The Right To Justice.

‘Right to justice’, the final report of the Bach Commission is out today.

People should have a right to justice they can afford, urges a new report on access to the justice system.

The Fabian Society was secretariat for the Bach Commission which has heard from more than 100 individuals and organisations over the past two years. The commission found that cuts to legal aid created a two-tier justice system where the poorest go without representation or advice.

In its final report, published today, the commission calls on the government and other political parties to ensure minimum standards on access to justice are upheld through a new Right to Justice Act.

The proposed Right to Justice Act would:

  • Codify our existing rights to justice and establish a new right for individuals to receive reasonable legal assistance without costs they cannot afford
  • Establish a set of principles that guide interpretation of this new right
  • Establish a new body called the Justice Commission to monitor and enforce this new right

The commission also sets out an immediate action plan for the government to: widen the scope of legal aid, with a focus on early legal help; reform the eligibility requirements for legal aid; replace the Legal Aid Agency with an independent body; and improve the public’s understanding of the law.

To read the appendices to the report and see the written evidence the commission has received, please click here.

Detailed commentary can also be found via the Grauniad, Independent , The Law Society Gazette and the Solicitors Journal.

Court closures in the North West.

Spin this one whichever way you want, but GMWRAG members in many areas will have been dismayed yesterday to discover the final list of court closures in the North West. Many of these venues have been the home to first tier tribunal oral hearings for many years and it is easy to forget that these closures will impact social security claimants and advisers alike at a time when the introduction of PIP is reducing the number of people with access to a vehicle and concessionary travel. It is cold comfort indeed to read that “The proportion able to reach a tribunal within an hour by car will remain unchanged at 83%.”.

Little wonder the Tribunal Service is finally busying itself looking at Alternative Dispute Resolution and IT based solutions for some time in 2017.

The full list of closures can be found here but to make it clear how bleak this is the list includes

  • Accrington County Court
  • Accrington Magistrates’ Court
  • Bolton County Court and Family Court
  • Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court
  • Oldham County Court
  • Oldham Magistrates’ Court
  • Runcorn (Halton) Magistrates’ Court
  • St Helens Magistrates’ Court
  • Tameside County Court
  • Trafford Magistrates’ Court and Altrincham County Court
  • Wrexham Tribunal (Rhyd Broughton)
  • Kendal Magistrates’ Court and County Court
  • Macclesfield County Court
  • Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court
  • Ormskirk Magistrates’ Court and Family Court
  • Warrington County Court

A small plus is that Stockport and St Helens (County) have survived.

Further details and commentary can be found in the Law Society Gazette. An equally interesting perspective on court closures, IT and ADR can be found on the Clinks blog. In this context of course it is vital that all GMWRAG members are aware of the work of the Bach Commission (no, not that one!) on access to justice as a fundamental right.