Saturday, 31 October 2009

Access to justice: Neuberger speech

Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, in his speech on access to justice at the Law Society & Bar Council opening of the Legal Year Seminar on 30 Sept 2009 (my emphasis, and links added):

1. We must all take care to ensure that we do not imperceptibly, unconsciously, and unintentionally drift towards a position where our justice systems fail to meet the minimum acceptable standards to satisfy the rule of law in a modern democratic society. We do not want to find ourselves in the position where we have to acknowledge, as a melancholy truth, that we do not have proper access to justice;

2. There is therefore a heavy duty on all members of society to ensure that such a situation does not arise, and where it does arise, to remedy the situation. Despite the current economic problems, we are a developed and rich country, the money involved would not be enormous, while the benefits to society as a whole would, it could well be said, are enormous;

3. There is also, and in particular, a heavy duty on the legal profession: lawyers are perfectly entitled to seek to make money, but, unlike most other people, even other professionals, they also have a duty to the public;

4. Any reforms must be founded on the principles I have mentioned, but they must also be practical, in the sense of being realistic and carefully thought out and costed; they must also be evidence-based, as anyone who listened to Hazel Genn’s excellent Hamlyn lectures on civil justice will appreciate;

5. The Jackson report can be expected to provide many constructive ideas for change, which I am sure will also provide a good basis for positive developments in this very important and imperfectly resourced area.

Hear, hear. Especially the point made that any reforms should be evidence based. Would that all reforms in the UK were. Or indeed, any.

Note that Hamlyn Lectures from 1949 to 2004 are available free online, but unfortunately lectures from 2005 onwards, including Dame Hazel Genn's on Judging civil justice, are not - they must be purchased from Cambridge University Press. But there is a Word summary online of Dame Hazel Genn's Hamlyn lecture on Judging Civil Justice.

For anyone interested, here are links to:

The Jackson report is due out at the end of 2009, and copies should be available in Jan 2010.

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