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Francesca Balon

Ba (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice, 2018

The journey that led me to study Criminology and Criminal Justice at UCLan started in my early teens, when I developed a passion for learning about the Law, how the Criminal Justice system worked and reasons why people committed crimes. Whilst most of my friends were watching reality TV shows, I was watching documentaries and listening to audiobooks on the legal system and historical crimes. This is where I first came across “Criminologists”, I was fascinated by these Professors explaining the complex issues, which led people to commit crimes and how they helped offenders and victims of crime. I knew from then I wanted to make a difference and be part of helping people the way they did.

I knew due to having severe sight loss since birth, many of the jobs in the Criminal Justice system on the frontline would be off limits for me due to safety reasons. However, this did not sway me, this was what I wanted to do and nothing was going to stop me. My ambitions nature got me through quite a difficult time at mainstream High School whilst suffering a mental health disorder, and during that time and throughout College the one thing that aided my recovery was people reminding me of my ambition to go to University and study my passion.

I went onto study Law, Sociology and Psychology at A level, and when it came to the end of my time at a specialist residential College, I was unsure what path to take at University. Having been in a bubble at College for two years, I felt completely overwhelmed about my next step and the thought of going back into mainstream education was a daunting prospect. Eventually I decided upon two choices a Law degree at one University and a BA (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice Degree at UCLan.

I was still unsure and took advice directing me towards Law, I started my Law degree at another University in September 2014, but by the December, I knew it was not right for me. It made me realise what I really wanted to do was Criminology. I could not carry on with a course that I did not enjoy or was not passionate about.

This is where my UCLan journey began; from the very first contact I had with the Course Leader [Sue Uttley-Evans], she eased my worries and made it such a smooth transition to UCLan. She reassured me that my year studying Law at Foundation level had not been a waste of time as I felt it had been. I was able to go into year one of the BA [Hons] Criminology and Criminal Justice course and Sue continued to support me through the whole transfer process.

Following on from this, UCLan continued to communicate regularly with me, I came along for a tour of the Law School and the Inclusive/Disability Services that would be essential for me during my studies. I met with members of the Criminology team, they were great and understood I had different needs and asked me what they could do to ensure I had the best access to all areas of the course. This meant by the time I finished my previous course in May 2015 I was all set to start at UCLan in September 2015.

Upon reflection I would genuinely go back and do the whole three years again, I can admit looking back I was very naive about many issues in the World. But, the variation of modules offered [including Crime in Society, Understanding Policing, Controversial Issues in Prison, State Crime and Genocide, Human Trafficking/Modern Day Slavery, and Diversities, Crime and Injustice, Family Law and some Sociology Modules] opened my eyes so much, and helped shape my views and critical opinions.

I always tell people that at UCLan “nothing is too much trouble”, Tutors always ensured I had PowerPoints ready for Lectures and Seminars/Workshops in an accessible format so I was able to fully participate and get the most out of those sessions. If there were any issues receiving materials on time my Course Leader would resolve it straight away with the Module Tutors.

Francesca Balon

Such support meant I was able to fulfil my full potential resulting in me graduating with a First-Class Degree and being named on the Dean’s List for Outstanding Attainment in Year Three. That was something I never thought I was capable of achieving.  I was also awarded the Professor Barbra Hudson Award for ‘Doing Justice to Difference’, which I feel immensely proud to receive. Barbara Hudson is such a big influence on any Criminology student, you spend your degree enthralled in her books arguing how differences should not lead to indifference, and equality for everyone has to be at the heart of Criminal Justice. Sean, my Guide Dog, who joined the Degree in February 2018, also received a Graduation trophy.

I am currently looking forward to undertaking a Postgraduate Research Master’s Degree at UCLan, to enable me to develop my undergraduate research dissertation on the experiences of people in prison with sight loss.

9 August 2018