The LLB Year 1: What I learned in the spring term

The second term of my first year studying an LLB law degree at Bristol University is over and with that, a fresh set of cases and concepts to get to grips with.

In some of my earlier blogs I’ve talked a little about Contract and Criminal Law, so I thought I’d give those considering applying for the LLB a brief insight into the Law of Tort and Constitutional Rights.

The law of Tort is, effectively, the law of ‘wrongs.’ This is mainly focused around negligence – and it basically means that you have to determine whether someone has a ‘duty of care’ to look after or protect something: and whether they have ‘breached that duty of care.’ That sounds simple enough, but throw in real life and it gets totally complicated.

Sophie Landau

For example, in the case of Barnett v Chelsea and Kensington Hospital [1969], a patient died after his tea was laced with arsenic. The doctor refused to treat him, and was accused of negligence. Even though the court found him guilty of negligence, he was not liable for the death of the patient, since it was established that the arsenic would have killed him anyway. The cases that come up in tort law are so dramatic that some of them could be gossip columns (maybe I am too sucked into this degree) and are genuinely very interesting to read. 

For those human rights activists out there, the law of Constitutional Rights provides an education as to how the courts are attempting to protect civil liberties. This is a very current issue: in a political environment which is highly concerned with the rising threat of terrorism, we ask the question: where do you draw the line? When does the need to create public safety start eating into fundamental personal freedoms?

In the case of S and Marper v United Kingdom [2008], the UK was trying to retain DNA samples of people charged, irrespective of whether they were convicted or not. This was found to have violated Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, and the claim was accepted on the grounds that the measure was more extreme than other countries. This kind of case has provided a platform for particularly heated debate in my tutorials.

It’s easy to get bogged down in cases. There are hundreds of them! However, what I’ve discovered is to treat them like stories. Effectively, that’s what they are: stories of real people and real situations that have all interlinked to form the body of law we study today.

My first year has been deliciously challenging and, though frustrating at points, throughly enjoyable. To those considering applying: take the jump. You’ll love to complain about it, stare at your pile of textbooks thinking ‘why?’ and after a solid period of time staring at a chapter, feel a blissful state of satisfaction – I promise.

Sophie Landau is a first-year student at Bristol University

Previously…

Got a question about what it’s like to study the LLB? You can ask Sophie in the comments section.