Supporting Online Justice: Enhancing Accessibility, Participation, and Procedural Fairness

Background
There is currently very little online support to prepare members of the public for appearing in a hearing from their own home or to guide them around these new virtual spaces. This has led to concerns about access to justice and due process, with particular concerns being raised about the ability of the disadvantaged and digitally disadvantaged to interact with the legal system in this way. Working in partnership with HM Courts and Tribunal Service this project draws on extensive consultation with the public, court and tribunal staff, interest groups, practitioners and policy makers to produce a produce a series of video guides for lay users for use in tribunals and family courts.

Woman looking at her computer while connected to an online hearing

Research Goals
During the design of the films, the research team have been guided by five key goals:

  • Enhancing technical competence; 
  • Improving understanding of court processes; 
  • Supporting court users in navigating the alternative geographies and sense of time in virtual space; 
  • Engendering a sense of journeys to and from civic space; and 
  • Promoting dignity and gravitas in virtual court proceedings

Outputs
The main output for this project has been the development of five films to help lay users of the justice system access and participate in online hearings. These accessible films have been developed using an extensive process of consultation and testing with a range of lay users. The films include a generic film designed to be useful across a range of courts and tribunals, along with jurisdiction specific films for: the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal; the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal; the Employment Tribunal (England & Wales/ Scotland) and the Family Court (Private). They are available with subtitles in six languages along with a British Sign Language version of each.

All films are now available, you will find the link to the full playlist of all films on the HMCTS YouTube Page. If you are interested in a specific film, you will find their links below: 

The project report is also available, as is a flyer to advertise all of the films and another to advertise the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal film.

The project recently received praise in an article in the Tribunals, read more about it here, and has also received Impact Acceleration Funding for a spin-off project Designing for Inclusion.

Title Screen for the Generic film about joining a hearing online

Research Team:
Linda Mulcahy, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies
Emma Rowden, School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University
Anna Tsalapatanis, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies
Lucy Klippan, Designer

Advisory Group Membership 
Chair:
 Sir Ernest Ryder
Former Senior President of Tribunals and Master of Pembroke College

Members of the Advisory Group:

  • Naomi Creutzfeldt - Reader at Westminster Law School and Administrative Justice Council member
  • Rosemary Hunter - Professor of Law and Socio-Legal Studies, University of Kent 
  • Liz Olney - Deputy Director User Change, Innovation and Investigations
  • Lindsey Poole - Director of the Advice Services Alliance
  • Rosemary Rand - Deputy Director for Future Hearings 
  • Meredith Rossner - Professor of Criminology and Sociology at the Australian National University
  • Richard Susskind - Professor and specialist in legal technology
  • Joe Tomlinson - Senior Lecturer in Public Law, University of York 
  • Kerry Woolford - HMCTS, Continuous Improvement Lead (COVID-19 recovery) 

 

This work has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council [Grant Number ES/V01580X/1] under the title Virtual Justice: Enhancing accessibility, participation and procedural justice in family courts and tribunals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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