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4 June, 2008

Citizenship Foundation calls for greater government commitment to public legal education

The Citizenship Foundation welcomes the statement by the Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman QC MP, Minister for Women, on the Equality Bill expected to be introduced into the next Parliamentary session, with the intention to sweep away more than 1000 pages of legislation replacing them with one Bill as part of a ‘major decluttering exercise.'

The Minister draws attention to both the value of the role of law in protecting people from unfairness and discrimination, and also to the need for legislation to be clear and understandable. The Citizenship Foundation calls for a coordinated effort to ensure that all of us in the UK are provided with an opportunity to understand the law by ensuring access to high quality programmes of public legal education as called for by the Public Legal Education and Support (PLEAS) Taskforce in 2007.

Tony Breslin, Chief Executive, Citizenship Foundation, says:

"The sharp test of the quality of our democracy is whether or not we make the law accessible to those people who are the most vulnerable to unfair treatment and discrimination. This means access to justice, but it also requires a coordinated effort to ensure that all of us understand the law. Without that understanding, we become progressively less able to support one another in our rights and responsibilities towards each other. For there to be trust in our elected representatives who make law, and in the justice system that upholds it, we need a far greater commitment to public legal education than government has so far been prepared to make."

"During the testing of our 2007 publication ‘Life and Law in Britain: A Guide for Young Asylum Seekers and Refugees' - which builds on our award winning and annually published Young Citizens Passport - the common response from those who are not young or asylum seekers or refugees is that this is information that we all need to know. Our work shows that providing clear information that demystifies the law, and creates opportunities for people to interact with the justice system and legal professionals in a positive way generates greater confidence and understanding of the law. We urge the government to consider how it can better build legal capability."


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