Centre for Socio-Legal Studies team wins Vice Chancellor’s Innovation and Engagement Award

The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies is delighted to announce that a team led by Linda Mulcahy and Anna Tsalapatanis has won a Vice Chancellor’s Innovation and Engagement Awards for their Supporting Online Justice Project.

CSLS team holding award

The project was funded as part of an initiative by the UKRI to support the government in managing the impact of COVID-19 on public services. Working with Emma Rowden from Oxford Brookes University the project sought to support lay and vulnerable users of the justice system whose hearings were forced to go online because of social distancing measures. The project team worked closely with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), members of the Judiciary and the advice sector as their project partners. They engaged in an intense cycle of consultation and research which led to the production of five public information films which are now available on the HM Courts and Tribunals Service YouTube channel.  The films are designed to help people prepare for online hearings and to anticipate what will happen.

Judge McConnell from the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, one of the judges who took part in the project, said:

The Oxford team chose our tribunal as the subject of their prototype film and we have worked closely with them over a period of 18 months. The team had undertaken extensive research into the SEND tribunal when they first approached us but listened closely as we informed them of the culture of the tribunal and regional variations in style. This attention to detail shows in the films produced. We were absolutely delighted by the films which we are busy promoting. The advice given to litigants and the way in which it is given have raised the bar for films of this kind.

Since the launch of the films in March 2022 the research team have been asked to produce a Scottish version of one of the films. The portfolio of images, scripts and research findings have also been handed over to HMCTS to allow them to make additional films at minimal cost using the team’s templates. Linda Mulcahy and Anna Tsalapatanis have also secured further funding to work with HMCTS, the Advice Services Alliance and the Law Centres Network in producing a suite of resources for vulnerable users of the advice sector.

Reflecting on the success of the film Sir Ernest Ryder, Former Senior President of Tribunals and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford has said

Supporting Online Justice is an exemplar of how effective a partnership between the University sector, HMCTS and the Judiciary can be.

The films, final report and technical report from the project can be accessed at the Supporting Online Justice website.

The awards ceremony took place on 6 September.