Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

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Transforming the legal system – work in progress

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I have recently published a new article on how the English Legal system has changed in the 15 years since the first edition of my book appeared in 2000. I also reflect on the changes that are likely to occur in the near future.
In summary I argue that, in this period, reform to the ELS system has occurred in 2 phases: the first during the Labour administrations led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; the second during the Coalition and Conservative administrations led by David Cameron.
In Phase 1, there was a great deal of institutional change: creation of the Ministry of Justice, creation of the Supreme Court and the reshaping of the tribunals and courts systems.
In Phase 2, the emphasis has been on cutting public expenditure. This has had a notable impact on reductions in the scope and funding of legal aid. Significant increases in the fees charged for taking cases to court have also been imposed.
I note that many lawyers are very unhappy with the effects of public expenditure cuts on the English Legal System. I argue, however, that such cuts could have positive outcomes if those involved in the legal system ask serious questions about whether the current way of doing things is as efficient as it could be.
In particular, I suggest that much could be done by:
• the imaginative use of Information and Communication technologies;
• making a much greater commitment to customer service in the courts and tribunals service;
• challenging the view that the county court should remain as a ‘generalist’ court, and proposing that the civil justice system should comprise more specialist courts;
• possibly making the use of ADR compulsory and part of the court system;
• thinking about the judicial function and asking whether all cases need to be dealt with in the same way;
• thinking about new sources of funding for bringing cases, and noting the development of private dispute resolution channels that offer the public free services;
• improving competition in the legal services market;
• promoting public legal education.
I also suggest that more work must be done on increasing equality of opportunity in the legal profession and the judiciary, and developing judicial careers.
I conclude by noting that whether or not these specific developments occur, the world into which those starting their legal studies will enter in a few years’ time is a rapidly changing one, and one in which there will be enormous opportunities for those energy and an interest in innovation.
The full text is available at https://martinpartington.com/transforming-the-english-legal-system-recent-changes-and-future-prospects/

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Written by lwtmp

September 29, 2015 at 10:03 am

Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 11

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Keeping up to date with legal developments

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Frances Gibb, Legal Correspondent for The Times, has – with Jonathan Ames – just launched a new daily service giving info on developments in the legal system and legal profession.

Interesting piece today by Lord Neuberger on televising court proceedings.

You can sign up, for free, at thetimes.co.uk/thebrief/signup/

Written by lwtmp

September 29, 2015 at 9:56 am

Posted in Chapter 1

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Broadcasting of court proceedings

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Broadcasting of some court proceedings has moved a step forward, following approval of plans to allow filming of the legal arguments and the final judgments in criminal and civil cases in the Court of Appeal.

Subject to the approval of the House of Lords, the Government hopes that this will start at the end of October 2013.

The government plans to permit filming to allow the broadcast of sentencing remarks in the Crown Court. However victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors will continue to be protected, and will not be part of broadcasts. The date for the launch of this has not yet been announced.

This will, of course, supplement the broadcasting of cases in the Supreme Court which is already available.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/one-step-closer-to-court-broadcasting

Written by lwtmp

October 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 11

Welcome to the Class of 2013

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Publication of the A level results is an occasion of high emotion. For those now in a position to be able to go on to the university and course of your choice, congratulations! For those who have not achieved as expected/hoped, commiserations. But don’t despair, there are plenty of alternative routes to your final career choice!
Those planning to study law are about to embark on a subject that is of central importance to your lives – just think of the importance of the concept of the rule of law in the modern world, and the difficulties of living in places where there is no rule of law.
The study of law is a hard discipline, requiring the development of acute analytical skills, but these days also other skills such as written and oral communication.
Those thinking of becoming lawyers will find a world that is in rapid transition, that will be quite different from what it was even 10 years ago.
Not only are rules of law subject to change – with new law being made all the time. But the institutions of the law are undergoing great change. New ways of doing legal work, new competitive challenges, new court procedures, new ways of resolving disputes.
My book Introduction to the English Legal System seeks to introduce you to think new world that is changing so rapidly. This blog is designed to enable you to keep up to date as you work your way through your course with what is happening in the wider legal world.
Oxford University Press have just published a short video in which I introduce a few of the main themes. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jyo3QldQDo.
For a bit more detail go to the ‘about this book’ and the ‘about this blog’ pages – you can find links at the right hand side of the screen.
Good luck with your studies, and if you have comments you’d like to share, please get in touch by making a comment on this blog. (No spam or trash please!)

