Does the justice system need a little comms magic?

Lawyer friends have been telling me for years that our system of justice is in crisis, and this week I was invited to the launch of the inaugural Justice Week to tell an audience of legal professionals what could be done with a bit of comms magic.

Does the justice system need a little comms magic? asks Nik Govier
Does the justice system need a little comms magic? asks Nik Govier

But why all the talk of ‘crisis’? This year alone the Secret Barrister exposed appalling flaws in criminal justice, serious disclosure failings saw big convictions overturned, the release of serial rapist John Warboys was – thankfully – eventually challenged and, just this week, the Chancellor announced yet another cut to justice.

More fundamentally, the sector is still reeling from legislation passed in 2012 that slashed the budget by a third, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without access to legal aid.

Courts service promotes media access in pursuit of open justice

With a ‘crisis’ this evident, one might wonder why a half-decent campaign could not have secured more funding in this year’s otherwise fairly generous budget.

The answer, to be frank, is that lawyers have not communicated sufficiently beyond their own echo chamber to make politicians believe that many more than their number actually give a damn.

And that’s because many still don’t. They have no idea that it’s something they should care about.

The main challenge is that most of us struggle to find the ‘justice system’ relatable.

Unless you have had direct experience of it – and most of us have not – justice is merely a principle or a value. It is not a school or an ocean. It is intangible and abstract.

Nik Govier, CEO and founder of Blurred

Unless you have had direct experience of it – and most of us have not – justice is merely a principle or a value. It is not a school or an ocean. It is intangible and abstract.

What would I say to Justice if it was my client?

Starting with first principles: What is your purpose? Work that out and everything else falls into place.

To be fair, the legal sector seems to have a good handle on ‘what’ justice does, as well as the ‘how’ and the ‘why’, but does that match what the public sees?

For most people, justice is more about Charlie Guard (whose parents were denied legal aid) and the victims of Grenfell than it is the principles of Magna Carta.

I’d then look to ground a campaign in something relevant to our time and place, and my starting point would be the British sense of fair play.

In an age of Trump and Brexit, as a nation we should be proud of what has set us apart for centuries, of what is enshrined in lady justice’s blindfold which represents impartiality, and that justice should be applied without regard to wealth, power, or other status.

Is it really fair that money now equals justice?

We’d also need a consistent message, repeated day in day out. Not just by lawyers, but by the pressure groups, charities and organisations that are also feeling the effects of cuts that are too deep to be sustainable.

From medical negligence, to rapists walking free, to children caught in the middle of warring parents with no legal safeguard, there’s enough stuff here to capture the public’s imagination and expose the problem.

They just have to want to do it.

Nik Govier is the CEO and founder of Blurred

Thumbnail image ©GettyImages


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