Legal Aid Cuts in the UK Found to Leave Millions Without Access to Legal Help

Research conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has found that cuts to legal aid in England and Wales have ‘decimated’ the legal help service. The data analyzed by BBC is from 2011-12 to present. Findings from this recent BBC investigation include the following:

  • More than 15 million people now live in areas with one service provider
  • Every year, an estimated 1,000,000 fewer claims are processed
  • Approximately 50% of all community care legal aid providers are based in London

The investigation also highlights a more than 5-fold increase in self-representation that has resulted from cuts to the legal aid scheme.

Links to the methodology paper, and two full data sets are included in the BBC news article, published here: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-46357169.

‘Justice is just as important as health or education’ – UK Survey

A new survey in England and Wales reveals that the public agrees that ‘justice is just as important as health or education’. The far-reaching survey, which was commissioned by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives has a number of other, important findings, including:

  • a majority (76%) agree that people on low incomes should be able to get free legal advice
  • for all types of legal problems canvassed in the survey, 50% of respondents or more indicated that they would feel ‘uncomfortable’ dealing with the problem without a lawyer
  • 13% agreed that ‘the state should not have to pay for people’s legal expenses if they are accused of an offence that could earn jail time’

Findings from this survey are discussed in the press release, published on the Bar Council website here: https://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media-centre/news-and-press-releases/2018/october/justice-as-important-as-education-and-health,-say-public/. 2,086 people responded to the survey which was carried out from 28-30 September 2018. Results were weighted to be representative of the distribution of the population.

The survey and what it reveals about the public’s views about access to justice in the UK will be a central theme during Justice Week, which runs from 29 October to 2 November 2018.

International research project seeks to scale access to community-based justice

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ), located at Osgoode Hall Law School, is joining forces with researchers in Kenya, Sierra Leone and South Africa to build a business case for scaling community-based justice services.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Community-Based Justice Research (CBJR) project is a newly-launched, collaborative research initiative that aims to advance collective understanding of the costs, opportunities, and challenges of community-based justice programs. In doing so, this project will play a significant role in supporting the improvement of access to justice at the community level.

This project speaks directly to Goal 16.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which requires countries to ensure equal access to justice for all of their citizens. Community-oriented justice services fill gaps in the delivery of legal services in many otherwise underserved areas; they facilitate early legal problem resolution, and they empower individuals to engage in society to protect their legal rights. By helping to provide the evidence needed to understand, assess and scale these types of access to justice programs, this project will help countries to better develop and deliver justice to their communities.

The Community-Based Justice Research project is planned in close collaboration with the IDRC, the Katiba Institute in Kenya, the Center for Alternative Policy Research and Innovation (CAPRI) in Sierra Leone and the Centre for Community Justice and Development (CCJD) in South Africa with support from Open Society Foundations (OSF), and will incorporate research methodologies and learnings from the CFCJ’s own 7-year (2011-2018) national, people-centered research project on “The Cost of Justice”.

The press release for the Community-Based Justice Research project is available on the CFCJ website here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/Press-Release-CFCJ-CBJR-International-Research-Initiative-Seeks-to-Scale-Access-to-Community-Justice.pdf.

To learn more, please also visit the Community-Based Justice Research project page here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/our-projects/community-based-justice-research-cbjr/.

Cyberjustice Laboratory launches major “Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies” Research Project

The Cyberjustice Laboratory (Laboratoire de Cyberjustice) in Montreal has launched a 6-year research initiative to examine artificial intelligence in the justice sector. This Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded project includes 16 sub-projects, and a multi-disciplinary and international team of 45 researchers and 42 partners.

The Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies (ACT) research project by the Cyberjustice Laboratory will provide greater understanding of the socio-legal and ethical underpinnings of applying and integrating artificial intelligence tools within the justice system. More information about this important research initiative, being led Professor Karim Benyekhlef, Direcor of the Cyberjustice Laboratory, is available in the press release, available in English here: http://cyberjustice.openum.ca/files/sites/102/PressReleaseACT.pdf, and in French here: http://www.cyberjustice.ca/files/sites/102/CommuniqueAJC-VFinale.pdf. Visit the Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies (ACT) website here: https://www.ajcact.org/.

