Create a national legal system

There is no justice when citizens cannot afford it. Legal redress is a right for every citizen to ask for but given the current costs of litigation is beyond the reach of the vast majority of people. Barristers and other legal professionals should be employed by a hands off executive agency and their fees should be set  by law. 

Emma McNulty Apr 11, 2015

Dear Contributors,

We are now halfway through the refining phase and would like to remind you of the new features available to every contributor at this stage. Now, you can add, amend or withdraw votes already cast, and this is very important for us to ensure ideas truly reflect your preferences.

We would like contributors to please suggest ways that the idea owner can improve and refine this idea and would invite the idea author to think about how they wish to incorporate the comments made (including those in the previous stage) into their idea. Don't hesitate to message the facilitators (myself and Suki) if you have any questions about this stage of refining the idea. 


C Chapman Apr 11, 2015

Dear Emma

How can we possibly do this, when all the previous comments on this idea are no longer available to view and comment on? Could you please put them back on display. Many thanks - Christine

Tom Austin Apr 12, 2015

All previous comments are available under each Proposal by 'clicking' on the green "Hacking the content" (56 Ideas) box on the far left of the row of boxes above, just above the countdown.

King Richard Third Apr 11, 2015

How might the proposal be funded?  I would rather not raise or create yet another tax to pay for it.  

Whilst one might establish such a program through legislation, kindly keep it out of the Constitution.


Tom Austin Apr 12, 2015

Of course, this would come at a cost - in terms of Lsd, but access to law carries a cost all the time - the Lsd figures may be harder to calculate, but they are there, and the human 'cost' is not negligible.

Whether a proposal such as this would fall under 'justiciable' rights - something a court could take a view upon, or under 'non-justiciable' rights - signals of how we would like our nation to proceed, aims & ambitions, is something to be discussed.

Either way, if it led to there being pressure upon legislation to factor-in public accessibility in terms of possible redress, cost (Lsd) going forward could be minimised.

C Chapman Apr 14, 2015

My personal thoughts fully support  this idea of Ian Hodgson i.e.

ALL citizens to have equal access to justice through a "National Justice Service" (NJS), free at the point of need and paid for through general taxation i.e along the same founding principles as the NHS.

A National Justice Service (NJS) would help to develop a far more equal and just society, where the ability to seek and obtain justice via access to solicitors, barristers and the courts would be available to ALL citizens, and not just restricted as it currently is to those citizens who can afford to pay for it.

Its an unjust society, that enables some individuals and organisations to get away with the detriments they have caused to others - simply because the citizens affected do not have the financial means to seek and pursue justice.

Ideally, the National Justice Service would be free at the point of need, but in order to make it more affordable for the public purse, some form of capped rates could be agreed, to be paid for by those citizens who use the service. A National Justice Service (NJS) would give ALL citizens peace of mind that the most they would ever have to pay, should they ever need to access the justice system would be a relatively small amount, with concessions for those citizens who nevertheless simply cannot afford to pay anything at all.

The National Justice Service (NJS) could incude arbitration, reconciliation and mediation services as part of its service offering, in order to help facilitate a swift resolution wherever possible whilst still ensuring that those cases that should go to court always do so.

Current legal expenses insurance policies commonly have exclusions for many of the common areas for disputes where citizens may require access to solicitors, barristers and the courts e.g. building disputes, planning disputes etc. Insurance policies are therefore no substitute for a National Justice Service (NJS) available to all citizens and "free" at the point of need.

Our NHS is much admired around the world. The United Kingdom should now introduce an NJS as a world leading exemplar of "justice for all" .


C Chapman Apr 14, 2015

All citizens should have Equal Access To Justice - access to justice cannot only be available to the rich and/or powerful, whether that be individuals or organisations. This simple principle of Equal Access To Justice is a fundamental tenet of a civilised society that should therefore be enshrined within the constitution.

Concerns have been expressed regarding the potential costs of providing a National Justice System (NJS). The other side of this coin of course, is that we urgently need to consider the enormous costs to individual citizens and to society at large of NOT having Equal Access To Justice for all citizens.

Without ensuring Equal Access To Justice for all citizens we have amongst other things:-

  • An unequal and unjust society
  • A divided society furthering the feelings of us/them and haves/have nots possibly contributing to social unrest and many other widespread societal problems
  • Some individuals who cannot access justice take the law into their own hands
  • A significant proportion of the population will likely harbour feelings of anger, resentment, frustration and helplessness if they cannot obtain justice - possibly causing or exacerbating emotional and mental health problems and in the worse cases suicide. The Public Health implications are huge.
  • Rogue traders are able to get away with anything they like, knowing full well that most people simply cannot afford the legal costs to take any legal action against them.
  • The court systems are currently reported as becoming clogged up as more and more individuals who cannot afford to employ solicitors or barristers are representing themselves as best they can - but apparently as they are unfamiliar with the legal process it is slowing the whole system down.

The costs of not having a national system in place that enables Equal Access To Justice for all citizens are therefore huge. Other parts of the public purse are picking up the pieces arising from our current lack of Equal Access To Justice, whether that be the police dealing with incidents arising from people taking the law into their own hands, the courts that are clogged up with individuals trying to represent themselves, and the considerable impact on health and mental health services as people's health suffers.

