- Research into public perceptions of British legal system reveals widespread frustration and lack of trust
- Lack of education about the law seen as major barrier to accessing justice
- Comparison with survey of legal professionals reveals greater level of cynicism within the profession itself
- Further to changes in the recent Spending Review, report calls for an urgent review of the legal aid budget, and cautions use of technology as the only solution
London, 2 December 2015: Barely one in five people in the UK believe the justice system to be ‘fair and transparent’, new research has found.
The data suggests that 37% of the UK population trust professionals working within the legal system, while more than half (54%) feel the justice system is inaccessible.
The figures also reveal that 67% of people feel that wealth is now a more important factor in accessing justice than it used to be. Amongst legal professionals the number is even higher, at 87%.
The statistics are revealed in Unjust Kingdom: UK perceptions of the justice and legal system, a new report to be released today, Wednesday 2nd December, by law firm Hodge Jones & Allen as part of their drive to raise awareness of the challenges the justice system is facing in 2015. The report showcases the findings of a comprehensive nationwide survey undertaken to gauge public attitudes towards the legal and justice systems. These findings are contrasted with additional perceptions gathered from over 500 legal professionals.
The report argues that more must be done not only to restore public trust in the UK justice system, but also to improve knowledge of how it works. Both the general public and the legal professionals surveyed agree that there is a pervasive lack of understanding among the UK population of how the legal system works. 71% of the public believe better education in legal matters would result in improved access to justice. 69% believed that an understanding of the law should be taught in primary and secondary schools – with 72% of legal professionals agreeing. The opinion that simplifying the technical language used by professionals would improve access and understanding was shared by 76% of the population.
Following the government’s recent announcement that £700 million is to be spent on the digitalisation of the court system, the research also reveals the public’s concerns around moving to an entirely digital system. 71% of people across the UK agree with the statement ‘the justice system requires faster modernisation’ but a majority (63%) also believe that moving to a solely digital process of communication risks isolating some vulnerable sections of society from justice. 56% of the public also expressed concerns surrounding data protection in a digitalised system.
Patrick Allen, Senior Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, commented:
“These statistics represent a damning indictment of the British justice system. If millions of people across the country are intimidated, alienated and confused by the prospect of seeking justice in twenty-first century Britain then we should consider our legal system to have failed in its fundamental duty to provide justice for all.
“The voices of the public and the profession are in unison that cuts to legal aid and the introduction of court fees have only served to exacerbate an already difficult situation. It comes as no surprise that those in the lowest income bracket have the least trust in a system that appears unfair, confusing and inaccessible. In light of these findings, the recent budget delivered in the Spending Review needs to be reconsidered. Without legal aid, ordinary people are not getting the access they deserve.
“The public have a clear appetite for modernisation, so we welcome the government’s promise to take the courts from a paper-based system to a digital one. However technology is not a magic bullet; we cannot rely on it as the only solution and potentially ostracising the most vulnerable members of society in the process. Better education about the law must also come hand in hand with any move towards an online or digital system.
“Fundamentally our legal system exists to protect people across the UK. I implore my peers in the legal sector, the government and the general public to get involved in the debate about how we change and innovate the system to ensure fair and open access to justice for all – regardless of wealth, status or ethnicity.”
Hodge Jones and Allen are campaigning to raise awareness of these important issues. Inspired and motivated by the views of the public, they have launched a petition, calling to put a review of legal aid budget back on the agenda. The public are invited to show their support by signing it at petition.parliament.uk (petition 114115, “Reopen the debate surrounding the restriction of legal aid provisions”).
In addition the firm are establishing an HJA education scheme to promote the justice system through schools, youth and community groups and re-igniting the HJA Fightback campaign opposing the rise in the small claims limit.
Join in the conversation on social media using #HJAinnovation.
The full report can be downloaded at www.hja.net
Extensive supporting national and regional statistical data is available upon request, as are data visualisations.
Spokespeople and case studies for interview, opinion and features can also be fielded.
To request further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Anna Younger/Tal Donahue / Alex Spurgeon, Hodge Jones & Allen press office:
T: 020 7269 1430
Notes to editors:
About the report
The nationwide survey was conducted in September 2015 by research consultancy Populus. It included a representative sample of over 2000 participants. The new data includes regional rankings and city comparisons.
Unjust Kingdom builds on the original research conducted by Ipsos Mori and published in the Innovation in Law Report 2014, released last November.
About Hodge Jones & Allen
Hodge Jones & Allen has represented ordinary people caught up in the most extraordinary events for almost four decades. To this day the firm remains committed to providing first-class legal help to individuals and organisations alike, based on a strong set of ethical values that permeate throughout the firm. Patrick Allen was the first managing partner and still leads the firm with passion and enthusiasm 38 years on.
Hodge Jones and Allen employs over 220 staff, based in Euston NW1. The firm’s team of specialists deal with Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.
- Recognised as a Tier 1 firm across a number of disciplines by Chambers UK
- Named as a leading firm by The Legal 500
- Listed as number 137 in the Lawyer UK 200
- Shortlisted for firm/not for profit agency by Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards 2014
- Shortlisted for law firm of the year by Halsbury Legal Awards 2014