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Access to Justice Standing Committee

Objectives

In July 2011 a working group was set up to continue to implement the CJC report on access to justice for litigants in person and work with the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and advice sector to put in place activities that will assist those unable to afford advice and representation.

The Working Party looked at how to improve access to justice for litigants in person; this was in the light of Government proposals to reform the civil justice system and legal aid.

Members

This group is comprised solely of Civil Justice Council members.

Chair: Honourable Mr Justice Robin Knowles CBE
Andrew Higgins
Diane Astin
District Judge Judy Gibson
Elisabeth Davies
Jo Hickman
Martin Barnes
Matthew Smerdon
Nick Hanning

Terms of Reference

Currently under review

Purpose

The Standing Committee is a committee of the Civil Justice Council, from which it derives its authority and to which it reports.

The purpose of the Committee is to keep under review and provide recommendations to improve, access to justice for those without means in the context of the civil justice system.  Those without means include litigants in person but also those reliant on publicly funded, voluntary sector or pro bono legal assistance

As part of its work, the Standing Committee will facilitate, including through a dedicated annual national forum, discussion and the exchange of information about areas for improvement and to promote good practice.

In keeping with the approach adopted by the Civil Justice Council, the Standing Committee’s work programme will reflect a combination of (i) monitoring the wider environment and civil justice landscape, (ii) reacting to emerging themes and issues, and (iii) proactively using insights and expertise to identify opportunities that will enable the Committee to deliver its purpose, including through successfully influencing others.

Responsibilities and work

The functions of the Civil Justice Council are set out at section 6(4) of the Civil Procedure Act 1997. The Standing Committee will support the Civil Justice Council in those functions. The Standing Committee will engage with the Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and the Legal Aid Agency (among others) as appropriate in relation to its work, subject to oversight by of the Chairman and the wider Civil Justice Council.

The Standing Committee will work on these areas

  1. What steps could be taken to improve access to justice for those without means in the context of the civil justice system
  2. What measures could be taken to increase (where needed) the availability of advice and representation to those without means who are entering or may need to enter the civil justice system
  3. Advocating for the collection and use of data to enable evidence-based decision making on improvements to the system
  4. The use of technology in improving access to justice for those without means in all areas of civil justice, and appropriate arrangements where the use of technology is not possible or requires support
  5. Good practice and innovation in other fields or jurisdictions, which could be implemented to improve access to justice for those without means in England and Wales
  6. How future developments in the civil justice system can promote access to justice for those without means

The Standing Committee will also:

  1. Convene and host an annual national forum on access to justice for those without means, inviting a wide range of stakeholders
  2. Engage with institutions nationally to facilitate regional events which foster relationships to improve access to justice for those without means
  3. Promote and facilitate the sharing of ideas and best practice across this area

The Standing Committee may undertake particular pieces of work (including preparing draft responses to consultation for consideration by the Civil Justice Council) on a “task and finish” basis by delegating to a subgroup led by a member of the Standing Committee, and which may include (where appropriate) outside experts on the subject in hand.

The Standing Committee will work to the Core Objectives set out in the Business Plan of the Civil Justice Council, and the Supporting Objectives attributed to it in that Business Plan. It will apply the Work Prioritisation Criteria and Workflow Review adopted by the Civil Justice Council.

Frequency of meetings

The Standing Committee will meet at least once quarterly, but may meet more often as required. The quarterly meetings will ordinarily be scheduled at least 2 weeks before a full meeting of the Civil Justice Council to facilitate the reporting below.

Reporting

A short report and key points will be submitted by the Standing Committee to each full meeting of the Civil Justice Council.

The Standing Committee will also, with the assistance of the Secretariat, provide a written summary of the annual national forum.

The Standing Committee will contribute to the Civil Justice Council’s annual report each year.

It will produce other written reports and recommendations as necessary for consideration by the Civil Justice Council.

Membership

Membership will be made up of at least six members of the Civil Justice Council, supported by the Secretariat.  There should be a mix of members with at least: 1 High Court Judge, 1 Circuit or District Judge, 1 legal practitioner, 1 academic, 1 advice sector member and 1 lay member. Others with relevant roles or expertise may be invited to join as required.