Plenet legal empowerment conference - February 2010
Plenet's second annual Legal Empowerment Conference brought together participants from statutory bodies, NGO's, academics and researchers, legal and education professionals to share their ideas and perspectives on the following question:
'How does PLE contribute to a culture of civil and social justice?'
Read the Conference report (477 KB)
Keynote speaker was Lord Willy Bach, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice who said
'PLE has come of age, as a concept. There has been a breakthrough in as much as the ideas behind it are accepted as valid and true by many across the whole justice system. Indeed government has taken it on board. The Ministry of Justice looks forward to working with you to demonstrate to others the value of Public Legal Education, through evaluating its impact, expanding its reach to new communities and raising awareness of the need for it amongst those who might not have considered the benefits of Public Legal Education work.'
Lord Bach, Ministry of Justice
Read Lord Bach's Speech in full (83 KB)
Another highlight was taking part in two short plays by Theatre ADAD: one looked at the effects of domestic violenece and the other focused on a young person's experience of managing their first home alone.
More about Theatre ADAD
'Thought-provoking and highlighted the emotional issues facing young people who may have legal problems'. 'Very useful for us in terms of thinking about how to engage at hearts and feelings level (confidence-building) and 'Really showed how creative interactive sessions could increase the impact of, and enjoyment of PLE'
Delegates comments following the performances
Interactive learning in Canada
Sarah McCoubrey of Ontario Justice Education Network described the mock hearings they organise in Ontario where improving skills and attitudes to life is valued as much as imparting knowledge about the law and legal systems. OJEN has developed an extensive professional volunteering programme involving judges and lawyers. More about OJEN
Delegates considerd how to employ interactive and experiential learning methods in a variety of different settings. Working in groups the audience thought about how they would do it, what they needed help with and where there were opportunities and challenges. Here's what we came up with: Interactive and experiemental learning mats (102 KB)
Delegates had a choice of five excellent workshops:
Advice and legal services led by Myles Kunzli from Law Centres Federation. Advice and legal service workshop (100 KB)
Youth justice approaches led by Lewis Parle from Independent Academic Research Studies (IARS). Youth justice approaches workshop (98 KB)
PLE approaches to empowerment and anti-discrimination led by Roisin Cavanagh, British Institute of Human Rights. Poverty and human rights workshop slides (121 KB)
Adult learners and legal capability led by Howard Gannaway, National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE).
Research and evaluation: evidence of the effects of poor levels of legal capability led by John Seargeant, an independent consultant and Nigel Balmer of the Legal Services Research Centre. Research and evaluation workshop report (82 KB) Knowledge, capability and the experience of rights problems LSRC slides (272 KB)
A panel debate followed, chaired by Andrew Phillips (Lord Phillips of Sudbury) OBE on 'How PLE advances a culture of civil and social justice'.
Plenet welcomed panel members:
Myles Kunzli, development consultant at the Law Centres Federation, Dr Theo Gavrielides, chief executive, Race On The Agenda (ROTA) and director of Independent Academic Research Studies (IARS), Sarah McCoubrey, executive director, Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) and Carol Taylor, director, National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE).
The panel speakers gave an introductory synopsis of how PLE advances a culture of civil & social justice. Here are some of their contributions:
'PLE is much more than just preventing or intervening earlier in an individual’s legal problem; it’s about civil and social justice in a collective sense' Myles Kunzli
'PLE is not about creating lawyers. It’s about active citizenship and empowering people to perform their role in society and giving them the tools to do that' Theo Gavrielides
'We can either continue to disempowering people by only offering them advice which can be expensive and complicated or we can grow robust citizens who know when they need to know something and know how to get something and are more confident about dealing with those things' Carol Taylor
The conference was chaired by Sir Henry Brooke, chair of Plenet Steering Committee, and the Civil Mediation Council. In conclusion, Sir Henry made closing remarks and concluded a very successful Plenet conference.
Delegate comments on the conference and an evaluation summary are here (114 KB)