The Centre for Access to Justice and Inclusion brings together researchers from a range of backgrounds and experience.
These profiles were developed by two ARU students, Ginger Thomason and Sabrina Maonde, further to interviews conducted with staff members in June 2020.
Ana Keglević Steffek is a Director of CAJI at ARU and is a Senior Lecturer in Law. Her research interests focus on commercial and contract law (in a domestic, international and transnational context), dispute resolution, consumer protection, arbitration, legal technology and access to justice.
On the basis of her research, she is interested in developing regulatory solutions at a domestic level, the European sphere and beyond. The most recent example of such expert advisory work is the European Law Institute project on Model Rules on Online Intermediary Platforms (2017 – 2019) and the project on Principles for a Data Economy (2018 – 2021).
Further examples of such activities are the Expert Study for the European Commission for the Application of Consumer Protection Law (2014), consultancy work for the World Bank on Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in the Area of Financial Services (2012) and advisory work for the Croatian Ministry of Justice (2007).
Access to justice is one of the fundamental principles of the rule of law. A recent OECD study estimates that "four billion people around the world live outside the protection of the law mostly because they are poor or marginalised within their societies."
There are many factors that can impede access to justice and Ana believes that assuring such access requires wider societal intervention and support.
Barriers encompass not only complexity and costs of legal procedures, time or geographical constrains (inability to reach services or dispute resolution institutions), but also include wider social, economic, structural and institutional factors such as traditions, trust in the legal system or digital divide.
Over the last ten years, Ana has participated in a number of projects dealing with these issues. In particular she has focused on access to justice for consumers in the area of financial services. Concretely, Ana is interested in analysing the potentially unfair relationship between insurers and consumers (customers) in the insurance market in order to find better regulatory solutions for consumer protection.
One relevant question is how the current regulation of information duties during the negotiation phase impacts the position of the consumer as regards access to justice. Many people are powerless either to perceive their problems as legal ones, or to determine the potential legal remedies for those problems.
This issue is analysed in her publications, in particular the monograph she published in 2016 (Insurance Contract Law from a Comparative, Domestic and European Perspective). Ana believes that before signing an insurance contract, consumers should have a clear understanding of how the insurance policy works and of the legal information provided to them, in particular as regards dispute resolution. Inability to understand such information hinders protection by the law.
Ana also believes that "Access to justice is about legal inclusion and empowerment, the ability of people to understand and use information/law for themselves. If the customers (insured) do not understand the law or information provided in the contract this enables them protect their basic needs and interests and participate in the society inclusively."
In recent times the insurance industry and its dealings with customers have became more automated through the use of legal technology (more advanced examples are artificial intelligence (AI) and smart contracts). Thus, in the next research phase Ana is exploring whether the use of legal technology (e.g. automated handling of insurance claims, automated contract formation) is a blessing or a hindrance, or both at the same time.
In particular, she is interested in the impact of artificial intelligence on access to justice (e.g. the legal services market and dispute resolution).
Of particular relevance are socially vulnerable groups including those who have no access or understanding of technology. Ana believes that, at the moment, the law in these areas is not accessible enough to people and that it is often too complex. As it stands, the regulation of financial services is in place, but how people understand the law and how the law is communicated to them is another matter.
Ana’s research is about policymaking in order to allow weaker parties (consumers) better access to justice in the financial sector. It is about proposing better law, creating good practices and multiple justice pathways which would ensure people-focused access to justice.
Why does access to justice matter? Ana concludes that "Effective access to justice leads to overall well-being. It increases citizens’ confidence in the state, security and the rule of law. In turn, such a climate has a positive effect on the economy and inclusive growth."
Andrew Noble is a Senior Lecturer in Employment Law, Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour. His main area of expertise is employment law, more specifically the gig economy and the disclosure of criminal records of minor convictions to employers.