Written by lwtmp

August 15, 2013 at 10:53 am

Posted in Chapter 1

Legislation 2012-2013: end of term report

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In May 2012, I outlined those features of the Queen’s speech which I thought would impact on the English Legal System. Here is my end of term report on those measures:

Dropped
House of Lords reform, I said this was potentially the ‘big one’ in terms of constitutional change and political controversy. But my observation that ‘it is far from certain that sufficient political consensus will be created to make its enactment an inevitability’ proved accurate – it fell at the first fence and now seems firmly in the long grass.

Incomplete
1. The Children and Families Bill designed to amend the law on adoption and bring into law changes to the Family Justice system recommended by the Norgrove report, did not complete its Parliamentary passage and has been carried over into the 2013-2014 session.

2.The draft Local Audit Bill, which was designed to abolish the Audit Commission, got a pretty hostile reception from the ad hoc Parliamentary Committee that undertook a pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft. See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmdraftlocaudit/696/69602.htm. However, the Government made it clear that it would proceed with the bill. See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/192495/29073_Cm_8566_v0_4.pdf. A Local Audit and Accountability Bill has been announced in the Queen’s Speech 2013 to take this proposal forward.

Completed
1. Most important for the English Legal System, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 gives statutory authority for the creation of the National Crime Agency. It provides for the creation of a single family court, which will change the infrastructure currently in place. It also amends some of the current provisions relating to the making of judicial appointments and provides for the televising of some court proceedings.
2. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 implements proposals which seek to ensure that more employment disputes are resolved by conciliation. It also abolishes the Competition Commission and Office for Fair Trading and replaces them with a Competition and Markets Authority.
3. The Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 aims to make it easier for people to register to vote.
4.The Groceries Adjudicator Act 2013 formally creates the new scheme for adjudicating disputes between consumers and the ‘big name retailers’ – another area of disputes taken from the courts. (There are over 60 industry adjudication schemes already in existence in the UK – many of them not well understood but doing work of resolving disputes that otherwise might have gone to courts). Although the Act did not receive Royal Assent until April 2013, Christine Tacon was appointed to the post in January 2013.

Comment

It is perhaps a consequence of Coalition Government that the passage of legislation is not as predictable as when a single political party is in Government. Even so, most of the key measures, apart from House of Lords Reform, have made progress. It should of course be noted that major policy changes – effected by legislation passed in previous years – came into effect. These include: the reform of legal aid; fundamental change to the health service; changes to social welfare and benefits.

Written by lwtmp

May 11, 2013 at 7:54 am

Citizenship education in the National Curriculum – implications of the current consultation

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I always thought that one of the important aspects of the National Curriculum was the introduction of citizenship education. When done well, it teaches young people to understand, challenge and engage with the main pillars of our democracy: politics, the economy and the law. It has also led to some quite brilliant and inspiring project work. Citizenship education is central to how young people can be given the confidence to engage and navigate the law and legal processes.

However, the Department for Education is now conducting a review of the National Curriculum and has issued a consultation document for public comment. Of most interest are the proposals for citizenship education in key stages 3 and 4.

The proposed new curriculum removes the explicit reference to ‘political, legal and human rights, and the responsibilities of citizens’, present in the current curriculum leaving only a vaguer reference to the ‘precious liberties of the citizens of the United Kingdom’.

Other references to ‘influencing decisions affecting communities…’ and ‘strategies for dealing with disagreement and conflict’ have also been removed; although there is now an explicit reference to the ‘importance of personal budgeting, money management and a range of financial products and services’.

The consultation closes on April 16 2013, so if you are moved to comment you’ll need to act fast. You can get further information from the Citizenship Foundation, who have provided a handy critique and guide to proposed changes.
See http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/main/news.php?n1056

In addition, campaign group Democratic Life has an online response form that you can use. It is pre-filled with thoughts about the citizenship curriculum, which you can leave in or edit as you see fit. It is sent automatically to the Department for Education’s consultation team, and a copy is sent to you.

See http://www.democraticlife.org.uk/

Written by lwtmp

April 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Chapter 1, Chapter 11

Public legal education – the Canadian experience

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The April Newsletter from Law for Life: the Foundation for Public Legal Education contains a link to a really excellent study on the development of Public Legal Education in Canada – a country far in advance of experience here. Written by Clare Shirtcliff, who works for Advicenow, an independent, not-for-profit website providing good quality information on rights and legal issues for the general public in England and Wales, it reports on a number of extremely interesting initiatives that have been taken in a number of Canadian provinces.
The paper considers a number of issues:
1 how to support self-representing litigants;
2 doing public legal education and out reach work;
3 examining how social media can be used for PLE; and
4 considering where the funds for PLE can come from.
It is a really interesting and clearly written paper which should provide a lot of thought for those in the UK who accept the importance of PLE as a part of the English Legal System landscape.
Find out more about Law for Life at http://www.lawforlife.org.uk/

Written by lwtmp

April 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm