An Essex academic has joined a group of experts tasked with assessing reforms to the UK justice system.
In September 2016, the UK government launched what is believed to be the largest court reform programme ever attempted. The £1bn programme will review all aspects of the Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals System (HMCTS) with the aim of “mak(ing) justice less confusing, easier to navigate and better at responding to the needs of the public.”
Professor Maurice Sunkin QC (Hon), from the School of Law, has been invited to join an expert panel of “critical friends”, tasked with advising the Ministry of Justice as it seeks to evaluate the reform process.
Professor Sunkin said: “The government’s reform programme aims to make our courts and tribunals system fit for the modern age. The system as it stands is an unfriendly place for many. I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this work and will look to ensure that it delivers a system which improves access to justice and the experience of system users and increases the effectiveness of the system in protecting the rights of all citizens.”
HMCTS is an agency of the Ministry of Justice responsible for the administration of criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales and non-devolved tribunals in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It handles approximately four million cases each year.
The reform programme consists of a number of separate reviews and aims to assess aspects including the process of digitalisation, changes to court processes and management of the ageing court estate.
Professor Sunkin is Professor of Public Law and Socio Legal Studies. In 2018, the Queen appointed him QC Honoris Causa, a role sometimes referred to as 'honorary silk'. The honour recognises “lawyers and legal academics that have made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts, which has not been recognised through other forms of honours.”
Professor Sunkin, who has been at Essex since 1989, has specific expertise in the use, operation and effects of judicial review. He previously served as Legal Adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution.