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The Irish Innocence Project and the Student Learning Experience: David Langwallner.

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Presentation on theme: "The Irish Innocence Project and the Student Learning Experience: David Langwallner."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Irish Innocence Project and the Student Learning Experience: David Langwallner

2 1: What is an Innocence Project? In substance it should be summarised that an Innocence project –involves student caseworkers –under the supervision of lawyers –working on closed criminal case files –with a view to determining whether a serving, or in some instances former, prisoner is factually innocent –by seeking to ascertain a new or newly discovered fact which may lead the CCA to find a miscarriage of justice

3 2: The Beginning of the Project Inception of project- September 2009 Asked to address clinical component in teaching of law on GCD syllabus

4 3:Aims of Project Inculcate in students clinical skills in a way which made learning –interesting –and personally rewarding Help free innocent people that are either serving prisoners or have been released from prison Inculcate a Human Rights Consciousness

5 4: Structure: 12 student caseworkers- drawn now from various institutions but predominantly Griffith and Trinity and DCU Supervising lawyers Director of project Supervisory Board Support of network

6 5: Workload and Progression of case. At various stages over 60 people have contacted the project. As I write there are some 15 active files. One Case is being progressed back to court under Criminal Procedure Act 1993/Miscarriages of Justice legislation. Counsel and solicitors have drafted JR proceedings. May establish: –A: The right to post conviction preservation of evidence –B: The right to post conviction testing of the evidence. In one case a Presidential posthumous pardon sought off the Minister for Justice on closed case where man executed for murder.

7 6: Stages of consideration Initial correspondence and questionnaire Factual innocence? Desk top review Further evidence and garnering of book of evidence and file Detailed reports Interviewing witnesses Prison visits.

8 7: Clinical Skills Law in action- attractiveness to employers Real court documents Preparation of reports Substantive Law: Evidence, criminal law, administrative law, constitutional law principles of law in action -enhances deep learning

9 7: Clinical Skills Continued Small group teaching learning by doing The practical and lateral skills of fact evaluation and speculation. Increasingly we are determined to encourage what if thinking and creativity in the students to speculate as to alternative ways of theorising about a case. Prison visits and interview witnesses.- critical thinking and questioning skills self reliance skills Human rights consciousness

10 8: Academic Literature in Support of Learning Objectives Lawyering” skills/Affective Domain: dealing with clients; acting like a professional and dealing with other professionals; communication skills – written/ oral/ formal presentation. Critical thinking and analysis/Cognitive Domain: Problem solving; creative/ lateral thinking; collaboration. Case management/Cognitive & Motor Domains: record keeping/ time management; organisation and prioritising; dealing with interruptions and unscheduled work. Fact finding/Cognitive Domain: utilising variety of resources; use of different disciplines outside of law; application of law to the facts.

11 Academic Literature in Support of Learning Objectives Problem solving: “the learner has to develop skills of retrieval, selection and discrimination in order to solve the problem. Students also develop group working skills as they work together to solve a common problem.” McCartney: Liberating Legal Education It is the engagement with real problems that gives students “an opportunity to understand for themselves the complexity of human problems.” Their quest for solutions, and methods for overcoming hurdles, are central to the process of “experiential learning”, which stresses that learning is most effective when students are actively involved in their learning. Hinett/2002 The above learned author also suggest that experiential learning encourages deep as opposed to surface learning as have practically found.

12 Academic Literature in Support of Learning Objectives Experiential Learning Medwed (2003) states that –The primary educational benefit of Innocence Projects in the US has been related to experiential learning, although he claims “many pedagogical advantages.” Clinical legal education claims to provide “experiential learning”, by avoiding “old style” teaching methods which aim to transmit information, which leads to “hopelessly short-term… knowledge which is not founded upon understanding or reinforced by practice” “the single most critical defining element of clinical education is that it is experience-based learning… that students learn most effectively by participating in their own education by actually representing people.” Quigley 1995

13 Academic Literature in Support of Learning Objectives Imparting Values and Human Rights Values: Johnstone (1999) argues that a liberal legal education should develop in students a critical understanding of the law machine, but also turn law students: –“…not just into more able lawyers but into more able persons. University legal education should seek to promote personal development by cultivating knowledge and understanding, intellectual virtues, imagination, intellectual skills, self-reflection, moral virtues and habits, a capacity for social and political involvement, and a sense of responsibility for the values one espouses and the relationships into which one enters”.

14 Academic Literature in Support of Learning Objectives As McCartney suggests: Indeed, in interviews with students of the Griffith University Innocence Project, it was such attributes that students highlighted as inspiring them to work on the Project: “I want a feeling of making a contribution”; “some of us care about society, justice, social issues, etc. and the cases we work on represent that”; “I believe in justice, I’m an idealist”. Proponents claim that personal reflection, so fundamental to Innocence Projects, “encourages the development of both cognitive and affective theories of moral and ethical behaviour, challenging students to integrate these into their personal belief systems as a result of their experiences instead of (at best) passively absorbing the ‘rules’ of professional conduct.” Further, Innocence projects do their best to promote an ethical cadre of responsible lawyers

15 9: Employability and Life Skills The literature also confirms the way innocence project assist the employability of lawyers. In particular the literature emphasises the development of enterprise skills As McCartney states: –“Law students need to express themselves both verbally and in writing, seek out information, choose appropriate courses of action based on facts, evaluate the implications of decisions and juggle a number of clients and problems at once. Today it is not just law firms but also society as a whole that requires these skills in graduates.” (Hinett 2002). Finally innocence projects inculcate in students Enterprise skills which comprise those skills identified as necessary for entrepreneurs (or intrapreneurs or social entrepreneurs), including innovation; communication; networking; creativity; problem-solving; and presentation skills.

16 10: Summary of Benefits: Educational learning and skills acquired Attractiveness to employers Academic performance improved. Human Rights consciousness developed Above all the innocent assisted where there is no hope.

17 11: Final points Opening up of project to all students at GCD as part of an assignment in the criminal law course Need for resources and time –very time consuming for staff. Remember real emotions, cases, and people- –primary purpose is the release of the factually innocent.

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