Collective Access to Justice

A project in the Access to Justice research progamme

Read more about Research at the Bonavero Institute

Bonavero Report on the Justice Committee on Modernisation

Michael Molavi's fellowship is funded by the Legal Education Foundation.

In England and Wales today, calls for increasing access to civil justice are omnipresent. Justice stakeholders have observed at length that the capacity of citizens to access justice is paramount in a liberal democracy governed by the rule of law. Accordingly, the purview of the current access to civil justice agenda has been broad. Despite this broad purview, however, a consistent unifying theme that runs throughout this commitment has been its individuated focus. The latent assumption thus far has been that justiciable problems impact individuals and must therefore be addressed through individuated solutions.  

The starting premise of this research project is challenging this assumption by recognising the numerous mass harms affecting entire communities and groups of similarly situated citizens. In point of fact, the justiciable problems faced by citizens are increasingly collective in nature and increasingly necessitate forms of collective redress. Collectives are seeking redress for mass harms that are as diverse as they are widespread: from mass injuries arising out of faulty products and mass financial losses caused by anti-competitive behaviour to mass employment disputes in non-unionised workplaces and mass health impairment from toxic exposures. Such harms often involve claims that are impractical or economically irrational to pursue individually against well-resourced defendants. In such cases, aggregating individual claims into a collective procedure promotes an equality of arms between parties and facilitates access to civil justice. 

This project seeks to move the agenda forward by expanding the scope of current justice research and reforms beyond the prevailing individuated paradigm towards forms of collective access to civil justice. In so doing, this project seeks to determine the suitability of various types of collective redress procedures for dealing with mass justiciable problems.