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School of Law Awards 2020

Birkbeck School of Law celebrates student achievement during its annual ceremony at the Law Society in Chancery Lane.

Students are recognised for their outstanding work at the recent School of Law awards
L - R: Alice Wafer winner of Outstanding Performance in BSc Criminology & Criminal Justice Year 1 (Part-Time), Dr Tanya Serisier Senior Lecturer at the Department of Criminology

The illustrious Law Society was the venue for the recent School of Law awards; where approximately 40 students from both the Department of Law and the Department of Criminology were recognised for their outstanding work; showcasing the very best of the departments’ student bodies.

By 6.30pm, the nominees and their guests were making their way into the hall, with one proudly mentioning that she’d brought along both her mother and grandmother. Many others attended with friends and family sharing in the special occasion.

Students were awarded based on achieving the highest average marks over the year and for improvement in marks with academic staff nominating for the best essays.

Some of the award winners included Kamali Brown, awarded the Centre for Research on Race and Law Prize for Best Essay or Dissertation on Race and Law; and Spike Western, awarded the Mooting Prize.

The ceremony's keynote lecture was provided by leading equality and human rights lawyer and activist David Ruebain, who joined Birkbeck as a Visiting Professor in the School of Law in 2019. Speaking candidly to the students, he mentioned that Law wasn’t his first degree. Rather, he spoke of being “fascinated by people and their relationships with society and each other and why things were messed up.” As a disabled child born in the 1960s, he wanted to do something about injustices.

A key take-away, provided by Professor Ruebain, centred around the civil rights era and the use of Strategic Litigation, a notion, he contended, as “not solely to remedy wrong, but to effect change.” Remarking on a number of cases, many fought with the Disability Rights Commission to progress the rights of disabled peoples, he commended the “huge progress” within the past 20 to 30 years.

In a similar vein and in speaking to the students’ objectives, Professor Stewart Motha, Executive Dean, School of Law, positioned Birkbeck as part of the scaffolding within a society which supports individual objectives. He expressed hope that lawyers and criminologists would maintain the mechanisms for solidarity and referred to pivotal projects run by Birkbeck, including the Compass Project- providing assistance to refugee applicants in the UK who are not eligible for a student loan. He also shared plans to extend the scheme to ex-prisoners, providing the opportunity to another segment of the most disadvantaged in society.

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of Professor Motha’s welcome was his mention of Visiting Professor Behrouz Boochani, who was previously detained by the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments on Manus Island and Port Moresby, though recognised as a refugee by Australia. While given the opportunity to leave the island, he opted to stay to highlight the plight of refugees, which Professor Motha held up as a “great symbol for solidarity.”

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