New Report Examines the Role of Assisted Digital Support Services for Civil Justice System Users in the UK

The recently published “Assisted Digital Support for Civil Justice System Users: Demand, Design, & Implementation” report offers insight into the use of ‘assisted digital support’ (ADS) to facilitate access to online civil justice services among low-income earners, the elderly, people living in social housing and people without degrees in the UK. The report indicates that ADS services, including face-to-face assistance and web chat can be useful for engaging people online. The report also recommends additional research into whether or to what extent ADS services are helpful for people without “legal capability”. Quoting the report, this article highlights the following: “That users undertake a range of activities online is not to say that they have the capability to undertake legal processes online”.

“Assisted Digital Support for Civil Justice System Users: Demand, Design, & Implementation” was prepared for the Civil Justice Council (UK) by Catrina Denvir, with the assistance of Reem Ayad, Nerissa Morales Cordoba, Mbeti Michuki, Adel Msolly and Annie Wood. The full report can be accessed here: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cjc-report-on-assisted-digital-support.pdf.

Judicial College (UK) Publishes Updated Equal Treatment Bench Book

The Judicial College of England and Wales has updated the Equal Treatment Bench Book. The Judicial College, which is responsible for training the courts’ judiciary, recently published a revised, 422-page Equal Treatment Bench Book that includes new sections on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, modern slavery and multicultural communication, expanded sections on litigants-in-person (self-represented litigants) as well as glossaries, useful suggestions and more. All information provided in the revised Equal Treatment Bench Book adheres to the existing legal framework. The newly updated Equal Treatment Bench Book is available online here: www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/equal-treatment-bench-book-february2018-v5-02mar18.pdf.

World Justice Project Publishes 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index Report

On January 31st, the World Justice Project (WJP) released its latest Rule of Law Index Report. This report is an annual publication that includes rule of law assessments of countries based on their level of adherence to 44 indicators grouped into the following 8 categories:

  1. Constraints on Government Powers
  2. Absence of Corruption
  3. Open Government
  4. Fundamental Rights
  5. Order and Security
  6. Regulatory Enforcement
  7. Civil Justice
  8. Criminal Justice

Countries are also evaluated on their adherence to a ninth factor – informal justice—that is not included in the aggregate scores. This year’s report includes assessments for 113 countries. The scores and rankings are based on data gathered from two sources: a General Population Poll (GPP) that is disseminated in the 3 largest cities of each country included in the ranking and, a Qualified Respondents’ Questionnaire (QRQ) that gathers responses from in-country experts in civil and commercial law, criminal justice, labor law and public health.

The 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index is available online here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/WJP_ROLI_2017-18_Online-Edition.pdf.

Previous Rule of Law Index publications can be accessed on the WJP website here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/wjp-rule-law-index/previous-editions-wjp-rule-law-index.

World Justice Project Publishes Global Insights on Access to Justice Report

The World Justice Project (WJP) has published its first-ever Global Insights on Access to Justice: Findings from the World Justice Project General Population Poll in 45 Countries report. The report is based on data gathered from an access to civil justice survey conducted with over 1,000 respondents in the 3 largest cities of the 45 countries included in the report. The survey questions were based on the following 11 themes:

  1. Types of legal problems experienced in the last two years
  2. Problem seriousness
  3. Sources of (professional and informal) help and advice
  4. Residual problem resolving behavior, such as attempts to learn more about the legal issue
  5. Reasons for advice not being obtained.
  6. Resolution process, through formal and informal means
  7. Fact and manner of conclusion
  8. Perceptions of the quality of the process and outcome
  9. Cost of problem resolution
  10. Legal capability, awareness, and confidence
  11. Impact of experiencing a legal problem

The report is organized by country with data presented according to the paths that respondents followed to deal with their everyday legal problems, with an emphasis on:

  • Incidence of Legal Problems
  • Violence
  • Action or Inaction
  • Status of Legal Problems
  • Process, Perceptions & Legal Capability
  • Hardship

The Global Insights WJP report, international poll, methodology paper and summary statistics report can all be accessed here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/news/global-insights-access-justice.

