A Vision for Public Legal Education & the Rule of Law
Updated: Nov 27, 2018
I had the great privilege of attending parliament to participate in the Joint Meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on The Rule of Law and Public Legal Education & Pro Bono. Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC MP led the session and shared the long term vision of PLE, essentially vocalising the significance of the PLE agenda.
In order to counteract the pervasive deficit in legal capability, the Law For Life organisation has shed light upon Political Legal Education; an effective strategy to
tackle the 2018 conclusion of a Select Committee that “the Government has allowed citizenship education in England to degrade to a parlous state.”
The meeting began with Alex Chalk MP introducing the topic followed by 5 expert speakers who vocalised their contribution to PLE and the paramount benefits it has already ensued and is yet to bring to our society.
The discussion was led by Robert Buckland who spoke of the importance of PLE towards educating and involving citizens in the political justice system. In January 2013, Robert won the Grassroots Diplomat Policy Driver Award for his campaigning work on Special Educational Needs both locally and nationally. Also being the elected Member of Parliament for South Swindon and the Solicitor General, Buckland has been an active member of engaging in communities and acknowledging the important role of educating citizens on their legal abilities.
"The British public profoundly lack ‘legal capability’; the knowledge, skills and confidence to resolve issues in their daily lives and is a crucial cornerstone of citizens’ welfare, teaching people about their legal rights and responsibilities, together with helping them gain the confidence and skills to get access to justice can really make a difference to people’s lives – as well as our legal system." - Robert Buckland
Speaker Michael Abiodun Olatokun, emphasised on the important role PLE would have towards ensuring more participation in politics. Michael has led national democratic participation drives that have registered thousands of first-time electors to vote, giving him insight towards understanding the effectiveness of PLE as a strategy to increase participation.
He claimed this would enable a social change to commence as it would diffuse the sense of disparity between the rule of law and ordinary citizens. PLE being instilled in peopled education and identity would transform the perception of the law away from being out of reach and a feature of society that can't be used. Participation would be encouraged as a result as PLE would spark a sense of British identity amongst citizens.
A society of citizens acquiring legal capability would indeed enable positive changes to occur on local, regional and national levels. This highlights the significance of legal capability towards encouraging active participation and democratic citizenship which would accordingly also give rise to individual and community justice.The vision is premised on the notion that legal capability should be spread throughout our society, and that the UK should be a country in which everyone, and every group, is able to identify and act on legal situations when they arise.
Focussing on establishing legal capability in communities will also benefit government spending in the long run as reports have indicated that annually there are over 1 million civil justice problems, costing the government £13 billion over the course of the past three and-a-half year period.
Tom Franklin, the Chief Executive of Young Citizens, the principal provider of PLE to school children in the UK, mentioned in his speech that many problems people encounter can be addressed by the rule of law, yet people are unaware of the applicability of the rule of law. Essentially, the legal exercise of rights is a human right everyone is entitled to and should be aware of how to exercise.
Speaker Victoria Speed, gave focus on the demand for PLE existing in university students, urging further the introduction of PLE in national curriculums. Working for the Pro Bono Centre at BBP Law school, Speed is in charge of the management of 8 Centres which facilitates the delivery of student pro bono through innovative partnerships and projects that improve access to justice. She gave praise to 450 students who had signed up to participate in Street Law projects as this showed great indication that there was a growing interest towards legal law.