Plymouth's free student unit notches up successes

STUDENTS at the University of Plymouth's Free Representation Unit estimate they have won u320,000 for clients during its first year of operation.

The unit, the third university-based FRU established in England, handled 350 cases during the year, winning a top award of u21,000 for an out-of-tribunal settlement in an unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination case.

Several successful claims against the Ministry of Defence in tribunal cases added to the total.

Director Jeanette Stapleton says the student-staffed unit, which is supported by the university's business school and run out of her office, has succeeded in winning the case referrals from local law firms. The unit has also won jobs and training offers for its volunteers.

Stapleton is now working alongside heads of similar units at Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Northumbria in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to promote free representation work at other UK campuses.

“There is a lot of interest in setting them up and plans are coming together, but you need a lot of support,” says Stapleton.

A total of 28 students are currently working for the unit, which is now a final year module for the university's law degree.