A law student who was offered a £1,000 scholarship to train as a barrister is determined to use her talents to empower others to take control of their lives.
Gemma Lincoln has been offered the scholarship and a place on the post graduate Legal Practice Course at BPP University in Leeds following the completion of her LLB Law Honours Degree. This was thanks to the excellence of her video submission which formed part of her application to the prestigious course.
The 38-year-old from Queensbury is juggling her studies while caring for her four children but is relishing the challenges offered by her degree and ready to take the next step in her legal career.
She said: “I want people to know there is a way to achieve what they want, even if they think they can’t.”
She was referred to a Bradford College-run skills course in March 2015 by JobCentre Plus, although at the time she wanted to stay home to look after her youngest child. Having had three other children, and one of them having special needs, she was initially worried about being back in an education environment but after beginning her studies at the college, Gemma had a revelation. She said: “I realised this was where I should have been.”
She went on to study an Access to Higher Education course in Humanities and Social Sciences. She described her tutor, Tahira Amin, as “an absolute inspiration to me. She pushed us so hard but she got us ready for higher education in the best way she could.”
Gemma began researching law degrees at universities but, she said: “I realised in those environments I wouldn’t get the same experience or the one-to-one tuition that I had at Bradford College.”
Unfortunately Gemma had to defer her final year last year because of illness, and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. But she said: “That wasn’t stopping me.”
She described her degree at Bradford College as: “Life changing. It really is. I think if you go to your community college to do a degree, and people are telling you you’re good enough to be a barrister, you’re going to get something that will change your life. I have four children, one of whom has cerebral palsy and autism, I am achieving this degree and I am proud.”
For her video submission, Gemma spoke about her views on the laws around coercive control. She said: “If you look at the laws around rape, the standard of evidence required to convict is ridiculous and needs to be changed. Very few rapes are reported and even then only a small number of them end with a conviction. You would think the laws had been designed to protect the rapist.
“New laws have been brought in around coercive control but this is very hard to prove as it is usually one person’s word against the other. And the victim is usually being controlled, making it much harder for these crimes to be reported. I talked about how I wanted to change standards of evidence around this.”
She described how she felt the laws should not simply make lawmakers look as if they were making a difference, adding that, even if their abuser was convicted, victims were often left vulnerable to attacks once the perpetrator has finished serving their sentence.
Her passion for her subject and desire to help others is powerful. Gemma said: “My tutors say that I’m one of the most enthusiastic people they have ever taught. It’s 2020 now and it’s ridiculous that protections for victims of abuse are not stronger, that women especially have to fear these things. I wanted to illustrate in my video how I felt and that came across.”
“I felt disbelief when I found out I had won the scholarship. I work hard and then something like that happens, it was like a lightbulb moment.”
As part of her degree, Gemma is writing her dissertation on the link between austerity and the increase in crime rates, including knife crime. “If you force people into abject poverty, you’re going to create a generation of anger.”
She said that in the legal sector, many professionals dealing with domestic abuse and custody cases were from relatively privileged backgrounds. She said: “Some people who are working class might want to work in law but don’t know if they can. People are recovering from situations where they have been told they can’t do what they want to do. I wanted to become an ambassador for them.”
There have been many other people in her life that have inspired Gemma, including the tutors on her course and Bradford College senior academic liaison librarian Lakshmi Banner, who Gemma described as: “My absolute saviour who has been amazing, helpful and an excellent friend to me. Librarians do not get enough credit.”
Throughout her life, her grandfather Thomas Bottomley, who passed away when Gemma was 19, has been a strong influence. She said: “He was my best friend. He wanted me to do this and always said I would be a fantastic lawyer. I’ve honoured his memory.”
After she has finally finished her studying, Gemma eventually aims to spend her career working with victims of domestic violence and coercive control. She said: “Why should anyone speak to others as if they are less than them? Why should anyone speak to me as if I am less than a man? I want to help give women their self confidence back like it’s been given back to me.”
The LLB Law Degree at Bradford College is an academically challenging degree which will give you a sound knowledge of legal concepts together with an understanding of the operation of law in society.
You can find out more at https://www.bradfordcollege.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate/lawllbhons-sep-2020