Teachers enlisted for Justice Week
By Nicola Laver
Justice Week 2020 is underway and teachers have been asked to give pupils a lesson on law.
It comes following research revealing that half of young adults in Britain want more emphasis on learning about the law in school.
According to a survey of more than 4,000 people carried out by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), young people have widespread anxiety about their democracy and freedoms.
The research showed a majority of young people feels their freedom of speech and expression is being eroded.
As part of Justice Week activities, teachers are being enlisted to encourage children to take more interest in the law in schools by pledging to deliver a legal lesson to as many students in their schools as possible through its Big Legal Lesson session – an introduction to the law.
The survey results were publicised to mark the start of what is only the second ever Justice Week to take place.
Its aim is to ensure young people understand the importance of the justice system and value the rule of law – seeing them as fundamental to our lives and freedoms.
Law Society President Simon Davis highlighted the importance of educating everyone about how the law works and about their rights.
“Without that”, he said, “our very notion of British justice is likely to come under pressure.”
He said they “want to enlist the help of schools to further educate children”.
“Very often members of the public struggle even to identify a problem as a legal issue, so are not inclined to seek specialist advice,” Davis added.
“To help broaden everyone’s knowledge of the law, we are including a drive for teachers to bring teaching of the law more into schools for our special week.”
Bar Council Chair Amanda Pinto QC said: “As this survey shows, young people clearly have an appetite for greater knowledge about how the law can help everyone play their part in society.
“Justice Week 2020 is about encouraging that awareness.”.
The survey showed widespread anxiety about the state of democracy and freedoms in the UK.
It revealed 34 per cent of young people expressed concern at having less freedom, though a greater number (40 per cent) aged between 55 to 64 had those concerns.
Freedom of speech and expression were a particular concern. Less than a fifth of young people believed democracy was improving.
Unsurprisingly, protecting the environment was high on the agenda for all respondents and 82 per cent stressed the need for the law to protect the environment.
Concerningly, the Society found that around half of all those quizzed admitted that if they could not access a lawyer, they would feel uncomfortable getting to grips with the law and legal process in many domestic situations.
Scenarios ranged from contesting a tribunal for unfair dismissal and fighting a landlord over access to heating and water or being prosecuted for a crime where they could be fined or imprisoned.
The concept chosen for the week is superheroes which, said the Law Society, is based on the theme that the law is heroic.
CILEx chair Professor Chris Bones said: “At a time when many people are voicing concerns about how we hold the powerful to account for their actions in a democratic society, it is more important than ever that members of the public understand how the law works to ensure that everyone plays by the rules.
“Young people in particular want companies, public services and the state to fulfil their obligations, particularly in respect of the climate emergency.
“If they are to remain confident in democracy as the best way to govern a modern society, then it is important to ensure that they have a good grasp of their rights and how to exercise them.”
A full list of Justice Week Activities is available here.