Improving access to justice by studying the past

  • Date

    Mon 19 Nov 18

Justice statue on top of Old Bailey in London

A major new research project aims to highlight current inequality in access to justice across England by exploring the experiences of victims of crime over three centuries.

Professor Pamela Cox from our Department of Sociology has been awarded funding to lead the ESRC Victims Project, which will:

  • profile victims involved in criminal trials since 1675
  • track changes in the rights, resources and services available to victims
  • use this new data to recommend ways of understanding and reducing ‘justice gaps’ today and in the future

The project team includes leading historians, criminologists and legal researchers from the Universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, and Leeds Beckett University. They’ll work with professional bodies including the Crown Prosecution Service, Ministry of Justice, Citizens Advice Witness Service, and Office of the Victims’ Commissioner.

Professor Cox said: “This project addresses a pressing need in the current criminal justice system. Access to justice can be thought of as the right and ability of a person to seek formal acknowledgement and redress of wrongs committed against them. At present, these rights and abilities are unevenly distributed across the population. Victims of crime exist across the social and economic spectrum but they don’t all enjoy equal access to effective justice.”

Surveys have shown that victims of crime are concerned about under-reporting, low rates of arrest, prosecution and conviction, difficulties in accessing information, long delays in proceedings, and prohibitive financial and personal costs of pursuing action. Together these factors create ‘justice gaps’ – impediments to justice for many people.

The project’s first specialist workshop will be held at Somerset House on 22 November, bringing together researchers and practitioners. The event is supported by History and Policy, an organisation specialising in bringing historical evidence to bear in policy debates.

The ESRC Victims Project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).