Gov.uk is the top level site
for all government services and official bodies (replacing Direct.gov) and there is a mass of information available:
"The best place to find government services and information". You can search by a general topic,
e.g. education and learning, driving and transport, crime, justice and the law,
money and tax, benefits, without needing to know what actual departments - national or local -
are involved. Detailed and advanced searches are also available.
Information on Legal Aid (previously called
Community Legal Advice) provides free information, help and advice direct to the public on a
range of common legal issues and also offers a national helpline (0845 345 4 345). Links are provided to approved
information providers, including but not limited to solicitors, under the appropriate topic.
adviceUK is the UK's largest support network for free,
independent advice centres. It was formed in 1979 as the Federation of Independent Advice Centres (FIAC).
They see the provision of free information and advice as a vital
contribution to helping individuals and communities in need to enforce their rights and improve their
quality of life.
adviceUK has a regional structure which mirrors the Government Office regions of the UK. You can search
on the site to find organisations by subject, e.g. housing or immigration, or by geographical area.
The Law Society has launched a series of guides for members of the public to explain
how to get help for problems that commonly arise. The guides are written "in plain English" and there
are explanatory videos at various points as well.
The following topics are covered:
Your guide to buying a home
Your guide to making a will
Your guide to setting up a business
Your guide to renting a home
Your guide to renting out your property
Your guide to getting a divorce
Your guide to making a personal injury claim
Your guide to probate
Your guide to claiming asylum
Your guide to problems at work
Your guide to financial matters for older people
Your guide to setting up home with your partner
Advicenow is a project of Advice Services Alliance,
the coordinating body for independent advice services in the UK.
There is an A to Z of resources and the site provides links to information on over 200 websites,
each with a description of what resources are available, categorised by the major topic concerned, e.g. Benefits,
Communications and Media, Consumer Affairs, Education and training, and so on.
A recent addition is a section called Self Help which includes Guides on handling legal problems,
e.g. Dealing with debt, Getting your deposit back, Getting tax credits and so on, and a
Tracker Tool which enables someone to store a record of all the calls, meetings, letters, and notes that
they have made about their problem.
The Advice Guide (previously Citizens Advice Bureau)
provides extensive and detailed information on Benefits, Civil Rights, Communications,
Consumer Affairs, Education, Employment, Family Matters, Health, Housing,
Immigration, Legal System, Tax, and Travel. The viewer can also search the site
for particular topics or keywords. You can find a local office by naming the town or area.
Citizens Advice Scotland is a separate site.
Useful advice site related to EU issues and a citizen's rights under EU law.
Your Europe Advice
(previously known as the Citizens' Signpost Service (CSS))
is an EU advice service for the public providing personalised advice to EU nationals on their rights under EU law.
The advice is provided by legal experts from the
European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) operating under contract with the European Commission.
They work closely with
SOLVIT, a problem-solving network that deals with problems between
individuals or companies and the authorities in another country, in cases where there is a possible misapplication of EU law.
If, after examining a person's request for advice, CSS thinks that you may need further help in solving a problem with the national administration in question,
they will transfer the case from CSS to SOLVIT and inform the person accordingly.
Law Centres provide a free and independent professional legal service to people who live or
work in their catchment areas. The site lists the
addresses of the constituent law centres. There is also a very
comprehensive list of links to organisations involved in law rights and citizens' issues,
including disability, immigration, benefits, equal opportunities, health and housing.
FindLaw UK, owned by Thomson Reuters, is bringing together various companies it owns to
provide an interesting new web site on legal matters for individuals. A key part of the sites is "Learn About the Law" which says
"Looking for legal information? In legal trouble? Learn About the Law is your starting place for help understanding the law."
There is also information "by life events" (Buying or selling property, Living online, Involved in an accident, Victim of crime, Drink driving and so on).
There are articles and FAQ's on all these topics and individuals still needing legal assistance are guided to
Contact Law, a referral company also owned by Thomson Reuters,
which works with more than 5,000 solicitors.
The Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales
has formal powers to resolve complaints about lawyers, free to the person with the complaint.
The service is open to all members of the public, very small businesses, charities, clubs and trusts.
It has been set up by the Office for Legal Complaints under the Legal Services Act 2007.
The aim is to simplify the system and make sure consumers have access to an independent expert to resolve complaints.
Head of the new service is Adam Sampson, previously chief executive of Shelter. He can require the lawyer to compensate
the complainant with an amount up to £30,000.
Your Rights is a site from
Human Rights and civil Liberties organisation Liberty on Human Rights topics.
The site provides information from Liberty's legal team on
the Protection of Property Rights,
the Right Not to be Discriminated Against,
the Right of Free Expression,
the Right of Peaceful Protest,
the Right to Know,
the Right to Privacy,
the Rights of Children and Young People,
the Rights of Defendents,
the Rights of Immigrants,
the Rights of Parents,
the Rights of People with Mental Disorder and
the Rights of Prisoners,
the Rights of Suspects,
the Rights of the Bereaved,
the Rights of Travellers,
the Rights of Victims and Witnesses and
the Rights of Workers.
The site also covers ways in which the English legal system approaches these topics (civil action,
judicial review, government, local government, courts, the media, police etc.)
and information on the Human Rights Act itself.
There is a comprehensive list of organizations and publications, a FAQ section and information on how
to ask further questions on an individual basis (Liberty apparently already respond to around 5,000
individual questions a year). There is also a discussion forum.
Ombudsmen (British and Irish Ombudsmen Organisation)
provides information on all the ombudsmen available to the individual who believes
that they have received an injustice from a public body. There are a lot of them, including
Health Services, Local Government, Legal Services, Parliamentary and Police Services
UK Law Online,
based at Leeds University, provides a general description of how the UK legal system works. Nik Nicol, a barrister, provides
an excellent introduction to the English Legal System (and it's available in Spanish too).
Theses two guides are not up to date but could be very useful for background reading
A Guide to the UK Legal System by Sarah Carter,
Law Librarian at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and
Guide to Irish Law
by Dr. Darius Whelan, lecturer in law at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin, are two
comprehensive and innovative papers published on the USA LLRX Librarian's site.
The papers describe the respective legal systems as if to a lawyer or student of law
from another country, making full use of legal sources and resources on the web.
Legal Services Agency is a Scottish
charity offering legal assistance to the disadvantaged. Housing and social welfare law are
especially covered and all initial advice is free. The Agency is funded by local
authorities and the Scottish Office.