Consultation could shape justice research

  • Date

    Thu 21 Sep 17

Picture of children protesting against school cuts

Your child fails to get a place at your local school. Your claim for tax credits is unfairly declined. Your parent is treated badly in hospital. What can you actually do in those situations?

Your ability to challenge decisions about public services you believe to be wrong or unjust is known as ‘administrative justice.’

Alterations to the way administrative justice operates can potentially affect every aspect of our lives so our researchers are investigating whether changes are being made based on reliable evidence, and how we can test who gains and loses in the process.

They hope mapping out future research priorities will ensure fairness, accountability and transparency is maintained when central and local government, public bodies, and even private companies delivering a public service consider changes to administrative justice processes.

Leading the project is Professor Maurice Sunkin from our School of Law, and Principal Investigator at the Essex-based UK Administrative Justice Institute (UKAJI). His team have launched a consultation paper this month to develop a research roadmap. They are seeking responses from government departments, research funders, judges, lawyers, those in the advice sector, complaint handlers and ombuds, users and academics.

A previous study by Professor Sunkin showed how government reforms to judicial review did not reflect the evidence. His team at UKAJI hope that mapping future administrative justice research needs will help public bodies make more informed decisions.

“Administrative justice is not a familiar term but its scale, relevance and reach are vast. It concerns decisions affecting many areas of our lives, some relatively routine like parking fines, others of vital importance to our living standards like social housing and others concerning our fundamental human rights,” said Professor Sunkin.

“Major themes emerging from our study include the need to understand how people experience administrative justice; how processes for complaining and challenging can be both effective and deliver justice; and how improving access to data and statistics is essential so that research can provide useful evidence.”

Senior Research Fellow, Margaret Doyle, who is working alongside Professor Sunkin at Essex, added: “The UK Government has embarked on an ambitious reform of courts and tribunals calling for ‘digital by default.’ We must take a strategic and holistic approach to researching these digitisation reforms if we are to get those reforms right, support government priorities and address concerns about access to justice.”

UKAJI is funded by the Nuffield Foundation.