A LAWYER and campaigner who has spent 30 years fighting to protect women and children’s human rights has received an honorary doctorate at Coventry University.
Rona Epstein was made an Honorary Doctor of Laws on Thursday (November 22) in recognition of her significant contribution to research and campaigning activities concerning detention conditions.
She began her legal career as a mature student on a part-time law degree in Coventry, before taking a judicial review placement and writing short articles on criminal justice.
Covering everything from prison conditions, access to justice and police accountability, her publications have since had a substantial impact on the criminal justice system, the university says – notably her campaigning for the rights of vulnerable people being imprisoned for non-payment of debt.
Rona’s research has exposed unlawful decisions and led to sentences being quashed in the High Court.
It also contributed to the decision taken in Wales this year to no longer imprison people for non-payment of council tax.
She has written over 200 articles and case notes in law journals and has worked with legal practitioners on submitting reports.
Originally from South Africa, Rona also taught French at a Coventry comprehensive school after obtaining a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education at Warwick University.
Rona is married to a mathematician at Warwick University David Epstein, has three adult children and three granddaughters, and lives in Kenilworth.
Steve Foster, principal lecturer in Law at Coventry University, said: “We are delighted to recognise Rona’s incredible commitment to protecting human rights and improving the lives of others.
“As a researcher, campaigner, and also as a teacher, Rona has made change locally and nationally and remains active in many charities involved with prison reform and asylum seekers.
“She has truly enhanced the reputation and standing of the university and the Coventry Law School and shares the values of resilience, invention and creativity that permeate this city.”
Rona has been an Honorary Research Fellow and research assistant at Coventry University for the past 20 years, in which time she has written numerous articles for the Coventry Law Journal on areas such as human trafficking, prison conditions and law and justice.
She has taught at community colleges, the Open University and at Coventry University, and still volunteers in the city, teaching English to refugees alongside her work.
Her current research alongside others is exploring the prosecution of parents, particularly mothers, when their child has not attended school regularly.
Many of these children are autistic or have other learning difficulties: the parents cannot force their fearful children into school. Yet the law provides for prosecution of these parents who may be fined hefty amounts, up to £2,500 or even imprisoned for up to three months.