The MA welcomes the publication of the Bach Commission’s Access to Justice Report, which highlights the importance of the fundamental right for all to be able to fairly and equitably access the justice system. In the evidence that we submitted to the Commission, the MA raised concerns that the current push to make cuts and increase efficiency may inadvertently have a negative impact on the fairness and effectiveness of the justice system.
The Bach Commission's report identifies issues around the eligibility criteria and scope of legal aid resulting in an increase in litigants in person having to negotiate through the courts without adequate knowledge, advice or support. The MA has repeatedly added its voice to others who have seen the impact of this in practice, particularly in relation to family court hearings.
The report also identified a paucity of legal education, leading to a lack of understanding about the justice system. Research has shown that a lack of understanding can result in a lack of confidence and trust in the system. The MA runs the longstanding and highly successful Magistrates in the Community project, which enables magistrates to visit community groups, schools and many more to promote and explain the magistracy. However, this activity currently receives no funding and support from the Government, particularly to enable us to reach employers and underrepresented groups, would be very welcome.