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President of the Supreme Court on access to justice and more ...



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Powerful speech on access to justice from President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger -

While access to law is important, access to legal advice and representation is equally important but more challenging. Access to legal advice and representation is of course a fundamental ingredient of the rule of law, and the rule of law together with democracy is one of the two principal columns on which a civilised modern society is based. It is simply wrong, and fundamentally wrong at that, if ordinary citizens and businesses are unable to obtain competent legal advice as to their legal rights and obligations, and competent legal representation to enforce and protect those rights and test those obligations in court. Obtaining advice and representation does not merely mean that competent lawyers exist; it also must mean that their advice and representation are sensibly affordable to ordinary people and businesses: access to justice is a practical, not a hypothetical, requirement. And if it does not exist, society will eventually start to fragment. That is not merely a fragmentation in the sense of the gulf between rich and poor, which leads to real frictions and difficulties if it gets too wide. It is a fragmentation which arises when people lose faith in the legal system: they then lose faith in the rule of law, and that really does undermine society. The sad truth is that in countries with a long peaceful and democratic history such as the UK ... we face the serious risk that the rule of law is first taken for granted, is next consequently ignored, and is then lost, and only then does everyone realise how absolutely fundamental it was to society.

Also discusses -

Updating of regs on -

So far as statutes and statutory instruments are concerned, the UK government does well in ensuring that new statutes are available on the website reasonably promptly. However, the updating service to deal with amendments and repeals is little short of lamentable, with amendments and repeals sometimes not being recorded more than six years after the event. It should not cost much for the UK government to ensure that its legislation website is kept up-to-date, so that current legislation is freely available to everyone.

Increase in numbers of litigants in person -

These changes over the past 20 years in civil and family legal aid have resulted in many people being faced with the unedifying choice of being driven from the courts or having to represent themselves. The substantial increase in litigants in person represent a serious problem for judges, for court staff and for other litigants and their lawyers. A trial or any other hearing involving a litigant in person is likely to last far longer (apparently reliable research suggests three times longer) and involve far more work for, and pressure on, the judge than a trial with legal representatives on both sides, and an inevitable result of longer hearings is delays to other cases. The effect on an undermanned and demoralised court staff of having to deal with more litigants in person can only be imagined.

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Solicitor, SC Law, Harrow

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various judges have been saying this for a while now, both in speeches and in judgements.  the government isn’t listening, however, and seems to think all will be solved by IT…..


Benny Fitzpatrick
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Welfare Rights Officer, Southway Housing Trust, Manchester

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A Govt. which doesn’t believe in society, and only governs in the interests of a small section of the population, isn’t going to be interested in its fragmentation.