Andrew’s research investigates human rights issues arising from the disclosure of information on historic offences, pursuant to the Disclosure and Barring Service (the disclosure regime).
This disclosure regime permits, in some circumstances, non-conviction related information known to the police about an applicant to be revealed to an employer or prospective employer. Consequently, the regime has implications for inclusion, as non-conviction related information may be used by such employers to make hiring and firing decisions.
In some cases, disclosure may be made irrespective of the age of the offender, the length of time that has passed since offence, the relevance of that information to the position for which the applicant applies, or the fact that an allegation was never tested or proved before a court.
Accordingly, Andrew finds that individuals who attempt to rehabilitate themselves and/or potentially innocent individuals may be denied access to work for which they are qualified in an unfair and prejudicial way, even in cases of “police visits and trivial complaints.”
His research is aimed at promoting changes in the disclosure regime that will make it “more proportionate to the relevance and risk presented by the job applicant, rather than a mechanistic rule of unfettered discretion.” Through this, Andrew holds that the “disclosure regime will still achieve its stated aim of protection of the public, whilst permitting rehabilitation and fair, inclusive access to work for all.”
One of the main barriers in this area of research is the lack of knowledge of the ability to challenge decisions on disclosure. Andrew says, “typically, many people think ‘that's it!’,” that there is nothing else that can be done. However, when such decisions are challenged, often the decision is overturned, and a finding is found in favour of the applicant.
In the case of judicial reviews, financial barriers also bar access to justice for those affected and excluded through prejudicial disclosure of their criminal records.
Andrew’s research looks into legislative reform and guidelines for the Disclosure and Barring Service procedures. These include but are not limited to introducing risk-based disclosures, thus eliminating the presumption of disclosure except where it is necessary and justified. All in all, “the goal is to make the system fairer.”
Egle Dagilyte is Lead for Community and Events at CAJI and a Senior Lecturer in Law at ARU with expertise in human rights, European Union (EU) constitutional and internal market law, in particular the relationship between the EU and Member States, EU citizenship, free movement of persons and migration, including Brexit.
In addition, she has worked on externally-funded projects in relation to EU Roma citizens' access to welfare benefits in the UK, acted as a National Expert on the European Commission's project on EU citizenship via investment, and consulted for non-governmental organisations.
Egle‘s work includes the Migrant Workers’ Mapping Project, commissioned by the Rosmini Centre - a charity that supports migrant workers in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. In collaboration with Dr David Smith, and project lead, Prof Margaret Greenfields (then at Bucks New University), she carried out data gathering and analysis on migrant workers and Brexit implications in rural communities in Fenland, Cambridgeshire.
The work involved investigating the integration and accessibility of public and social services to the EU citizens from Central and Eastern Europe through interviewing migrant workers, local employers, organisations and various public sector stakeholders (community groups, schools, healthcare providers etc).
Through this, data was systematically collected, identifying key barriers to the integration and community cohesion of the migrant workers such as language, immigration status, or awareness of the political systems and rights and guarantees under the law.
To create a more inclusive society, the project report, which was launched in London in November 2019, made policy recommendations regarding planning for public services provision after Brexit and better involvement of migrant workers into local communities in Fenland.
These recommendations include, for example, tailored individual support for migrant workers, which fits with their working patterns and is available at accessible locations or via apps and innovative English language platforms.
Egle notes that, “indeed, we say people should learn English, but the reality is that most of these people (can) work very long hours” and often more than the typical five days a week. Therefore, this recommendation would actively seek to resolve language, education and employment barriers by making resources more accessible.
Often, the available data is silent on complex issues related to migration. Egle‘s research aimed to map out efficient data finding, sharing and effective collaboration practices among the various agencies, employers, local authorities and community organisations. Consequently, the project contributed to the wider multi-agency two-year project led by the Fenland District Council and sponsored by the Controlling Migration Fund that aimed to understand the impact of migration in Fenland better.
