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York to co-lead £2.5m project to explore impact of justice system reform and funding cuts

Posted on 1 May 2024

A new £2.5m project will explore the effects of significant funding cuts and major procedural reforms on our justice system over the past 15 years.

The research project will cover a range of different areas of the justice system including administrative, civil, family, and criminal.

Researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the universities of York and Oxford will co-lead the project, funded by the Nuffield foundation.   

A well-functioning justice system is fundamental to social well-being, supporting an inclusive and secure society, and underpinning wider trust in the state. However, despite the scale of change, and the central importance of justice to everyday social and economic life, to-date there has been relatively limited research on the impact of cuts and reforms.

Life chances

This project aims to increase our understanding of the effects on people’s access to justice and pathways through the justice system, as well as the wider impact on life chances for those encountering it. 

It will also look at the relationship with other areas of social policy and how changes there can impact over time on some types of demand on the justice system. For example, the project will explore whether reductions in youth services impact crime and the criminal justice system. 

Impact on people

Co-lead researcher on the project, Professor Joe Tomlinson from York Law School at the University of York, said: "Justice is an area in great need of more data-driven research and analysis. We need to know much more about what is changing in the system and its impact on people. Through this programme, we hope to push that work forward, demonstrate why it is important, and help grow the research community as we go."

"In collaboration with our partners, the University will play an important role in this new programme, bringing legal expertise together with the expertise of other disciplines for the public good."

The research project will cover a range of different areas of the justice system (administrative, civil, family, and criminal), building the evidence base on what makes the justice system work and whether it effectively serves its purpose, and in doing so helping inform both evidence-based policy and public debate about justice.

Fair to all

Lead researcher, Professor Imran Rasul from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: ‘‘This research agenda brings quantitative economic analysis to bear on these issues, to provide greater understanding of what these changes have meant in terms of whether access to justice and pathways through the justice system remain open and fair to all.

"Using newly available data from across parts of the justice system, we will seek to understand how reforms within the justice system and changes in other areas of social policy have impacted experiences of the justice system, economic relationships and prosperity.”

Huge challenges

Rob Street, Director, Justice at the Nuffield Foundation added: “The justice system is facing huge challenges and understanding what effect this is having on people’s ability to access justice is of paramount importance. We are very pleased to be funding this important project and its excellent interdisciplinary team. They will play a vital and timely role in examining this critical societal issue and contribute high-quality evidence to inform debates about justice policy and priorities in the coming years.”

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