New Report Highlights Connection Between Legal Problems and Health Issues in the UK

A new Global Insights report by the World Justice Project (WJP) indicates that 1 in 3 people (31%) who experience legal problems in the United Kingdom experience stress or physical health problems as a result. The Access to Justice survey that was conducted for this report also found that:

  • 1 in 10 people in the UK who experience a legal problem within a 2-year period also experience a relationship breakdown as a result of their legal problem.
  • Almost 1 in 5 (18%) lost their job, faced financial strain or experienced housing issues because of legal problems they experienced within the reference period of the survey.

Trouble with neighbours was the most commonly experienced legal problem type reported by respondents in the UK survey with 1 in 5 (20%) experiencing this problem. Other common legal problems include:

  • Accessing benefits or care
  • Problems with Landlords
  • Debt-related problems, including paying credit cards, utility bills or loans
  • Harassment at work

This article provides an overview of the survey results for the UK and discusses the findings in the context of other recent reports as well as budget cuts to the UK’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act in recent years: https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/jan/29/one-in-three-people-with-legal-problems-in-uk-develop-health-issues-report.

For more on physical and mental health problems related to everyday legal problems in Canada, see the recent Canadian Forum on Civil Justice report published here.

 

Upcoming A2J-Related Events

ACCESS TO JUSTICE WEEK (October 23 – 27) Ontario
The 2nd annual Access to Justice Week is underway with various events taking place across Ontario. Live streaming and webcast links are available here for some remaining events.


IMMIGRATION LAW: LAW AT THE LIBRARY SERIES (October 28) at 2516 Alta Vista, Ottawa
This event is geared towards new immigrants to Canada and individuals with questions about immigration and visiting Canada. The Immigration Law – Law at the Library Series event will cover information on applying for visas, permanent residency, becoming a Canadian citizen, legal rights and more.


EQUALITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: INFORMATION SESSION (October 30) at 130 Queen Street West, Toronto
This information session will discuss the strategies that the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) will be putting in place to help address discrimination and racism in the legal profession.


CANFest 2017 (November 1) at 130 Queen Street West, Toronto
This event will provide information on the Coach and Advisor Network (CAN) and offer visitors an opportunity to meet participants in the Coach and Advisor Network.


TAKE OUR KIDS TO WORK AT OSGOODE HALL 2017 (November 1) at 130 Queen Street West, Toronto
The goal of this event is to educate students in Grade 9 about the steps to becoming a legal professional.


#140DOWN – NOW WHAT? THE FUTURE OF LAWYERING IS HERE (November 3) at Fort Garry Place Banquet & Conference, Winnipeg
Innovators, analysts and experts in the legal field will be among the presenters and attendees at the 140th Isaac Pitblado Lecture on the theme of Now What? The Future of Lawyering is Here. More information on this event is available online at http://www.pitbladolectures.com. The program agenda is available online here.


THE ONTARIO AI LEGAL CHALLENGE (November 10)
The initiative aims to engage companies in a challenge to create affordable legal services solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence. The deadline for submissions to the challenge is November 10, 2017, with a top prize of $80,000. In addition to the main prize, the 6 companies that make it to the semi-final round will have access to mentors and other services offered through Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ).


MAKE A WILL – LAW AT THE LIBRARY SERIES (November 15) at 2516 Alta Vista, Ottawa
This information session will focus on wills and estates law. Attendees will learn about the importance of having a will, what happens in the absence of a will and the importance of powers of attorney.


17TH ANNUAL FRANCHISE LAW CONFERENCE (November 16) at 20 Toronto Street, Toronto
This Ontario Bar Association event  will include two special workshops and several roundtables and will explore trends and developments in franchise law.


LEGAL FUTURES INNOVATION CONFERENCE: CHANGING THE GAME (November 21) at 250 Bishopsgate, London
This conference in London will highlight major changes over the past 10 years that have occurred in law firms, the range of legal and non-legal services offered, technology and the Law and other related topics in the legal field.