Making Justice and Rights Work in Wales: the Case for ‘Ground up’ Constitutional Change

Liam Edwards, Sarah Nason

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Abstract

The current Welsh Government was elected on commitments to work for a new and successful United Kingdom based on far-reaching federalism; seek further devolution of justice powers; establish an independent standing commission on the constitutional future of Wales; and develop Welsh legal codes making it easier for people to understand their rights. It also expressed determination to create a fairer and more equal Wales through strengthening and advancing equality and human rights. In 2021 an Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales was established to develop options for fundamental reform of the constitutional structures of the United Kingdom, in which Wales remains an integral part. Against this background, our article focuses on matters constitutionally protected within democracies: the rule of law, access to justice, equality, and human rights. We examine some current structures and practices for protecting and strengthening each of these matters in Wales, and from a Welsh perspective within the UK, analysing potential impacts of further reform, and outlining limits on what might be achieved within existing constitutional architecture. Methods to make justice and rights work in Wales include, developing leadership, oversight, and accountability; funding for justice and advice, and raising awareness; progressing constitutional values through administrative justice; and promoting the rule of law and principle of legality. Whilst structural and institutional reform is important, we also explain the risks of such being more symbolic than real. We argue that constitutional reform emerges as much from people’s daily experiences of public administration and redress as it does from horizon scanning conversations about whether Wales currently has sufficient tools to make both strategic and street level administrative decisions in a different way. Matters of principle and structure addressed in this article are of broader interest to other parts of the UK, and to other nations with decentralised governance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Law
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Public Law following peer review. The definitive published version is available online on Westlaw UK.

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