Elina Konstantinidou is a Lecturer in Law at ARU, teaching corporate law, criminal law, and business law. She specializes in criminal law and her research is focused on white-collar criminal law.
Elina’s interests in economic crime and corruption extend to various aspects of access to justice. Her focus is on extractive industries, particularly in oil and gas. In analysing the corruption that is prevalent in these areas, Elina’s work focuses on issues such as embezzlement and bribery of government officials and other policy makers.
“Transparency is the key to preventing this from happening,”, she says. “The idea is that if the whole process of corporate law is transparent, then society will be able to have a voice and access to justice in cases where officials commit such crimes.”
Unfortunately, it is often difficult to ensure laws are passed that enable transparency in the business sector. Even if scholars and activists try to study these effects and ask for information from businesses all too often when a request is made for disclosure of contracts or revenues it is stalled or ignored and if businesses do release these figures it is very vague or not at all accessible.
Ensuring transparency in business through either corporate action or academic study is also linked to the rule of law and allows for accountability that enables access to justice and inclusion.
“People should be educated as to how to read business and government reports,”, Elina says. It enables transparency in regards to business practices as well as the response of government officials and policy makers when faced with bribery charges.
Elina argues that there is a direct link between disclosure and corporate accountability. To ensure access to justice, the mentality of “there’s nothing that can be done” needs to be revisited. This approach may be rendered less daunting by taking steps that seek to “reduce,” rather than entirely “eradicate,” corruption.
Helga Hejny is a Senior Lecturer with research interests in comparative law, public law, environmental law, European law, human rights, and public international law.
Her research focuses specifically on age discrimination in EU law, financial services, and comparative studies. She is researching on age discrimination in Blockchain and Smart Contracts.
Her future plans include collaborating with policymakers and stakeholders to promote proposals on combating age discrimination and how it affects access to justice and inclusion.
“Financial services such as insurance and mortgages consider age as a factor of risk. This can have a negative impacts on the economy with consequent progressive social exclusion of older people,” says Helga.
Since 2011, Helga has participated, organised and led a number of research projects on age discrimination, beginning with employment settings to, more recently, the discriminatory aspect of age as a ‘risk factor’ in insurance contracting.
Helga's current research builds on previous work in the area, while developing a more critical understanding of current policies concerning age discrimination. It focuses on possible future implications to an ageing population in developed countries, specifically in Europe and the United States.
Although equality is considered to be a fundamental principle in both jurisdictions, her study discusses how both direct and indirect age discrimination can be generally justified for the benefit of public economic interests.
Previous findings show that this conflict between equality and economic interest particularly comes to the fore in the sector of financial services where legislation does not yet exist.
Therefore, the study engages critically with the fact that while non-regulation (together with globalisation and technological progress) encourages competitiveness among providers it does so to the disadvantage of an equitable treatment of consumers who are grouped in age bands and having their age interpreted as a mere risk factor.
At the moment the only way to assess if using age as a risk factor might be legitimate is the ‘proportionality test’ which can only be applied by courts. Ideally, the proportionality test serves the function of balancing between conflicting interests of the insurer and the customer.
Therefore, Helga’s research digs into the legal principle of proportionality to offer policy makers the possibility of developing a regulatory framework which promises to reduce the number of court cases significantly by providing clear coordinates of conduct for financial providers.
To achieve this, her study particularly assesses the introduction of the new blockchain database technology (in particular Smart Contracts), which might jeopardize even more the position of elderly people, as it is foreseeable that automatic transactions will strongly rely on chronological age as a factor of risk.
Helga’s research also provides stakeholders with a re-evaluation of established practices in terms of real cost and profitability, given that blockchain technologies could potentially deliver also positive outcomes in terms of efficiency by reducing costs for the benefit of all consumers.
As noted above, in order to develop a nuanced theory on the age discrimination’s long-term effects on the economy, her study compares the current age discrimination policies and the legislative proposals on blockchain both in Europe and in the United States, as the two powerhouses of online-based insurance contracting.
