Campaigner's Degree Helps Gypsies And Travellers Navigate The Law
Date posted: 18 January 2012
A veteran campaigner for Roma, gypsy and travellers' rights in Derbyshire and nationally is using her University of Derby Law degree to help her communities.
Siobhan Spencer, 53, of Beeley, near Matlock, will graduate with an LL.B (Hons) Law degree tomorrow (Thursday January 19), the first of the University of Derby's two days of Awards Ceremonies at the Derby Assembly Rooms in the city centre.
She achieved her 2:1 grade after five years of part time study. Whilst on the course, in 2009, Siobhan also received an MBE for her community relations work between the gypsy and settled communities.
Siobhan says the knowledge she gained from the course is proving invaluable in her work for the Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group; which she co-founded almost 25 years ago.
She has been able to help members of the Roma, gypsy and traveller communities with their legal questions; including on property and land law.
Siobhan has also begun drafting a proposed UK strategy for gypsy, traveller and Roma communities in light of the 2011 European Union declaration that all member states should produce one to show how they would work with these communities. She says that as the UK is not currently drawing up a strategy, her's would be an important reference document.
But despite her degree success, Siobhan said it was only the persuasion of Kevin Bampton, Head of the School of Law and Criminology at the University, which got her back into education.
She said: "I went to the University to speak to Kevin about organising a short course for people from the traveller community, so they could act as trainers for police and other agencies. We ended up having a long chat and he suggested I should try a Law course module myself.
"I did the Public Law 2 module and really enjoyed it, so I decided to do the whole thing.
"It was a big step as O-levels were the highest qualifications I had at that time. People from my community tend to marry early, and I was married at 17 and had four children by the time I was in my late twenties."
Over five years Siobhan stuck to the course, despite the difficulties in resuming study as a mature student with children and grandchildren to look after.
She added: "One part of the degree course I really took to though was Public Law; the ways in which ordinary people can challenge a local government decision, for example. I also enjoyed the module on Copyright."
Her degree costs were generously paid for by the Derbyshire Gypsy Liaison Group, said Siobhan.
Kevin Bampton, Head of the School of Law and Criminology at the University, added: "Siobhan is an inspirational figure. I loved teaching her, as did my colleagues, and it is a matter of pride for us that what we have taught her will be put to good use fighting intolerance, exclusion and racism."
For more information on the University of Derby's Law courses see website www.derby.ac.uk/law
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