Bookphoria with Victoria – On Access to Justice

By: Victoria Heisler,

This quarter we are focusing on our thematic area ‘Access to Justice’, and for this weeks Bookphoria with Victoria, our RWI Librarian provides you with some hooktips on this topic!

What is Access to Justice?

It is a legal term that refers to the ability of individuals to obtain fair and equal access to legal resources and services. It is often used to describe the right of individuals to seek legal assistance, advice, or representation in court, as well as the right to a fair trial or hearing. It is essential for upholding and protecting several fundamental human rights.

Unfortunately, many individuals and communities around the world face significant barriers to accessing justice. These barriers may include financial, educational, or linguistic barriers, as well as discrimination or biases within the legal system itself. Ensuring access to justice for all is an important goal of many legal systems and is seen as a fundamental right.

There are several contemporary issues regarding access to justice around the world, including:

  • Limited access to legal aid: Many individuals, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, may not be able to afford legal representation or other legal services, leading to limited access to justice.
  • Backlogs and delays in court systems: Backlogs and delays in court systems can lead to long waiting times for trials and hearings, denying individuals access to timely justice.
  • Discrimination and biases within the legal system: Discrimination or biases within the legal system can result in marginalized or vulnerable groups being denied access to justice.
  • Limited access to technology: With the increased use of technology in the legal system, individuals who do not have access to computers, the internet, or other technological tools may be at a disadvantage in accessing justice.
  • Lack of effective domestic remedies: courts must not only procedurally fulfil their obligations, but effectively investigate the enjoyment of the rights.
  • Limited access to information: the means of access and language of the legislation canbe too complicated, effectively excluding certain peoples from knowingly enjoyingtheir rights.
  • COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the existing challenges to access to justice, including court closures, delays in proceedings, and limited in-person legal services.

Overall, these issues highlight the ongoing challenges to ensuring access to justice for all individuals and communities, and the need for continued efforts to address these challenges.

Learn more about Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s thematic area.

Some selected reading available through the RWI Library:

Victims’ access to justice : historical and comparative perspectives / Edited by Pamela Cox and Sandra Walklate. (2023)

ISBN: 9780367750428. Ebook Permalink (for LU users) 

From the publisher:

Why have many victim-centred policy initiatives met with so little success? How have those initiatives unfolded differently in different global jurisdictions over different periods of time? This book aims to address these questions.

Building on a major research project exploring victims’ access to justice over time and place, Victims’ Access to Justice considers the potentialities for victims’ participation in criminal justice systems and in victim programmes both in historical and comparative context. It considers a range of topics: ways of identifying and accommodating victims’ needs and senses of justice; the impacts for criminal justice systems of seeking to accommodate these; and the ways in which adversarial criminal justice systems, in particular, may enable or inhibit victim participation.

This is essential reading for all those engaged in understanding and working with victims of crime.

Disabled Justice? Access to Justice and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities/ Eilionóir Flynn. (2015)

ISBN: 9781472418593. On the RWI shelf under 61:2 FLY 

From the publisher:

Disability offers a new lens through which to view the effectiveness of access to justice, and the inclusiveness of the justice system as a whole. This book analyses the experience of people with disabilities through the entire justice system, from making a complaint, to investigation, and through the court/tribunal process. It also considers the participation of people with disabilities in a variety of roles in the justice system – as witness, defendant, complainant, plaintiff, lawyer, judge and juror. More broadly, it also critically examines the subtle barriers of access to justice which might exist in a given society – including barriers to grassroots disability advocacy, legal education and training, the right to vote and the right to stand for election which may apply to people with disabilities. The book is international and comparative in scope with a focus primarily on examples of legal practice and justice systems in common law countries. The work will be of interest to scholars working in the areas of human rights, equality and non-discrimination, disability rights activists and legal professionals who work with people with disabilities to achieve access to justice.

Children’s Access to Justice: A Critical Assessment/  Edited by Mona Paré, Marielle Bruning, Thierry Moreau, Caroline Siffrein-Blanc. (2022)

ISBN: 9781839702488. Ebook Permalink (for LU users) 

From the publisher:

Children’s access to justice has emerged as an important topic in the children’s rights domain. While there has been increasing attention paid to child-friendly justice internationally, there has been relatively little research in this area. This book, with contributions from researchers and practitioners, explores the meaning, practice and challenges of children’s access to justice and contributes to a deeper understanding of what access to justice means to children, how they experience it and what it should look like in practice. It seeks to define access to justice in a global way, by addressing current challenges, asking new questions and providing answers to existing problems. One of the main areas of focus is children’s participation in legal proceedings, which critically explores how children are heard in family law, criminal law and child protection procedures. Special challenges faced by groups of children, such as indigenous children, are brought to light. The roles of different actors in justice, including judges and lawyers, but also institutions such as independent child commissioners and schools, and how they can improve children’s access to justice are explored. The book also highlights structural obstacles to children’s participation that can be explained by country-specific situations and the attitudes of adults towards children.

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