Imranali Panjwani is a lecturer in law at ARU who teaches commercial law, company law, European Union law, family law and civil litigation. His research is focused on jurisprudence, human rights, immigration law, and the relationship between Islamic and Western law.
Most recently his work focused on access to justice for asylum seekers in the UK and the difficulties marginalised groups face when trying to flee their home nations. He continues to engage with law firms on the persecution asylum seekers face by writing country expert reports through his consultancy, Diverse Legal Consulting.
Imranali is looking at legal technology for asylum seekers and data collection. In collecting data on these individuals, researchers can track when and why asylum seekers are granted or not granted asylum and what happens to them when their claims have been rejected.
Specifically, Imranali wants to investigate the fairness of how Muslim asylum seekers are granted or refused asylum in the UK. At times, the Home Office often uses out of date evidence to determine the risks of rejecting applications. This is particularly noticeable when looking at disparities between different sects within religious or ethnic groups.
Technology is rapidly impacting the development of law, “We need to be able to track the fast changes between political and religious upheavals around the world in order to provide adequate access to justice,” Imranali says.
Such questions to consider in data collection can include: what is the definition of terms within these conflicts such as someone being designated an apostate? What if the asylum seeker has been accused of something like witchcraft, which is not recognised in the UK but is perceived as a very real issue in parts of the world?
Identifying data algorithms for asylum and immigration courts to assist with the access to justice for these individuals enables inclusion and fairer application of the law.
Imranali believes his research will improve the work of the Home Office and will lead to fairer asylum decisions being made. It is imperative for access to justice and inclusion, “to recognise the rights and voices of all peoples and minority issues,” he notes.
Katerina Sidiropolou is a Senior Lecturer at ARU with subjects covering employment law, contract law, alternative/online dispute resolution, common law and European Union Law. She is also the course leader for BSc Management and is a Fellow with the Global Labor Organization (GLO).
Her research and its intersections with issues of inclusion are focused on workplace discrimination, harassment/bullying, and gender identity minorities.
It is well known that members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to experience workplace discrimination and harassment, and in particular, trans people and other gender variant individuals.
Katerina’s research is focused on how employers and their human resource departments can strive to obtain positive workplace acceptance and support during transitioning for these individuals and then implement policies to foster positive experiences.
In 2015, the Government Equalities Office of the United Kingdom issued a guide for employers to raise awareness and set out good practice in relation to equality in recruitment and retention of trans staff and creating an inclusive workplace with a particular emphasis on fostering diversity in the workplace.
Studies have shown that the self-esteem of transgender employees, and their overall mental health, are impacted positively when companies implemented such guidelines.
Katerina says that “the aim (of the guidelines) is to increase inclusivity and other positive organisational outcomes,” but also to “reduce bias.”
Unfortunately, there has been both reluctance and pushback against these goals to generate positive workspaces for transgender individuals. There is still a lack of wider social acceptability, which means that there is a need to review and update national laws by offering greater legal protection.
The UK is not alone in this as some EU countries are lagging behind on promoting greater inclusion and changes in workplace environments.
Issues regarding gender identity protection in the workplace are both hidden and misrepresented in the media. This leads to the problem where people then hesitate to identify as LGBTQ+, particularly in the workplace, and especially trans people, in speaking out about their workplace experiences.
Katerina also says, “knowledge leads to inclusion through empathy and understanding but this is only a first step. Guidelines may also help promote inclusive polices.” She also stated that, “when we protect one minority we can protect all minorities and all people. This is important to improve work lives for all.
Rohan Kariyawasam is Lead for Grants and Funding for CAJI and is co-convenor for research at ARU Law School, Faculty of Business and Law in addition to teaching commercial law and digital law and trade.
His research interests emerged out of his previous professions working as a communications engineer in industry and later as a solicitor in private practice for large tech companies and observing the concept of “market power” in global corporations, such as Microsoft and Google.
