UK: Justice At 60

Last Updated: 2 November 2017
Article by Vannin Capital

Authored by Andrea Coomber Director, Justice and Rosemary Ioannou Senior Counsel, Vannin Capital

As a dispute resolution funding company, Vannin Capital works with leading lawyers and experts across the globe funding complex, high value disputes. The cases we fund are often at the forefront of legal developments. While Vannin is a commercial organisation, often an important by- product of our work is access to justice for claimants who have strong valuable claims but do not have the resources to pursue them. However, by the very nature of the claims we fund – normally large commercial disputes – there are a very significant number of claims for which our funding is not suitable.

In a thriving democratic society, now more than ever, the importance of access to justice and preservation of the rule of law is something that needs to be cherished and preserved. JUSTICE strives to achieve just that, for the benefit of those it represents directly and inevitably, indirectly through its work, the whole legal community. This should be something that is applauded, and encouraged by all of us.

Andrea Coomber, director at JUSTICE, talks about its important work and how it has evolved as it approaches its diamond anniversary.

MAKING IT TO 60

In June, JUSTICE celebrated its 60th anniversary. Set up in 1957 by a group of eminent British jurists – as headed by former Nuremberg prosecutor Hartley Shawcross – JUSTICE was founded to 'uphold and strengthen the principles of the rule of law... to assist in the administration of justice and in the preservation of the fundamental liberties of the individual'. I became the Director of JUSTICE four years ago and it is this mission that frames our work still.

Very few charities make it to 60, or even fewer have anywhere near the impact of JUSTICE. While the organisation has a very modest public profile, we are well known among policy makers and senior judges, with our work having shaped the legal landscape of this country. So much of what we all take for granted in the legal system – the Ombudsman, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Ministry of Justice itself – were borne of JUSTICE's recommendations over the years. JUSTICE campaigned for many years for the incorporation into UK law of the European Convention on Human Rights, was a driver of the Human Rights Act 1998 and was charged with training our judges on human rights upon its adoption. JUSTICE is a lead intervener in the UK Supreme Court and in the European Court of Human Rights, where our third-party interventions provide independent, expert material to assist the court in deciding cases.

For many people, JUSTICE will always be associated with the BBC television series Rough Justice. For our first 25 years, much of our work focussed on securing the release of prisoners who had suffered miscarriages of justice. Partnering with Rough Justice, JUSTICE's work led to the release from prison of eighteen people who'd been wrongly convicted. At the same time, we were at the forefront of urging the creation of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which itself took over the mantel of challenging wrongful convictions twenty years ago.

Much of this impact is borne of the way we work. JUSTICE has a membership of around 1,300 – mostly individual lawyers but also corporates and nonlawyers concerned about a fairer justice system. Our membership is drawn from across the professions, from retired senior judges and public law barristers, to tax partners and law students. Our members, and the Council that advises our work, is cross-party, allowing us to influence political agendas behind the scenes. While our members may vote or represent different political parties, they are brought together by and share a strong commitment to the principles of the rule of law and the fair administration of justice. We work with justice leads from all parties, to ensure that these principles trump party politics when it comes to how ordinary people interact with the police and the courts. While we have a very small staff – only four lawyers at present – we draw on our membership to identify areas of the system which are antiquated, unfair or inefficient and to reimagine how things might work differently.

And there are many things that could and should work differently, with our recent work giving a taste of the possibilities.

CHALLENGING TIMES

It is well known that the last five years have seen significant State retrenchment; funding for the justice system has been slashed, for example with legal aid cut significantly and the introduction of 'enhanced' court and tribunal fees. In the civil courts, this has meant that many people who previously would have qualified for legal aid, for legal advice or representation, are faced with either representing themselves or being excluded from the system. At the same time, for the vast majority of the population – ineligible for legal aid even before the cuts, and unable to afford a lawyer, or expose themselves to the costs risks – is already effectively excluded from the civil courts. While JUSTICE has briefed against cutbacks to legal aid over the last twenty years, we also recognise that an adversarial justice system – built on the assumption that all parties would be represented – is in trouble when very many people before it are not represented. The new reality is that for many people who present at a Country Court for their civil matter, the first lawyer they speak to is the judge. This is obviously not how the system was meant to operate, and it results in an unedifying and confusing experience for the unrepresented party and a time consuming and sometimes frustrating process for the judge, who has to guide someone through the system. And then there are the majority of people who research shows us will just stay at home, and not take their good claims or make their good defences in court, because they have to fend for themselves.

