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Advice provision, Consumer-citizens, Funding and legal aid, Research

Access to Justice: Beyond the Policies and Politics of Austerity

 

AccesstoJustice Hart“Running parallel to the steady erosion, at least in England and Wales, of what we had come, perhaps complacently, to regard as an entrenched human right, the seminar series on which this book is based looked carefully and realistically at both sides of the issue: the shrinking availability of public funds and the practical possibilities of doing more with less. The volume seeks in particular to distinguish between those inroads into access to justice which are unacceptable on any principled view and those which are either unavoidable or at least negotiable. Wherever possible it does so, in contrast sometimes to central government, from an ascertained evidence base.”

From the Foreword by the Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley

Building on a series of ESRC funded seminars, this edited collection of expert papers by academics and practitioners is concerned with access to civil and administrative justice in constitutional democracies, where, for the past decade governments have reassessed their priorities for funding legal services. This has included embracing ‘new technologies’ that reconfigure the delivery and very concept of legal services; cutting legal aid budgets; and introducing putative cost-cutting measures for the administration of courts, tribunals and established systems for the delivery of legal advice and assistance.

Without underplaying the future potential of technological innovation, or the need for a fair and rational system for the prioritisation and funding of legal services, the book questions whether the absolutist approach to the dictates of austerity and the promise of new technologies that have driven the Coalition Government’s policy, can be squared with obligations to protect the fundamental right of access to justice, in the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom.

The editors, all at the University of Essex, are Ellie Palmer, Professor of Law, and Tom Cornford, Audrey Guinchard and Yseult Marique, Senior Lecturers in Law.

A chapter by Tom Mullen, Professor of Law at Glasgow University and a member of the UKAJI team, discusses access to justice in the context of administrative law and administrative justice. Mullen considers whether there is adequate access to justice for the citizen in the sense of the basic right to an effective remedy such as to go court or to appeal to a tribunal to challenge an illegal action or bad decision.

After considering some theoretical issues and explaining the historical development of citizens’ remedies in the UK, Mullen proceeds to examine the effect on administrative justice of the turn towards austerity in the policies of the 2010-2015 coalition. Six specific developments in policy are analysed: (1) the abandonment of a holistic vision of administrative justice, (2) the attempt to undermine judicial review, (3) the removal of important rights of appeal, (4) failure to address those areas in which there were not already adequate remedies and (5) the creation of new obstacles to the use of existing remedies, and (6) and the decline in the availability of advice, assistance and representation for citizens in dispute with the state.

The book also contains chapters on immigration control (Robert Thomas) and tribunals (Stewart Wright).

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