Access to justice


Youth restraint challenge rejected by High Court

16 January 2012 by

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) v Secretary of State for Justice and G4S Care and Justice Services (UK) Ltd  and Serco plc [2012] EWHC 8 (Admin) – read judgment

Although certain restraining measures had been taken unlawfully against young people in secure training centres for a number of years, the court had no jurisdiction to grant an order that the victims of this activity be identified and advised of their rights.

The claimant charity alleged that children and young persons held in one or other of the four Secure Training Centres in the UK had been unlawfully restrained under rules which approved certain techniques of discipline. It sought an order requiring the defendant to provide information, to the victims or their carers on the unlawful nature of restraint techniques used in Secure Training Centres (“STCs”) and their consequential legal rights.


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What can an Environmental Tribunal do?

6 June 2011 by

Access to environmental justice is a subject close to the hearts of various contributors to this blog, as one can see from the posts listed below. But not only to them – Sullivan LJ was the chairman of the working group that in 2008 wrote Ensuring Access to Environmental Justice in England and Wales”. Jackson LJ returned to the issue in his report on the costs of civil litigation. In December last year the Supreme Court referred to the Court of Justice of the EU, Edwards, a case about the English costs regime, and whether it complies with the Aarhus convention. Finally, in April 2011 the European Commission said it was going to refer the UK to the CJEU for failing to comply with the costs element of the Convention.

So the UKELA seminar on “Developing the new Environmental Tribunal” hosted by Simmons & Simmons on 16th May 2011, was timely, to say the least, particularly as the speakers included Lord Justice Sullivan, and Lord Justice Carnwath the senior president of the Tribunals, and Professor Richard Macrory Q.C., author of a new report on the Environment Tribunal.

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Murder, miscarriage of justice and Scots judicial autonomy

27 May 2011 by

Fraser v Her Majesty’s Advocate [2011] UKSC 24 (25 May 2011)  – Read judgment

The Supreme Court has had to consider (for the second time in a month) the ticklish question of what constitutes a “miscarriage of justice”.

The business is rendered more ticklish because this was a case being handled by the High Court of Justiciary, the court of last resort in all criminal matters in Scotland.

Our previous post questioned whether the finding of a miscarriage of justice entitled the individual, whose conviction is quashed, to compensation for the slur on their innocence. Here the Court scrutinises the actual diagnosis of a miscarriage of justice. They had to do so in this case because their jurisdiction depended on it. This needs some explaining.

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No legal aid cuts to avoid bad days in court

18 May 2011 by

R (on the application of Evans) v The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice [2011] EWHC 1146 (Admin) – Read judgment

The High Court has found that the Ministry of Justice, when making a decision to cease the state’s funding of judicial review challenges on purely public interest grounds (apart from one exception), took into account the fact that to do so would reduce the number of decisions being made which were not in the government’s interests. Unsurprisingly, the Court to concluded that the decision was unlawful and should be quashed.

The Applicant applied for judicial review of a decision by the Respondent to amend the Legal Services Commission (LSC) Funding Code, which funds litigation for those who meet certain criteria. The effect of the amendments, which were introduced in April 2010, was to prevent public funding by the LSC for judicial review proceedings (challenging decisions of public bodies) which were pure public interest challenges. That is, where the Applicant stood to gain nothing from the litigation and was bringing it solely to promote a particular public interest. The one exception was in environmental cases.

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Access to justice 2.0

18 February 2011 by

A sense of doom is gripping the legal profession in the face of significant cuts to the justice system. Amongst other consequences, legal aid may soon be reformed almost out of existence, meaning that lawyers will face the double jeopardy of fewer clients and more nightmarish cases against litigants in person.

There is little we can do to prevent the cuts. But a shrinking justice system could have an unintended consequence: it may inspire lawyers to take a more activist approach in promoting access to justice, and to find creative ways of bringing the public closer to the law.

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Man detained by police under mental health law was not denied access to justice

10 December 2010 by

Seal v United Kingdom (Application no. 50330/07) – Read judgment

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the claim of a man detained by the police for 9 days under mental health law. Despite legislation deliberately making it difficult to sue authorities carrying out mental health functions, the court ruled that the law did not unduly restrict access to the courts.

Although Mr Seal ultimately lost, his claim – and in particular a strong dissenting judgment by Baroness Hale in the House of Lords – highlights the tricky line the state must tread in relation to people with mental health problems in relation to their access to justice.

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Justice’s hidden backbone – a tribute to BAILII

18 November 2010 by

By all accounts, it has been a gloomy year for access to justice. The legal aid budget is to be reduced by £350m and state assistance has effectively disappeared in non-criminal cases. The overall justice budget, which is already low by international standards, is to be cut by a further 23%. But believe it or not, there may be reasons to be cheerful.

In the virtual world, legal blogs are becoming an established voice in the UK legal community and the flourishing blogosphere has given the public a lively, accessible and most importantly free new way of engaging with the law. With legal aid becoming scarcer and Citizens Advice Bureaus losing their funding, free information services such can be the last resort for those who seek legal help without having to pay for a lawyer.

But none of these services would exist without their hidden backbone: BAILII. To that end, when Legal Week published its excellent review of legal blogging  last month, the failure to mention BAILII caused a min-revolution from a gaggle of legal bloggers in the comments section.

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New legislation website launched, updated to 2002

2 August 2010 by

The government has launched a sparkly looking but as yet scantily featured new legislation website, legislation.gov.uk, to replace the two websites which previously did the same job, OPSI and the Statute Law Database.

One notable absence from the National Archives-run site is any guarantee that the statutes will be up to date after 2002. This was also a limitation of its predecessors, which is why lawyers generally avoided them for fear of unknowingly using an out-of-date statute. “About half” of the legislation is now up to date, according to the frequently asked questions section. This is surprising given the amount of money which is spent on Government IT; the new website asking what laws people want scrapped will apparently alone cost £20,000.

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