NB: The application process for judicial participation in research is currently facing significant delays. These delays reflect the significant increases to judges’ workloads as a result of Covid-19. Prospective researchers are advised to consider alternative methodologies.
The aim of this guidance is to promote a consistent approach to requests for judicial participation in:
- research into the judicial process; and
- other aspects of court administration or procedure.
While we would like to assist with research as best we can, judicial resources are limited, and the judiciary are unable to help all applicants by participating in research. This is particularly the case in light of COVID-19 as judges have less time to take part in interviews or to complete surveys.
Research applications will not normally be accepted from: secondary school students, undergraduates, or those undertaking post-graduate Masters and other taught courses.
Similarly, we would not normally accept foreign research applications, unless there is a unique reason to encourage comparative study in a particular subject.
There is a great deal of information about judges, the judicial process, and the courts and tribunals administration on the judicial website.
Ministry of Justice page for academics
Who approves judicial participation in research?
Research seeking the participation of judicial office holders will be sent for consideration to the relevant Head of Division or the Senior Presiding Judge.
Research seeking the participation of the judiciary from particular tribunals will be sent for consideration to the Senior President of Tribunals (SPT). Not all tribunals are within the SPT’s remit; if research proposals relating to such tribunals are received, the SPT’s Private Office will pass them on to the relevant Tribunal President.
The relevant senior member of the judiciary may ask HMCTS, the Ministry of Justice Data and Analytical Services unit, and other senior judiciary as appropriate for their views on the research application. Those views will be taken into account when making a decision.
What to include in your application
Researchers who want to conduct research involving a judicial office holder must submit a formal application, which clearly sets out:
- the aims and objectives of the research;
- how the research will benefit the judiciary or the courts and tribunals administration, and improve or promote the administration of justice;
- how ethical considerations have been addressed (and ethical approval, if appropriate);
- details of the proposed methodology, including sampling, recruitment approach, and analysis, with any supporting documentation;
- an overview of relevant and similar research already in the public domain;
- what alternative sources of data/information have been considered before an application for judicial participation was made;
- if interviews are included, an outline of the areas under discussion as well a list of all questions to be asked to judicial office holders;
- the anticipated start date and duration.
In light of COVID-19, researchers are also requested to outline whether their application is urgent, and their reasons for this assessment. All applications during this period are likely to face significant delays.
All applications should be set out in a Word document, addressing each of the bullet points above.
Approval for judicial participation will only be granted if, in the view of the senior judiciary:
- the proposed research is in the public interest;
- the nature of the proposed research makes judicial participation necessary;
- judicial discretion and independence would not be impaired by participation in the proposed research, and members of the judiciary would not be drawn into areas of political controversy or commenting on the merits of government policy;
- participation will not impose an undue burden on members of the judiciary, recognising that judges’ time is already very limited as a result of COVID-19;
- members of the judiciary will not be identified in any reports;
- a clear outline of the recruitment and sampling approach
- the researcher undertakes to provide a final draft copy of any report to members of the senior judiciary and the judiciary involved in the research, to give them an opportunity to comment upon it before a report is published; and
- members of the judiciary will not be asked about the merits of individual cases.
Any application should set out how it is considered the research proposal meets the above criteria. If the research project is approved, the judicial officer holders concerned may be informed of the project by the relevant senior judge, or the senior judge may provide a letter of support to the researcher.
Please submit requests regarding judicial involvement to: firstname.lastname@example.org
During normal working periods, excluding judicial vacations, the application process can take approximately eight weeks. As a result of COVID-19, this process is facing lengthy delays.
Non-judicial involvement in research applications
All research projects that seek access to the courts or tribunals but do not propose judicial involvement should apply separately to the HMCTS Data Access Panel. This includes research proposals that seek data from the courts/tribunals (including access to case files), or ask court/tribunal staff to complete questionnaires or be interviewed. Guidance on this process is online.