice conference will feature talks from a range of experts with different perspectives including academics, legal professionals, and people with lived experience. See below for speaker biographies and topics. The event will conclude with a 45-minute panel discussion chaired by JUSTICE Chief Executive, Fiona Rutherford.

The event is a perfect opportunity to hear from a wide range of experts and access learning that may count towards your CPD needs or continuing competence. In-person attendees will also receive access to an exclusive free CPD accredited training seminar for their workplace, and resources to take away and share with colleagues.

Ticket prices

All in person tickets include breakfast, refreshments and lunch.

Standard in person: £99
Standard livestream: £50
All standard tickets include a £10 donation to JUSTICE

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His Honour Judge Neil Clark

HHJ Clark will open the conference by introducing recent developments relating to special measures.

While at the Bar, HHJ Clark prosecuted and defended cases involving vulnerable people, including serious sexual offences by children, and the trafficking and sexual abuse of women from Eastern Europe. He has an interest in cases involving those suffering from mental illness and, as counsel, advised for and appeared in court on behalf of both the prosecution and defence, in cases involving patients and those suffering from mental illnesses, who were charged with serious offences.

HHJ Clark was one of the national pilot judges for Section 28 (pre-recorded video evidence for vulnerable witnesses), and a member of the committee overseeing the national roll out of Section 28. He was involved in developing the compulsory training for advocates in relation to the examination of vulnerable witnesses. He has participated in a number of initiatives relating to both special measures and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) at Leeds Crown Court.

Chris Packham (pre-recorded video)
Naturalist & broadcaster

We’re delighted to announce that presenter and naturalist, Chris Packham, has kindly created a video-recorded foreword to the event, exploring his experiences in the courtroom as an autistic person. His introduction is full of important insights on everything from the ‘visual clutter’ of the courtroom, to the benefits of having access to detailed information about proceedings in advance. We can’t wait to share his insights with attendees.

Kama Melly KC
Park Square Barristers

Kama’s presentation will focus on person-centred approaches to special measures, which go beyond the provisions set out in the Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act (1999), including trauma-informed approaches to cross-examination. Her practice with young defendants has been described by the Court of Appeal as ‘a model’. Kama also has notable expertise in cases concerning sexual offences, and has a particular interest in issues of Diversity and Inclusion, and facilitating the evidence of vulnerable people. Among her many other roles, she sits part-time as a Judge in the Crown and Family Courts.

Dr Katie Maras
University of Bath

Katie’s presentation is entitled: Measuring Special Measures: enabling access to justice for autistic people?. In this talk, she willoutline the evidence base on the difficulties experienced by autistic individuals when they are providing testimony and discuss implications for the provision of Special Measures and other adaptations to facilitate access to justice. Deputy Director of the Centre for Applied Autism Research at the University of Bath, Katie’s work focuses on autism and forensic psychology, and the intersection between them.

Edmore Masendeke
University of Leeds

A researcher at the University of Leeds, Edmore’s presentation will explore the courtroom experiences of former defendants with mental health conditions and learning disabilities, considering the extent to which they received support with communication and coped in court. A former Early Stage Researcher on the DARE (Disability Advocacy Research in Europe) Network, Edmore’s academic interest in disability and law stems from his own experience of life as a disabled person.

Andi Brierley
Leeds Trinity University

Head of Access, Participation & Outcomes at Leeds Trinity University, Andi has had an extensive career in Youth Justice. In his work, he combines his practice experience and research; alongside his lived experience of adverse childhood experiences, care experience, school exclusion, drug addiction; & youth incarceration. His presentation will explore how care experience and other adverse childhood experiences can result in criminal justice involvement, and may impact participation in legal proceedings.

Why access is vital

“I couldn’t… I was trying to tell my side of the story and [my solicitor] was only asking me questions that he wanted to know. If you ask me a question, you need to know what’s behind it to understand”. 

“I don’t really understand and I can’t follow and some of the words they use, I can’t understand”

“…to be honest with you, because I suffer with dyslexic [sic] and they use words that I don’t understand. Sometimes I’ll be like, ‘What does that mean?’. I’m a black and white person. Otherwise I’ll be like, ‘What does that mean? Can you put it different?”

These voices highlight the barriers many court users continue to face when participating in proceedings, which could change the course of their lives. The Access to Justice conference seeks to bring these voices to the fore, increase awareness of the impact of communication needs and vulnerabilities in legal proceedings, and explore future steps towards making the law accessible for all.

Read more about why we’ve decided to host an interdisciplinary conference.

Find out more

We do hope that you can join us in Leeds (or virtually) in November. If you have any questions regarding the event, including not being able to attend for financial reasons, please contact events@communicourt.co.uk.

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