1: Legal Needs and Access to Justice

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In Chapter 1, Legal Needs and Access to Justice, we develop the argument for a holistic vision of access to justice. We expand Wrbka’s definition of ‘the concept of access to justice that embodies the ideal that everybody, regardless of his or her capabilities, should have the chance to enjoy the protection and enforcement of his or her rights by the use of law and the legal system’ and argue that we need a broader definition. To date, access to justice is refined to a narrow ‘legal justice’ focus, involving access to legal assistance in the form of legal advice and access to resolution in the form of legal institutions. A more generous vision for access to justice is needed to include initial advice and help from non-legal support, social and community actors (for example, friends, family, advice sector, local council, specialist organizations (NGOs), schools, the internet) to be part of the delivery of access to justice. As part of this vision, we discuss the legal needs literature and propose a more generous approach to access to justice, reaching beyond legal confines. After that, we distinguish access to offline justice from access to online justice. Then, we set out theoretical frameworks through which to understand (and measure) access to justice in our dataset; namely, legal consciousness and procedural justice.

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