The justice system must make a fundamental shift to focus on data and evidence if it is to be more accessible, efficient and trusted by the public, according to a new initiative publicly launched this week.
Justice Lab, a policy and research centre created by The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF), is set to tackle the most pressing issues facing justice systems across the UK. It will undertake and commission research, as well as working with decision-makers in government, the judiciary and relevant justice agencies.
Current projects include working with frontline groups to identify better data systems to support victims in the criminal justice system and exploring public views about the use and release of court records and information.
The multi-million pound initiative has operated within TLEF since 2018 and its Director, Dr Natalie Byrom, was the architect of a data strategy drawn up for HM Courts & Tribunals Service in 2018.
Justice Lab’s public launch will be marked by an event at the House of Commons on the evening of Wednesday 22nd February hosted by the Chair of the Justice Select Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP,
Dr Byrom said:
Our justice system is years behind other public services like health and education in collecting and using data to understand performance and impact. We need a fundamental shift in attitude and culture to ensure that changes are underpinned by solid evidence and that decision-makers are accountable to those who need the law most.
Sir Bob said:
Justice Lab’s expertise and experience have been extremely valuable to the work of my committee. They perform a vital role in promoting data and evidence to help understand the problems that exist in the justice system and, just as importantly, how to fix them.
Professor Dame Hazel Genn, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, Faculty of Laws at UCL, chair of an expert advisory group established by TLEF that recommended the creation of Justice Lab, said:
For far too long, changes to our justice system have been made on the basis of anecdote. If it’s to be there for those that need it most, the vulnerable, disadvantaged and the excluded, we need better data and evidence to ensure that justice reforms make a positive and sustained difference for the better.
Matthew Smerdon, Chief Executive of The Legal Education Foundation, said:
The Legal Education Foundation supports people to use the law to improve their lives and the lives of others. Data and evidence are crucial to this work, to ensure that the voices and experiences of people who rely on the law are heard.
Justice Lab will focus on four areas of work:
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