JUSTICE was founded in 1957 by a group of leading jurists to promote the rule of law and the fair administration of justice. The following year we became the UK section of the International Commission of Jurists. With an eminent, all party membership, the legal landscape in this country has been shaped by JUSTICE ever since.
In the early years, under the leadership of the inimitable Tom Sargant, JUSTICE was renowned for casework on miscarriages of justice. We helped secure the release of many wrongfully convicted prisoners and highlighted systematic failures in the criminal justice system. Considering how the justice system might be more fair, accessible and efficient has always been at the heart of our work. Whether proposing the Ombudsman scheme in 1961 or intervening in support of legal advice in Scottish police stations 50 years later, there is barely an aspect of the justice system that has not benefited from JUSTICE’s scrutiny. Features of the legal infrastructure that we take for granted – the Ombudsman, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and more – were all proposed by JUSTICE. Our credibility and influence with decision-makers helped them come to pass.
The strength of our work has always been that it is grounded in an understanding of law in practice. JUSTICE has never been scared to challenge the legal establishment or to propose radical change to the system. The farsightedness of our work cannot be overstated. In 1957, we proposed the first public discussion in the UK of the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commission ; our first reports on privacy and surveillance, and on litigants in person – issues at the forefront of modern day concern – were published in 1970 and 1971 respectively.
We are concerned with law and we use legal processes to effect change. We were one of the first interveners in the European Court of Human Rights, and in 2009 intervened in the first case before the Supreme Court. We have been one of the organisations most frequently granted permission to intervene in that court, appearing in some of its most constitutionally significant cases.
Peter Hill, the creator of the BBC television show Rough Justice, produced this video about JUSTICE’s history. It is presented by Martin Young: