Students Staff

19 February 2016

Has austerity eroded access to justice and vital services?

Last week’s announcement that 86 UK courts are to close was criticised as a “simplistic, ill-thought through” money-saving exercise by family law group Resolution, while mental health charity Mind this week called for “better quality and more joined up services” in response to rising numbers of suicides.

But how are austerity measures really affecting access to justice and public services?

These are the issues explored in a pioneering new book, which for the first time, offers a comprehensive, independent academic review of the impact of austerity. Co-edited by four University of Essex researchers, Access to Justice will be launched in London on 10 March.

Professor Ellie Palmer

Professor Ellie Palmer

Access to Justice is a collection of expert papers exploring the implications of austerity measures on vulnerable people. Topics covered include the impact of legal aid cuts, the introduction of new technologies to reconfigure the delivery of legal services, and cost-cutting measures for the administration of courts and tribunals.

The book has been co-edited by Professor Ellie Palmer, Dr Tom Cornford, Dr Audrey Guinchard and Dr Yseult Marique of Essex’s School of Law. It includes contributions by top justice experts and practitioners from across the country.

Professor Palmer explained the background to the book: “In 2011 we were awarded a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council to host a series of events exploring how Government reforms would impact families in debt, children and other vulnerable groups.

“The aim of those seminars was to address growing concerns among legal professions, academics, pressure groups and charities about the provision of legal services, especially those available to socially-disadvantaged people.”

Professor Palmer added: “This book is based on the findings of those seminars, and questions whether austerity and the promise of new technologies, that drove the Coalition’s policy, can be squared with the obligation our Government has to protect the fundamental right of access to justice.”

Writing in the book’s forward, The Right Honourable Sir Stephen Sedley, praises the seminars for their inclusion of policymakers, judges, practitioners, academics and advisers, and states that this “gives the book a sobriety and an authority which political argument may lack.”

He adds that the book “seeks in particular to distinguish between those inroads into access to justice which are unacceptable on any principled view and those which are either unavoidable or at least negotiable. Wherever possible it does so, in contrast sometimes to central government, from an ascertained evidence base.”

Access to Justice will be launched at Bloomsbury Publishing House, 31 Bedford Square, London, 6-8pm, on 10 March. Baroness Helena Kennedy, a leading barrister and an expert in human rights law, civil liberties and constitutional issues, will give the introductory speech.

Access to Justice has been published by Hart Publishing.

More information

For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or email:

For information about attending the book launch, or to receive a media copy of the book, contact Emma Platt, Marketing Manager at Hart Publishing, telephone: 01865 517530 or email:

...more news releases