The lack of any national system that ensures Equal Access To Justice for all citizens also harms the reputation and standing of the UK.

Ian Hodgson Apr 14, 2015

Part of the failing of the present system is that many courts sit for only a number of weeks About half the year. This is a reminder of the medieval past when the nobility and other returned to their estates. We live in a 24/7/365 society and the legal needs to embrace this. Likewise the selection of barristers , the setting of their fees should be subject to state regulation. The fees they charge are part of the reason the cost of justice is so expensive. Barristers should be employed or at least paid for by a state agency which would control the fees and also allocate cases much as clerks of chambers do now 

The constition should state 

There shall be a National Justice System to ensure justice is available to all .

The legal profession shall be regulated by a statutory agency including the setting of fees and the allocation of cases.

Olasunkanmi Ogunneye Apr 15, 2015

Would this clause be limited to criminal cases, or would it apply to civil cases too? Also, what would you think about a clause which holds that the National Justice System must make up a minimum set % of te national budget?

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C Chapman Apr 16, 2015

Thanks Suki. I firmly believe that this clause must apply to both criminal and civil cases to be meaningful and to fully address the societal problems raised in various threads, arising from a lack of access to justice. In criminal cases there is at least a chance that the police may pursue a case - whereas in civil cases if you cannot afford to access the justice system you are effectively excluded from it and of ever obtaining justice, often with dire consequences. The clause should therefore cover both criminal and civil cases. Thanks Christine


Tom Austin Apr 16, 2015

Perhaps a clause within the Constitution could set forth a principle of (means-tested) 'free' access to legal advice and representation - wait a cotton-picking minute, is this not 'Legal Aid'?

Access to justice campaign

There can be no effective rule of law when we lack a fully accessible and affordable judicial system. Find out our three core goals and what we're doing to achieve them.

- See more at:

[I would have posted a little more about this campaign, but something is awry with the system here.]

Access to justice campaign

There can be no effective rule of law when we lack a fully accessible and affordable judicial system. Find out our three core goals and what we're doing to achieve them.


Ian Hodgson Apr 16, 2015

Legal aid is subject to statutory law and its remit can be changed at the will of the legislature as can be seen by the last government restricting access in certain custody cases etc.

C Chapman Apr 16, 2015

Many thanks Tom for sharing the information on the "Access to justice" campaign. I was not aware of this campaign, so was delighted to read the details. Clearly both law professionals and public alike, have identified an urgent need for this issue to be addressed. Very pleased that it has been discussed and awareness raised through these discussions on "Constitution UK" and that it will hopefully make it through to the next stage.

I also share Ian's concerns that Legal Aid can be changed at the will of the legislature, so would support Ian in wanting to see this aspect addressed too.

Tom Austin Apr 17, 2015

1 - No law shall be enacted that to bind the Citizen without regard to access to challenge.

2 - To ensure that such access is available a general 'Legal Aid' system shall be Legislated for.

C Chapman Apr 17, 2015

Tom under 2 - would you envisage that this "Legal Aid" would be available for both Civil and Criminal cases?

Thanks in advance for clarifying this point.

Tom Austin Apr 17, 2015

Christine, yes. Something could be added to the effect that 'legislation' shall also make provision for simplicity of process. [There are current noises about doing quite a bit of Civil casework online.]

It must be beneficial generally to factor-in simplicity as well as 'workability' from the beginning.

C Chapman Apr 17, 2015

Hi Tom - I fully agree that doing more casework on-line makes good sense and and am pleased to hear that others are already promoting this idea.Simplicity will help enable greater access to justice - as other barriers apart from cost are the fear of getting it wrong, fear that its all too complicated, fear that it will take too much time that individuals cannot afford to spend on pursuing a case particularly if they work anything other than 9-5 etc etc. So simplicity, whilst of course maintaining standards and quality of service will enable more individuals to access justice.

That said, some protections will need to be put into place for those individuals for whom on-line will not be possible or best meet their needs e.g some disabilities, those who do not have access to computers whether through affordability or location, and those who live in rural areas where the broadband speed is so slow that uploading evidence and documents will be an impossibility.

What would workability mean in practice. Would be helpful to hear some further thoughts on that....

Tom Austin Apr 17, 2015

I'm fairly sure Christine, that in law a word is a word - and has a common meaning readily appreciated by the chap on the Clapham Omnibus...but you did ask...

"5.We want the review to result in the development of legislation relating to the delivery and conduct of elections, and how to participate in them, that:

•Is clearly drafted

•Is set out in a clear structure using as few legislative vehicles as possible

•Is consistent for all types of electoral events across the United Kingdom

(save where differences are genuinely justified)

•Contains an appropriate balance between certainty and flexibility in terms of what is prescribed in legislation (both primary and secondary) and what is contained in Codes of Practice

•Provides for a modern and workable structure for the administration of elections."




Tom Austin Apr 17, 2015

Christine, once the basic principles are understood, Legislation and practice will ensure that everybody gets a fair crack of the whip.

View all replies (2)

Tom Austin Apr 17, 2015

Also there is: Access to the legal process [Currently scored at: +24]


Ian Smith Apr 18, 2015

Deat All

You may be interested to see my complimentary idea 'Climbing to justice ...' which tackles acwas to justice in another way. 

Kind tegards


Tom Austin Apr 18, 2015