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Abstracts and student author biographies

Proactive Not Reactive: The Case for Mental Ill-Health Prevention. To What Extent Does the Law Protect Urban Nature as A Safeguard For Mental Health?

The COVID-19 pandemic has left in its wake a tsunami of mental distress. This has been exacerbated by the State’s inability to foster an environment which promotes individuals’ resilience in the face of adversity. With the view that the State should be more proactive in its protection of mental health, this paper aims to assess whether the law effectively safeguards but also demands the implementation of nature within urban environments. This will be achieved through assessment of vulnerability theory in relation to mental wellbeing and the shortcomings of existing mental health protections, particularly within urban planning and the protection of urban green. Subsequently, a statutory provision mandating mental health considerations within all decision-making concerning nature will be recommended, thus promoting the foundations for a proactive system which pre-emptively and holistically protects mental health. This article will argue that until the law and its institutions recognise the mental wellbeing value in protecting nature, it will continue to contribute to a system which predominantly manages the mental health epidemic rather than solving it, acting reactively not proactively.

Tanya Saunders

I graduated from the School of Law at the University of Leeds in 2021 with a first class LLB. I was also awarded the Hughes Scholar Prize for graduating top of my cohort. Throughout my time studying at the University of Leeds, I enjoyed studying commercial law especially, and have chosen to pursue this area of law further in my career journey. Further to this, I also developed a keen interest in the ways in which the law may be used as a device to protect mental health and promote wellness.

I am now paralegal at Network Rail in their Transparency, Ethics and Data Protection department, working specifically within the Freedom of Information team. In September 2022 I will begin studying the Legal Practice Course before commencing my training contract and kickstarting my legal career. In the future, I hope to return to academia and undertake a Master’s degree. No matter what I’m doing moving forward, I hope to always be learning.


Greed vs. Need: Does the Sentencing of Tax and Benefit Fraud at the Crown Court in England and Wales Represent Differential Treatment of Classes by the Criminal Justice System?

It is well established that social class is a significant determinant of the advantages and challenges a person faces throughout life. Coming from a lower social class places individuals at a fundamental disadvantage in many aspects. Distinctions between the portrayal of benefit fraud and tax fraud, committed by the lower and upper class respectively, provides a clear example of how society views and subsequently treats different classes. However, criminological research has often failed to expand on the evidently distinct treatment of the two offences, to look at how such a bias might also be reflected within judicial sentencing. Preserving the neutrality of the judiciary is a key element of proportional sentencing and as such, is crucial to a fair and equitable justice system.

Using empirical analysis of sentencing data from the Crown Court Sentencing Survey, this paper explores whether the sentencing of benefit fraud and tax fraud reflects class bias within the justice system. Unlike other research, a substantive approach is taken to assessing the equality of sentencing, by comparing data against the individual guidelines for each offence. Analysis focuses on three key areas: immediate custody rate, sentence length and extenuating factors. Contrary to previous findings, the results show that tax fraud yields a higher rate of imprisonment than benefit fraud that is consistent with the guidelines. Although there is some evidence of the favourable treatment of tax fraudsters through judicial discretion, these findings are inconclusive and require further exploration. Notably, this research is faced with a small sample of tax fraud cases compared to benefit fraud. Based on previous research and the findings of this study, it is concluded that this likely reflects failures of the system to adequately pursue less serious cases of tax compliance. Therefore, further research is needed to investigate the reasons behind this disparity.

Rosa Rist

I recently graduated with a first-class degree from the University of Leeds where I studied Criminal Justice and Criminology. For my final year dissertation, I chose to explore the issue of class inequality within the justice system, a topic I found myself to be passionate about. Alongside this, I started a small business selling second-hand sustainable clothing online. Since graduating, I am now running the business on a full-time basis. I still retain a keen interest in class differences within the area of criminal law and plan to return to this field in the future. View my LinkedIn profile.

