A law student who refused to accept the results of her final examinations has won a four-year legal battle to have her marks upgraded.
Alice Clarke was given low marks in two assessments for her Bar Vocational Course that all lawyers have to pass to practise as a barrister.
She claimed that the low marks for her oral examinations in advanced criminal law and legal negotiation were because of disagreements with her tutors and asked Cardiff University to reassess them. When it refused, she pursued her claim through the High Court.
An independent assessor who listened to her performance in criminal law examination gave her 71 per cent instead of the 40 per cent that she originally received. The university was ordered to allow her to retake the negotiation test, which she passed with 62 per cent instead of 46 per cent.
In a written judgment Mr Justice Wyn Williams ordered that the revised results should be accepted as though she had passed when she sat the papers the first time.
Mrs Clarke, 43, a mother of two, studied law as a mature student after a career as a nurse. She said that the legal battle to have her results reassessed had been worth it even though it has cost her tens of thousands of pounds. She said: “I am very glad to have won but I am sad that I have lost four years of my career fighting this battle.
“The university only finally accepted I had passed in March, four years after I took the exams. It’s been a living nightmare but I am just so pleased the court has vindicated me.”
Mrs Clarke was determined to have the original results cancelled out after claiming that disagreements with tutors had led to her being marked down.
She said: “I was worried that barristers’ chambers wouldn’t take me on if they thought I’d failed the two papers at the first attempt.
“I decided to challenge it through the courts even though I knew it would cost me thousands of pounds. On a professional level it’s simply astonishing, on a human level it’s extraordinary the way I have been treated by the university. They banned me from taking a resit, they banned me from campus and they even began disciplinary proceedings against me.”
After graduating in law in 1998 Mrs Clarke carried on working as a nurse and bringing up her two children Sarah, now 12, and Aaron, 9, before taking the advanced law degree.
She was finally registered as a barrister in March and is hoping to find work representing people whose homes have been repossessed.
Mrs Clarke is waiting for a High Court hearing to decide who is responsible for the majority of costs in a case that she believes has legal fees of up to £400,000.
She said: “I don’t know the exact amount of my costs but they could be as much as £100,000. There have been eight hearings in the High Court but however much it cost me I was determined to fight to its conclusion.”
In his written judgment, Mr Justice Williams said: “I have reached the conclusion that the decision of the extenuating circumstance committee of June 30, 2005, to refuse the claimant’s application for extenuating circumstances relating to her negotiation assessment should be quashed.
“Unless any representation is made to the contrary, I propose also to quash the decision of the reconvened examination board of September 27, 2005, insofar as it relates to the claimant’s application for extenuating circumstances.”
Cardiff University said that it was considering the implications of the judgement:“The university is aware of the judgment handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. At this stage, the university is considering the implications of this judgment in consultation with our legal advisers.
“It is of relevance that the university offered independent marking at a hearing as long ago as October 2006.
“Mrs Clarke only agreed to this after 18 months and three orders of court. This delay caused the court to order Mrs Clarke to pay towards the university’s costs.”