Rowena – Harlem's Neighbourhood Defender Service

Having spent part of 2009 exploring the concepts of criminology and sentencing within our criminal justice system as part of reading law at Emmanuel, I find the prospect of witnessing the application of substantive criminal law at the Neighbourhood Defender Service (NDS) of Harlem extremely exciting!

The work will centre largely around crime within New York, concentrating in particular on the defence and protection of young offenders. Notably, the NDS focuses on a holistic approach to offending behaviour, aiming to go beyond mere client representation in an attempt to resolve the underlying issues that cause the crime in the first place. It can provide social service support, referral to educational establishments, or aid in housing or immigration applications, all practised against a background ethos of commitment to the community it professes to serve.

During my week with the Service, I hope to gain a better understanding of the impact criminal justice policy can have on individuals. I’ve spent the past two years studying the theory, so it will be interesting to see application of the policy. While I may encounter jurisdictional confusion between the American and English systems, I should better appreciate the relative strengths and weaknesses of them both.

In addition to the grant towards the placement in New York, the Odgers Fund has also covered costs associated with my mooting activities this year. Somewhat ambitiously, I entered the Blackstones’ De Smith competition, arguably Cambridge’s most prestigious mooting event. After five tough rounds I was delighted to be runner-up in a fiercely fought final in Lent term. As a result of this success and other contributions to Cambridge mooting, I have been selected as next year’s Cambridge Mistress of Moots. The help from the Odgers Fund has been very welcome in covering the (surprisingly large!) costs of participating in such competitions.