COVID-19 and Illegal Drugs: A Critical Analysis of Demand and Supply

This paper seeks to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted patterns of illicit drug use across Europe and North America, and how this may be explained by changes in the demand and supply for illicit drugs during the pandemic. In addition, this paper examines these disruptions within the context of key criminological theories, particularly rational choice theory and routine activities theory. These aims were explored through a critical library-based documentary analysis of empirical research during the pandemic, along with original theoretical contributions within the criminological literature. From this critical analysis, this paper argues that it was a mixture of demand-side factors, such as reduced social opportunities, and supply-side disruptions, at both the street-level and international trafficking-level, due to strict lockdowns, which may explain the overall reduction in illicit drug use during the first three to four months of the pandemic.  This paper also emphasises the relevancy of key criminological theories in explaining these changes, as COVID-19 restrictions significantly increased the risks associated with the illicit drugs trade during the pandemic. These findings outline the versatility of criminological theories in explaining how the illicit drugs trade can be impacted by unprecedented global crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, these findings should help inform future drug policy research on how major crises can impact the illicit drugs trade.

Alex Morant

I am a recent graduate from the School of Law at the University of Leeds. In 2020. I graduated from the School of Law after reading BA Criminal Justice and Criminology. Due to my exceptional achievements, and my influence within the School of Law, I decided to progress onto taught postgraduate level, where I graduated with a MSc in Criminal Justice and Criminology.

With a keen interest in criminal justice and the criminal justice system, I hope to acquire future roles working within the criminal justice system, particularly within the police service here in West Yorkshire. I also hope to continue my academic career by studying for a PhD within the area of illicit drugs policy and research.

Parent Company Liability For Tortious Wrongs: Is Duty of Care A More Effective Mechanism Than Corporate Veil Piercing?

This article critically analyses two methods of imposing liability on parent companies: corporate veil piercing and the finding of a direct duty of care. Ultimately it questions to what extent the latter is more effective than the former where the case has been brought by a tort claimant. In doing so, this article focuses primarily on the scope of each mechanism to determine the degree of adherence to the core company law principle of limited liability and the level of protection provided for tort claimants through imposing liability in deserving cases. A narrow scope provides for strong adherence to limited liability but little protection for tort claimants. Contrastingly, a broad scope provides for strong protection for tort claimants but undermines limited liability. As such, maintaining limited liability and protecting tort claimants are framed as two conflicting sides of the same coin, and given the relative importance of each, some degree of balance must be found. This article finds that, given the vulnerable nature of tort claimants paired with the undesirable incentive that limited liability provides for parent company engagement in hazardous activity, this balance should be tipped towards protecting tort claimants. Given that duty of care is found to cater for this more so than veil piercing, the former is found to be the more effective mechanism.

Mollie Rigby

In 2021, I graduated from the University of Leeds with a First Class LLB Law Degree. Having developed a strong interest in Company Law throughout my degree, my final year dissertation explored parent company liability for the torts of their subsidiaries. For this I was awarded the ‘Hughes Dissertation Prize’ for submitting the best dissertation in my cohort.

I am due to undertake the Legal Practice Course in September of 2022 before commencing my Training Contract at international, commercial law firm Addleshaw Goddard the following year. In the meantime, I plan to travel Southeast Asia and Australia.

To what extent can legal means provide adequate remedies against knife crime offending?

The past decade has seen an exponential increase in rates of knife crime offending in England and Wales. Successive government responses have been largely based on a utilisation and expansion of the law to identify and punish offenders with little regard for the circumstances leading to such high levels of crime. Whilst a significant amount of current literature focuses on the importance of a shift to a public health approach, much of this does not include a sufficient assessment of the legal measures they reject. Over the course of three chapters this paper seeks to examine the effectiveness of legal approaches against knife crime in relation to criminal sentencing, the use of civil orders, and the implementation of stop and search tactics. With reference to both current and historical research and policy, and with the benefit of hindsight, the progressively punitive development of the law as a response to knife crime offending is shown to be ineffective and increasingly counterproductive. This necessitates the suggestion of various changes to the aforementioned legal approaches in order to shift reliance away from its coercive force and toward a greater focus on the community and the offender. These improvements appear promising but ultimately limited, demonstrating that legal means alone are unlikely to provide an adequate remedy to rates of knife crime offending, providing the necessary legal foundation lacking in many of the existing proposals to tackle knife crime.

Daniel Stone

During the height of the pandemic, I was fortunate enough to graduate from the University of Leeds with a First Class LLB (Hons) degree, upon the completion of which I was awarded the Hughes Dissertation Prize for my work on this paper. I decided to continue my studies at Leeds by undertaking a Master of Laws in Criminal Justice and Criminal Law, where I am keen to focus my research on the regulation and reform of policing and the legal protection of civil liberties. I plan to later qualify and implement in practice the values and understanding I have developed during my time at the School of Law.