Through their innovations and purchases of smaller companies, the tech giants have accumulated a measure of control over access to the Internet and as access to the World Wide Web is currently on its way to becoming a right in and of itself, this is concerning in regards to access to justice and inclusion.
Market power has become an issue throughout many forms of Internet access and topics. How do these companies bypass regulations on how to access market power and how we as people can access the Internet in the wake of such control?
Trying to understand how these companies can do this, even fostering rules and regulations that put them above “the letter of the law.”
“Unfortunately, law is the poor bedfellow to technology as it is always behind technological advancement,” says Professor Kariyawasam. Governments will scramble to pass laws or regulations when tech giants are already on to the next emerging issues that raise concerns over access to the Internet and technologies.
One of the more prominent issues over market power and control over the Internet is most commonly seen in the media regarding the privacy of consumers and Internet users.
“It came as no surprise to me about Snowden’s revelation about wire tapes and extraterritorial evidence gathering,” said Professor Kariyawasam. This has also been a topic of media discussion in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s approach to data collection of its users, there is an exploitation that negates free access to the Internet and impedes access to justice and inclusion.
Further, net neutrality, the idea that there should be no discrimination to network path and speed, is vital to putting a check on market power as there should be no discrimination in the levels of access to the public internet.
There are also levels of discrimination in regard to Internet access from the impoverished and segregated to issues with physical disability and neurodiversity in technological access and relevant rights.
How do we prevent discrimination from happening and remove what it already ingrained into the system to eliminate the stops that keep diversity from access to digital inclusion? There are huge implications to justice in how algorithms and unconscious bias could play out in the virtual courtrooms of the future, if not now.
“We need our creative industries to push back and have their independence to push back against these critical forces,” says Rohan. “The Centre for Access to Justice and Inclusion is important for ARU because it’s the first time our law school has set up a body like this. It’s important to stand with those who are or could be excluded from justice.”
Ryan Hill is the Deputy Head of ARU Law School and specialises in International Human Rights Law and the nexus between Philosophy and Law. His current ongoing research focuses on the rights of people with dementia.
Taking a nuanced approach is how Ryan approaches the questions of capacity, autonomy and access to justice and inclusion for this group. In his view, “generally, the word “justice” connotes a just outcome” and while this may seem relatively straightforward to determine in most cases, the question becomes considerably more complex in such instances where dementia is a factor.
For example, “What is a just outcome in the case of criminal charges made against a person who has dementia but had capacity at the time the crime was committed?”
If deemed unfit to stand trial, justice may not appear to have been served for the victim because the past crimes and current outcome are incongruous. Nevertheless, the outcome may still be perceived as just for the offender who now lacks capacity and cannot defend themselves adequately against allegations made.
Ryan considers that this dilemma extends also to people in care homes with dementia. Such individuals would have diminished capacity and may also be legally deemed as lacking capacity. Yet considerations of inclusion would seem to require that recognition and protection of personhood be maintained for such people.
This includes that they are not subject to infantilisation by society or by their care givers or to diminution of their rights beyond where this is unavoidable, such as relating to necessary and proportionate constraints on liberty to ensure health, safety and safeguarding.
It also includes that a person’s historical identity is respected even if they are unable to assert it or even fully now recognise it themselves. For example, it would go against considerations of inclusivity to feed residents in a care-home from particular religious denominations (such as Jews and/or Muslims) pork meat or products, even if they were unaware that this is what they were eating and could no longer personally express or even recognise that their life-long beliefs prohibited its consumption. Ryan states that, “people should be making their own choices.”
Through his research, Ryan examines the need to balance often competing and conflicting demands of the individual, their families, care providers and society more generally. This area of law is still evolving and many questions arise as to where to strike the balance when advocating for the autonomy and rights of an ageing population particularly where significant diminishing capacity is involved.
