Innocence Project wins ‘Project of the Year’
Law students Naomi Speechley and Paul Sheppard have won the 2012 ‘Project of the Year Award’ at the LeedsforLife Citizenship Awards for their work on the University of Leeds Innocence Project (UoLIP).
The awards celebrate individuals who have given their time to the community. Postgraduate student Naomi and final year LLB student Paul have both been instrumental in the running of the project in 2011/12, working as voluntary student managers.
The University of Leeds Innocence Project (UoLIP) is a student-led programme that provides support to those claiming to have suffered a wrongful conviction. The students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) are involved in real criminal cases, supervised by the Director of UoLIP Dr Colin King, with guidance from a practicing solicitor who attends weekly meetings.
Students assist individuals to write an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, where that individual maintains his/her innocence and has exhausted all legal appeals. The work undertaken by the students is completely voluntary – they receive no academic credit for their efforts, although they do gain significant benefits in terms of developing transferable skills and enhancing their employability.
Prior to being managers on the project, Naomi and Paul volunteered as case workers for a year. During this time, they worked as part of a team on prisoner case files, with the aim of sending a formal submission to the Criminal Case Review Commission inviting them to investigate a potential miscarriage of justice.
On winning the award, Naomi comments
“We beat some very commendable (and ethical) voluntary projects to be awarded first place, which was a real honour. Everyone involved in the Project this year should be proud, as it was a group effort – we put a lot of extremely hard work and long hours into the criminal case research, which looks set to have paid off as we send off the CCRC application."
"I’ve been involved with the Innocence Project for the past 2 years as a caseworker and now manager. It feels great to be providing legal assistance to individuals in need who otherwise would not be able to afford or access it. On top of allowing us to reach out to parts of the community in need, working on the UoLIP has been a unique and rewarding learning experience."
The outstanding student volunteers were recognised at the award ceremony which was held as part of Leeds University Union's 'Celebrate' week. The School of Law has now received LeedsforLife awards for the past three year's in recognitition of it's pro-bono work.
An audience including alumni, business and third sector partners, as well as colleagues and students, attended the awards which were hosted by Professor Vivien Jones Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Education.