In 2013, shortly after I began as director of JUSTICE, we set up a working party to consider whether the adversarial process in the civil courts and tribunals was still fit for purpose, and whether system change might be desirable. A group of eminent members, chaired by a former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stanley Burnton, looked at the reality of unmet legal need in the civil courts, considered how the processes currently work and what was happening in other jurisdictions and in other parts of our own system that might usefully shape a new approach.

RADICAL CHANGE

The resulting report of April 2015, proposed radical change. We recommended that rather than directly involving judges in the first instance, parties should be directed to a person – we called them a 'Registrar' – who works under the judge, who could engage in a dialogue with the parties to assess their needs, their evidence, their expected outcomes etc., and who would be empowered to mediate, engage in 'early neutral evaluation' ('you're just not going to win this case') or to refer the case onto a judge where cases were factually or legally complicated. Most cases are not. All the research shows that parties to civil disputes most often just want to know 'whether there is anything in it' – and a judge is an expensive person to be dispensing this advice. Our report also recommended that much, much more should be done online, dragging the outdated court system into the 21 century and moving us away from a system based entirely on people turning up to old buildings with bags full of bundles of papers.

While at the start of the work I was told that it was pie-in-the-sky stuff, there was no way the civil courts would be open to changing their procedures, by the time we reported 18 months later, the environment had become more enabling. With a reforming senior judiciary and a Ministry of Justice open to exploring how the system might be reformed, our report was embraced. Lord Justice Brigg's review of the civil courts adopted our 'Registrar' model as did Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) Reform Programme, which has renamed them 'Case Officers'. The call for more to be done online, made around the same time by Richard Susskind's Online Dispute Resolution Report for the Civil Justice Council, has also been picked up. With an investment of almost £1 billion from Treasury in modernising our courts, the JUSTICE work is now underlining a new approach to dispute resolution in the civil courts. We are now following up with a new working party looking at how to ensure that all people, including the 'digitally deprived' can access justice in an online era.

Critical to our success has been that we consult and advise policy makers across all parties as our recommendations developed, allows us to take the partypolitical sting out of justice system reform. Most of what we are working on deserves bi-partisan support and JUSTICE's membership and network enhances our influence in this respect.

The civil justice work is but one example. Our recent work on court reconfiguration and on reforming complex and lengthy criminal proceedings have similarly borne fruit. We await to see whether our Increasing Judicial Diversity report1 of April this year will have an impact on increasing the number of women – currently only one – on the UK Supreme Court during the upcoming round of appointments.

ACCESSIBLE AND FAIR SYSTEM FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE

There is a lot more for us to do. We currently have working parties of our members looking at: reforming immigration and asylum processes (given that the bulk of the Court of Appeal's workload is on immigration and asylum, creating significant delays in listings of cases); on the treatment of defendants with mental health problems in the criminal justice system, given the very high numbers of cases and concern about how appropriate our processes are to deal with them, and we will soon begin work on handling of sexual offences cases. With more resources we could do even more.

And that's the downside of directing a charity like JUSTICE, and frankly the reason that so few charities make it to 60 years. Securing funding is a constant struggle. We receive some support from trusts and foundations, but most of our funding comes from members and supporters who – individually and corporately – sign up to support to JUSTICE. Three years ago we launched a successful appeal, which has allowed us to more than double our legal staff and to increase our impact. We are also lucky enough to own our own building, which provides valuable rental income and saves us from the vagaries of the London property market, but we still need to raise around £700,000 a year to keep the charity ticking over.

As we move beyond 60 years, the need for a robust, insightful and independent voice from the legal professions has never been so important. There is so much of the system that is antiquated and other parts that need a fundamental rethink to become truly accessible and fair. The justice system is a bedrock of the rule of law. The high quality of our judiciary and our courts is the reason that so many businesses are based in the UK and choose to have disputes settled here. For many it is a first class service. But this is the same system that needs to be accessible and fair for ordinary people. With ever diminishing funding for social services and cut backs to government services, more and more vulnerable people are finding themselves needing to challenge the decisions of government authorities, and will inevitably end up before a court or tribunal. With chaotic lives, many of the same people will find themselves before the Family Court and in our criminal courts. For these people, the justice system is the ultimate safety net. And that safety net needs JUSTICE.

Footnotes

1 Increasing judicial diversity, A Report by JUSTICE, Chair of the Working Party Nathalie Lieven QC, April 2017

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions