By Maurice Sunkin
In December 2017, the UK Administrative Justice Institute (UKAJI) reached the end of its first phase, which began in September 2014 with funding from the Nuffield Foundation. Since the start of 2018, with support from the University of Essex School of Law, UKAJI has continued to support and grow the administrative justice research community with our online hub (blog, resources and links) as well as to undertake active research engagement. In February 2018 we published our Research Roadmap, identifying key challenges in the current climate and setting out priorities for research that were identified in our UK-wide consultation during the previous year.
We have now published a report that considers our Phase 1 achievements, some of the challenges we have faced, and the lessons we have learned. The report is available below for viewing and can be downloaded here: UKAJI Achievements and Challenges.
‘Values and principles such as accountability, transparency, fairness and human rights have particular bite in relation to administrative justice because so much of administrative justice is about how government treats people.’
We have found that administrative justice cannot be understood solely in institutional terms as a branch of the justice system. Rather, it also needs to be envisioned as an overarching (or permeating) set of values and principles that have distinctive characteristics and implications for how people engage with, and seek redress against, government.
Values and principles such as accountability, transparency, fairness and human rights have relevance across the various justice systems, but they have particular bite in relation to administrative justice in part because so much of administrative justice is about how government treats people.
Because administrative justice cannot be visualised simply as an institutional pillar of the UK justice system, it is misleading to consider it as a Cinderella in the shadows of its cousins civil, family and the ever-larger criminal justice strands. This way of understanding administrative justice fails to capture its importance as the primary arena for handling conflicts between individuals and those exercising public powers.
Several main implications flow from this from a research perspective. There is no single institutional framework for providing administrative justice and there is no single administrative justice system. Rather, there is a highly fragmented patchwork of agencies and processes concerned with providing administrative justice. This highlights the need for care in identifying the scope and focus of research. It also raises important practical questions about the agencies to be approached, the availability of data to be studied, and the need to bring people from across systems together in order to think constructively about research needs and how lessons can be shared.
‘Much of our work is concerned with building a community of interests across the broad administrative justice terrain,…and with facilitating dialogue on research needs.’
Much of our work has therefore been concerned with building a community of interests across the broad administrative justice terrain, with providing that community with some key resources based around our website and engagement activities, and with facilitating dialogue on research needs. We hope that our experience will be of value to others, and in particular to the newly formed Administrative Justice Council, whose Council members meet for the first time today.
About the author:
Maurice Sunkin is Professor of Public Law and Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Essex and leads the UKAJI project. He is also General Editor of the journal Public Law.
The full report is available below for viewing and can be downloaded here: UKAJI Achievements and Challenges.