Ryan’s research seeks to provide greater clarity around questions of choice and autonomy of an ageing population, and how law and policy needs to respond to this, to ensure a more just and inclusive society for those who currently have dementia and for the third of all of us (according to statistics) who will go on to develop it at some point in the future.
Established in 2018, the Law Clinic offers pro bono legal advice to clients in the form of free 30-minute face-to-face appointments with volunteer lawyers and student advisors on Family, Immigration and Employment Law matters. It runs all year round in Cambridge, Chelmsford and Peterborough.
The Law Clinic also offers information, guidance and support to those people representing themselves in the family court through its Support@Court drop-in sessions which operate from 9.30am to 1pm every Wednesday in the Cambridge County Court.
Here, the student advisors are trained to provide practical and moral support to clients by assisting with note-taking, organising, paperwork and helping to demystify the daunting court process.
Another resource that has been made available through the Law Clinic is the Cambridge Family Court Help and Information website. The resource was created with the principal aim of preparing and guiding unrepresented litigants in person for family law proceedings and, more generally, for those who seek comprehensive, immediate online advice on family law.
In regard to the first aim, it includes general court information relating to what is likely to happen before, during and after the hearing.
Secondly, the website provides general advice on child arrangements, divorce, civil dissolution, domestic abuse and alternatives to court. For those people struggling to complete court documents such as C100 forms for child arrangements, the Law Clinic provides personal one-to-one appointments to guide and support in this process.
One of the key aims of the Law Clinic is making justice and the court system as accessible and understandable as possible and giving the community free access to services that they would usually have to pay for.
The cuts to Legal Aid that were imposed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in 2012 have clearly had a huge impact on the ability of individuals to obtain legal advice and to negotiate the bureaucracy and legal jargon encountered in the court system. Nevertheless, the work of the Law Clinic goes some way to provide assistance in cases of divorce, separation, child arrangements, immigration and employment law.
Sarah observes that, “The need for legal advice does not cease due to a pandemic, and it is important to us that we can continue to serve our communities at what is a difficult time for everyone.”
With this in mind, the Law Clinic has been creative and adaptable during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, moving online to offer family, employment and immigration law advice by email or online via video conferencing.
These digital services are expected to continue, alongside a physical Law Clinic, to promote access to justice of vulnerable individuals. Individuals who are facing issues related to family, immigration or employment law are encouraged to contact the ARU Law Clinic where they will receive an independent and professional service in the strictest confidence.
Tom Serby is a Lecturer in Employment, Civil Litigation and Sports Law. His main area of research is sports law, specifically, the quality and fairness of sports governance. Accordingly, his recent research critically discussed the fairness of the disciplinary processes imposed on athletes by sports governing bodies involving “compelled arbitration.”
In his research, Tom investigates how the autonomy of the regulation of sports federations national legal systems has been criticised. In particular, one of the major concerns is the artificial notion of an athlete’s willing consent to submit to disciplinary hearings and arbitration.
In looking at cases such as German speed skater Claudia Pechstein’s blood doping accusations, he argues, “one might ask if there was proper access to justice or even willing consent.” In response, the German civil courts have criticised the reality of consent and impartiality of the Court of Arbitration of Sport as fictional. Nevertheless, sports governing bodies continue to apply legal norms independent from state regulation.
There are several shortcomings with the Court of Arbitration of Sport ranging from the structure and composition to financing from the very institutions that often appear as parties to disputes. As such, Tom contends that arguments for the separation of sports from politics fail to contemplate “the realities of sport which has engendered on- field corruption” and the failure of sports governing bodies to curb these practices.
The Court of Arbitration for sports seeks to provide affordable, accessible and universally applicable methods of resolving disputes, but there are shortcomings, which are ultimately undermining its purpose. Tom’s examines these shortcomings to promote better access to justice and fairer due process for athletes who inherently have weaker bargaining power.