Wrong about Rights: Public Knowledge of Key Areas of Consumer, Housing and Employment Law in England and Wales

Pascoe Pleasence, Nigel Balmer, Catrina Denvir

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Over many decades, processes of juridification have brought about huge growth in legal rights, responsibilities and protections. Yet, citizens appear to poorly understand the ‘law thick’ world in which they live. This impacts on the capability of citizens to ‘name, blame and claim’ in the legal domain; at a time of retreat from public funding of civil legal services. This paper looks at public knowledge of rights in key areas relating to consumer, housing and employment law. Drawing on data from the 2010-2012 English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Survey, the paper uses responses to a series of hypothetical scenarios to explore public knowledge of rights and characteristics associated with knowledge. Our findings highlight a substantial deficit in the public’s understanding of legal rights and responsibilities – even among those for whom particular rights and responsibilities have specific bearing. We contextualise our finding with reference to what they mean for public legal education and the efficiency, efficacy and legitimacy of the law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-859
JournalModern Law Review
Issue number5
Early online date6 Sep 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Sep 2017



  • legal rights
  • access to justice
  • public legal education
  • justiciable problems
  • civil justice

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