UK: The New “Justice Lab” policy and research centre created by The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF), to undertake and commission research & work with decision-makers in government, the judiciary and justice agencies

The UK Law Society Gazette

The justice system must make a fundamental shift to focus on data and evidence if it is to be more accessible, efficient and trusted by the public, according to a new initiative publicly launched this week.

Justice Lab, a policy and research centre created by The Legal Education Foundation (TLEF), will undertake and commission research, as well as working with decision-makers in government, the judiciary and relevant justice agencies.

Projects include working with frontline groups to identify better data systems to support victims in the criminal justice system and exploring public views about the use and release of court records and information.

The multi-million pound initiative has operated within TLEF since 2018 and its director, Dr Natalie Byrom, was the architect of a data strategy drawn up for HM Courts & Tribunals Service in 2018. She has since expressed frustration at the pace of adoption and has called regularly for more data to be collected to underpin reform.

Justice Lab will focus on four areas of work:

  • Data: advising policy makers, judges and practitioners on data strategy and working directly with governments, funders, courts and community organisations to promote best practice for collecting, using and sharing justice data.
  • Research: undertaking, commissioning and promoting robust research into the most pressing issues facing the UK justice system.
  • Influence: working with parliamentarians, practitioners and policy makers to bring about system wide change across the organisations that design, deliver and interact with the justice system.
  • Community: building an international movement of practitioners, researchers, policy makers and advocates committed to using data and evidence to deliver a justice system that is fair, open and efficient.

Justice Lab’s public launch will be marked by an event at the House of Commons tomorrow hosted by the chair of the Justice Select Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP. Neill said: ‘Justice Lab’s expertise and experience have been extremely valuable to the work of my committee. They perform a vital role in promoting data and evidence to help understand the problems that exist in the justice system and, just as importantly, how to fix them.’

Byrom said: ‘Our justice system is years behind other public services like health and education in collecting and using data to understand performance and impact. We need a fundamental shift in attitude and culture to ensure that changes are underpinned by solid evidence and that decision-makers are accountable to those who need the law most.’