The winning essay

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Louis Dejeu-Castang: 'Not OK Computer: a proposed AI transparency framework for the UK'

Read the essay in Counsel magazine


The runner-up



Nathan Thompson: 'Frozen Assets, Thawed Reforms: An argument to have AFrOs and AFOs transferred to the High Court in complex cases'

About the essay, and why others should apply:

"This essay argues that statutory amendment is required to provide a route to transfer civil freezing and forfeiture from the Magistrates’ Court to the High Court, where complex issues arise.   

I believe others should apply for this competition as it gives you a fantastic opportunity to express your opinion on an area of law which really interests you. You never know your chances of getting a prize!"

Read the essay [PDF] 


Winner (Graduate Diploma in Law)



Iona McNeill: 'Paving the way for modernisation and better clarity of UK surrogacy practice: proposals for reform of current statute'

What this essay is about, and why the topic was chosen

"The essay examines legislation governing surrogacy, and identifies shortcomings in current statute. It explores how law reform could offer more robust protection for the parties involved and safeguard their interests.

Researching surrogacy law for a university module, I realised that the legal framework was outdated as legislation has not kept pace with changing societal attitudes towards surrogacy. The Law Commissions’ joint report identifies issues with current statute, but their recommendations for change would not entirely fix these shortcomings.

Having explored international surrogacy regulations, I decided to use the essay to suggest ideas for reform that might better govern surrogacy arrangements."

Read the essay [PDF]


Runner-up (Graduate Diploma in Law)

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Emily Edwards Blair: 'Criminally insane or just mentally ill? A case for the reform of the insanity and automatism defences'

What the essay is about, and why this topic was chosen:

"My essay explores the need for reform to the insanity and automatism defences, arguing that adequate defences for mentally ill offenders would prevent unfair sentencing, particularly prison sentences, which can result in the worsening of their mental ill health.

The topic of mental health is near and dear to my heart, and I was horrified when I found out that the M'Naghten rules have not been updated since their inception in 1843. Our laws must serve our population, and with increasing mental illness among the population we need adequate defences for those who offend due to their illness.

I believe that with a reformed defence centred on medical fact (not legal fiction) we can create a fairer justice system for all - not just the mentally healthy. I wrote this essay to try to raise awareness for this, as in its current state, our justice system is unfair and biassed against those with mental illness."

Read the essay [PDF] 


 Highly commended

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Bryn Auger: 'Extending the coroner’s jurisdiction to stillbirths: transparency, accountability, and independent answers'

What the essay is about, and why this topic was chosen

"An exclusive extension to the Coroner’s jurisdiction enabling the investigation and/or holding of an inquest into all stillbirths, addressing deficiencies of investigation practices, improving accountability, and creating better learning opportunities.

I have worked with families who have suffered the loss of stillbirth. I learnt of their grief. Many felt let down with current investigation practices, yet they had nowhere else to turn. They wanted an independent process that provides answers to what happened. They wanted to stop their loss and grief passing to another family. I decided that extending the Coroner’s jurisdiction was the best approach for providing independent accountability."

Read the essay [PDF] 




Emma Townend: 'Barrier to justice: why the mandatory reconsideration stage of the Personal Independence Payment appeals process should be abolished'

What this essay is about, and why this topic was chosen

"An essay exploring how the DWP’s internal Mandatory Reconsideration stage of the Personal Independence Payment appeals process blocks access to First-tier Tribunal and therefore recourse to real justice.

I chose this topic because I have seen first-hand the impact the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) process has on those living with disability through my volunteer work with a local disability charity. Over time, it became clear to me that the Mandatory Reconsideration stage was acting to deter people from exercising their right to appeal to tribunal. And as someone who lives with disability myself, the issue is close to my heart."

Read the essay [PDF]