Students Staff

26 March 2015

Essex experts are legal consultants on BBC’s latest Panorama investigation

Professor Ellie Palmer from the School of Law and Law Clinic Director at Essex Richard Owen have acted as legal consultants on an investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme into the Government’s controversial changes to the legal aid system.

In DIY Justice, set to be aired on Monday (30 March), journalist Raphael Rowe meets the parents fighting for access to their children without any legal assistance. Cuts to legal aid mean they must prepare their own cases and represent themselves in court. As senior members of the judiciary warn these cuts have undermined the principle of equal access to the law, the man who made them tells Panorama the British legal aid gravy train had to be stopped.

The School of Law at Essex has been analysing the impact of austerity policies, the legal aid cuts and recent reforms. Professor Ellie Palmer is Director of the Access to Justice project funded by the ESRC to look at whether citizens who believe they have suffered a legal wrong are able to gain appropriate legal redress. The other purpose of the project is to identify proportionate responses to the present crisis in legal services. The project has brought together high level civil servants within central government and devolved administrations, judges, lawyers and officials tasked with providing legal advice and assistance plus representatives from NGOs and academics.

An edited collection by Professor Ellie Palmer and colleagues Dr Tom Cornford, Dr Yseult Marique and Dr Audrey Guinchard which builds on the ESRC seminar series organised by the Access to Justice project will be published by Hart Publishing, part of Bloomsbury, in September 2015.

Access to Justice: Beyond the Policies and Politics of Austerity looks into access to the civil and administrative justice in constitutional democracies. For the past decade, governments have reassessed their priorities for funding legal services: embracing 'new technologies' that reconfigure the delivery and very concept of legal services; cutting legal aid budgets; and introducing putative cost-cutting measures for the administration of courts, tribunals and established systems for the delivery of legal advice and assistance.

Without underplaying the future potential of technological innovation, or the need for a fair and rational system for the prioritisation and funding of legal services, the book questions whether the absolutist approach to the dictates of austerity and the promise of new technologies that have driven the Coalition Government policy, can be squared with obligations to protect the fundamental right of access to justice, in the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom.

...more news releases