And more than half consider UK justice system inaccessible, new survey shows
Only a quarter of the population believe that the UK’s legal system is “fair and transparent”, according to a survey released by a leading law firm.
Two-thirds of those questioned feel that wealth is now a more important factor in gaining access to justice than it used to be, the opinion poll commissioned by the solicitors Hodge Jones & Allen found.
More than 2,000 people were interviewed by the research organisation Populus for the survey which recorded an overwhelming majority (79%) agreeing with the statement that “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure justice is provided for all”.
Only 37% said they trusted the professionals working within the legal system, while 54% felt the justice system was inaccessible. Only 28% of the Afro-Caribbean community and 17% of the Sikh community said they trusted lawyers.
The statistics are included in Unjust Kingdom: UK Perceptions of the Legal and Justice System, a report released by the firm on Wednesday.
Patrick Allen, senior partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “These statistics represent a damning indictment of the British justice system. If millions of people across the country are intimidated, alienated and confused by the prospect of seeking justice in 21st-century Britain then we should consider our legal system to have failed in its fundamental duty to provide justice for all.
“The voices of the public and the profession are in complete unison that cuts to legal aid and the introduction of court fees have only served to exacerbate an already difficult situation.
“It comes as no surprise that those in the lowest income bracket have the least trust in a system that appears unfair, confusing and inaccessible. In light of these findings, the recent budget delivered in the spending review needs to be reconsidered. Without legal aid, ordinary people are not getting the access they deserve.”
Under the latest spending review, the government has guaranteed £700m to modernise the courts and introduce more technology to improve their efficiency. There were no further cuts to legal aid which has been repeatedly cut by previous administrations.
Allen said: “The public have a clear appetite for modernisation, so we welcome the government’s promise to take the courts from a paper-based system to a digital one. However, technology is not a magic bullet; we cannot rely on it as the only solution,’’ he said, since that could potentially ostracise the most vulnerable members of society. Better education about the law must also come hand in hand with any move towards an on-line or digital system.”