Bedfordshire University invitational debate hailed a success


The evening of Monday, 03 December 2012, saw the first Bedfordshire University Invitational Debate, sponsored by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), held at the University of Bedfordshire.

The event was organised and co-ordinated by third year Bedfordshire Law Students Kenroy Justin and Qaiser Raja, from Luton, on behalf of the Student Law Society with assistance from District Crown Prosecutor Deborah Minett, and Area Business Manager Karen Sawitzki from Thames and Chiltern CPS.

Students put forward strong arguments in favour and against giving prisoners the right to vote, and dropping juries from criminal trials.

Hosted at the University's Law School, the Debate heard from undergraduates from Bedford and Luton as well as the universities of Derby and Hertfordshire.

"Voting is a privilege, and not a right," said Hannah Harvey, a first-year computer studies student from the University of Derby.

Philippa Bourne, from the same university, reinforced the argument, asking: "If you break the law, why should you have the right to make the law?"

Lewis Gittens, a second-year law student from the University of Hertfordshire, was not swayed. "Society has changed over the years, " he pointed out. "In 1867 you students would have been in prison for debt. So how can we go along with a law dating back to 1870 depriving prisoners of the right to vote?"

Grace Mowatt, also from Hertfordshire, concluded: "Voting is a fundamental aspect of democracy. Everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone deserves the right to vote."

The second debate, on criminal trials without juries, saw two of the University of Bedfordshire's campuses taking opposing sides.

Sanah Sultan and Zaherah Saghir, third-year law undergraduates from Luton, argued in favour of the motion that it was "time to rid the criminal justice system of juries."

Their fears included that juries can be "influenced by publicity," could have "biased views" and be "open to jury tapping," but Tasneem Attia and Rebecca Corbett disagreed.

Arguing that the perception of judges in England and Wales are stereotypical "pale, male and stale" Tasneem asked: "How then could they represent society?" And Rebecca stressed that being tried by a jury was a "fundamental aspect of a fair society."

Debate judges Dr Shane Sullivan, the University's LLB course leader; Baljit Ubhey OBE, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern CPS; and Judge Bridge from Luton Crown Court agreed with them.

Ms Ubhey, who was "delighted to be a part of the judging panel," said the pair had put up an impressive argument.

Rebecca Corbett, from Bury St Edmunds, and Tasneem Attia, from Bedford, won the overall CPS Debating team award.

Tasneem and Rebecca are an excellent partnership on a winning streak. Last month they won an award of £1000 each from Bedfordshire solicitors, Taylor Walton, for academic excellence, and achieved the highest marks in their second year of the Bedfordshire LLB Law Degree. They were supported in the debate by Pasanan Locke and Haajra Riaz.

The winning team received the Chief Crown Prosecutor's trophy and a week's work experience with the CPS, which includes an overview of its work, observation sessions in the Magistrates' and Crown Courts, and spending time on different teams.

"Starting out in the legal profession is a daunting prospect and work experience is very important, but increasingly hard to come by" said Ms Ubhey.

Dr Sullivan said: "This event by the Student Law Society is an important innovation for the University and it demonstrates the strength, quality and innovative nature of our students.

"The support provided by external partners such as Taylor Walton and the Crown Prosecution Service is both valuable and re-affirms the quality of our legal provision."