The StreetLaw programme at Sheffield Hallam is taught with the aim of establishing a partnership with schools and the wider community to educate children on various socio-legal issues they may encounter in their lifetime. This, in turn, aims to inspire the younger generation to consider a career in law or in the specific topic areas that are covered.
In StreetLaw, we visit schools of varying ages, from Year 3 all the way up until Sixth Form. Various issues are taught about, from E-Safety and Cyberbullying all the way through to Stop and Search. Lessons are adapted accordingly to the age group and community we teach to. The schools are in various areas all across Sheffield, some of which have a high BAME population.
One of the aims of the StreetLaw programme is educating people from these communities about their rights in certain situations that disproportionately affect them, such as stop and search. For example, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, in 2019/20, BAME people were over four times more likely to be stopped and searched, black people specifically nine times more likely. Providing passionate and insightful lessons may be the start of a sparking interest for these children. SHU Law’s mission of inspiring the BAME community to enter the legal profession and to prevent them entering the criminal justice system can be reflected through topics such as this, where people seldom know their rights and how they can help themselves. In terms of our knowledge to transfer, we have guest speakers throughout the module, for example from the policing degree, who has extensive experience in this area, to teach us the rights of the individual who is being searched. This provides a real-life perspective to us, that we can then transfer to them to heighten their perspectives and shape their viewpoints.
Through volunteering at Support Through Court, I saw first-hand that there is little legal help for people who are vulnerable and from marginalised communities. Had they been taught their rights or some legal knowledge previously, such as being taught through the StreetLaw programme, they may not have found themselves requiring their services. All too often, people from deprived communities can find themselves in a legal situation, such as a wrongfully conducted stop and search, with no knowledge of their rights or what they could do to prevent this happening again.
The StreetLaw programme aims to educate and inspire people from all backgrounds either to have knowledge of various socio-legal issues and their rights and/or inspire them to enter the profession to help people such as people in similar circumstances to themselves or any other disadvantaged group.
By Lydia Johnson – Level 6 Law Student at Sheffield Hallam University