Current Law student Amy Klosek writes about her journey to studying Law at the OU and her experiences on two Open Justice projects this year, how they complimented each other and how Street Law can contribute to a better society for all.
My story is as typically untypical of a lot of OU students, due to a disability and chronic pain, I missed much of my schooling and left school with only a handful of GCSE’s and an NVQ in Art and Design. Not really knowing what direction I wanted to go in, I spent a year at Art College where I completed a BTEC foundation in Art but promptly decided that Art was not for me! I was offered a full-time position at Tesco petrol filling station, where I had been working part time and gave myself a year to work out what I wanted to do. It was whilst working there that I saw a job advertised at a Building Society, and I decided to go for it. Initially the job was as a customer advisor and only for nine months to cover maternity leave but after several promotions, three children, and 18 years later I was medically retired at the age of 39.
Shortly after this, in a New Year dare to myself, I registered to do my first module with the OU. I bought myself a cheap laptop, some stationary and started studying in February 2018. I never really expected to pass the first module, and never had any long-term goals, other than getting through each module and seeing how far I could get. But here I am in 2023, preparing to complete the final EMA for my degree. I cannot pretend that it’s been easy, far from it. During that time, I have had six surgical procedures, three bereavements, a global pandemic, lockdowns, school closures and 3 young boys to raise. But has it been worth it? Absolutely.
Being the mother of three young boys, my studies have always had to be worked around them, and they have always been my priority. So, whilst I have been developing my knowledge, building my confidence and a better me, their future has, and always will be more important to me than mine. As I worked through each module, particularly criminal law, I remember questioning, why don’t they teach this stuff in schools? Law has a huge impact on our everyday lives, but until I started studying law, I had never really thought about it, and I felt an overwhelming responsibility to educate my boys (in an age-appropriate way) so that as they grow, they can make more informed decisions.
In October 2021 I took a leap of faith and registered my interest for a project with the Open Justice Criminal Justice Clinic, working on serious crime appeals with a team of peers under the supervision of the fabulous Emma Curryer. At the time, I lacked confidence and almost didn’t but apply, but thought the opportunity to good to pass by. To my delight, I got a place on the project and was put in a group with some brilliant people. Our case was complex and although it was primarily concerned with murder/manslaughter under joint enterprise, it also revealed a ‘glamourised’ backdrop of drugs, which arguably started as child exploitation many years prior to the indictment. The case took longer than originally planned, and as the time went on, our group of seven dwindled to three. At first, I have to say, the project was overwhelming, but our team of three, with the support of Emma became a force to be reckoned with. We gained knowledge, skills, vital experience working on live cases and legal systems, but more so, I gained a wonderful friend too, which, as a stay-at-home parent and distance learner has been invaluable.
I remember wondering, whether life would have been different for our client, with better knowledge of the law, or if he had someone to talk to about what was going on in his world and to show him a different one. We all felt a tremendous sense of responsibility, to do the very best for our client. This was his one chance of justice, especially as it appeared as though he had been failed by the system for most of his life.
Shamefully, I had never heard of ‘Street Law’, but, when I learnt of another Open Justice project, led by Katie King for St Giles Trust SOS+, I jumped at the chance. The project included three tasks and involved, updating, and producing resources for Joint Enterprise/Conspiracy, Child Sexual Exploitation and Stop and Search.
Our group were tasked with researching the client, and the law to produce a flyer from scratch to be used to educate secondary school children and their parents about their rights and police powers. We did this by consolidating the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 into something age appropriate and neurodiverse and it’s something that I am so proud to have been part of. As our client explained, they are all experts by lived experiences, and have no or little academic knowledge of the law. He explained that the work that we have done, has given them the confidence to educate more young people, particularly with changes to the laws surrounding joint enterprise, considering the ruling in R v Joggee  UKSC 8 and the new Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 which includes ‘upskirting’.
Sarah Tutssel-Buse, Hannah Arnett, and I, (all level 3 students) bonded instantly, and worked together seamlessly, learning valuable skills from each other and from this opportunity. I will forever be grateful to the OU for these experiences. As a law student, a mother and as someone that wants to contribute to building a stronger, safer, and kinder society, I implore anyone with an interest in law, that really wants to make a difference, to take part in a Street Law project because you will not regret it. I can honestly say, it was an absolute joy and a privilege to be part of something so important, and beneficial for our children, so much so that I have already registered my interest to be part of another brilliant Street Law project.
Amy ( pictured on the right together with Emma Curryer outside The Supreme Court in London, April 2023) is currently studying her final year of the law degree.