Civil justice

The justice system is the main mechanism for people to safeguard their rights in relation to decisions and actions taken by the state. Our civil justice research improves understanding of how the system is working and identifies how it might be improved to protect people’s rights.

Our aim is to improve understanding of the accessibility of the legal system for people, particularly those who are vulnerable and those without legal representation. Digital technology, for example, is increasingly used to deliver justice and dispute resolution and research is needed to understand the effect this is having on people’s ability to exercise their rights and solve their problems.

We have funded a significant body of work in relation to administrative justice – the decisions public authorities make on issues such as social security appeals, immigration and special educational needs, and the options available for people to appeal against those decisions. How accessible are these legal options? And how effective are they in holding the state to account?

Across our work in justice, we aim to explore incentives and structures for encouraging good early decision-making that could avoid disputes which may later require resolution in court, but which also enable people to take appropriate legal action where needed. Where cases proceed to formal justice mechanisms, we want to understand more about how research and, increasingly, data science, could be used alongside professional judgment and legal precedent in framing and making decisions.

Our team


  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice

  • Director, Justice

Our impact in civil justice


  • Research by Professor Phil Fennel has led to enhanced decision-making about the care and treatment of vulnerable people in the Court of Protection. The changes include introduction of rule and practice directions for consideration of how people should be allowed to participate in proceedings, and a transparency pilot study to give public and media access to the Court without prior permission. The Court of Protection has also improved access for researchers.

  • Female asylum seekers are receiving more tailored support in their asylum appeals as a result of Jane Kerr’s work to understand the specific experience of women in asylum applications and appeals processes. Her findings were incorporated into Asylum Aid’s training of volunteers from the Personal Support Unit who support asylum appellants without legal representation when they go to their tribunals.

  • Professor Maurice Sunkin’s study on Judicial Review challenged widely-held views about the ineffectiveness of judicial review as a remedy of redress and informed many of the responses to the government’s consultation in 2015 and subsequent reforms.

Civil justice projects

2 of 2

Reported

Justice | Welfare | 2009 – 2013

EU free movement and UK immigration law

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Reported

Justice | 2008 – 2014

Tribunal decision-making

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Latest in civil justice

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View other justice topics

We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

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