EU participatory democracy, European Citizens Initiative
James's doctoral research analysed the legislative design and implementation of two recent direct democracy innovations: the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) and the referenda in the European Union Act 2011 (EUA). This critical assessment showed that institutional mediation and the EU’s duality have a significant impact on the potential to increase the influence of EU citizens on the EU political agenda, and to facilitate a challenge to established policy preferences. Similarly the critical analysis of the EUA referenda provisions indicate that the apparently strong opportunity to vote on the UK’s EU policy in a referendum is qualified in a number of respects by institutional control. The thesis concludes with a combined analysis of the ECI and EUA to assess the joint impact of direct democracy on dual EU democracy. The overall findings are that the impact of the ECI and EUA, despite posing some challenges and despite their democratic potential, is likely to be heavily restricted as a result of institutional control and the EU’s political framework.
James' research influenced the EU Balance of Competence Review carried out by the UK Cabinet Office and also the European Parliament review of the European Citizens Initiative. James continues to work with EU based NGOs in relation to the European Citizens Initiative, providing legal advice on potential developments for this democratic instrument. James was recently awarded funding from the University of Liverpool's knowledge exchange and impact fund to develop this partnership work in the area of EU democracy. As part of this project James partnered with the European Economic and Social Committee to organise and chair an event at the ECI Day on April 20th 2016, and with the ECI Campaign Group and the Democratic Society to host a major conference in Liverpool on May 5th 2016 entitled 'Participation in a Citizen’s Europe: What Next for the EU?'. This collaborative conference brought together democracy activists, campaigners, academics and policy makers to explore current challenges and future opportunities for EU public participation. Build on learning from citizens’ initiatives and petitions, deliberative forums, citizen lobbying, social movements and more, participants were asked to imagine together new ways and means to develop a more participative and democratic European Union. James is the editor of an edited collection being produced that is based on this event and the ideas discussed.
Access to Justice
Since completing his PhD James has developed his academic interests in the area of Access to Justice, in part a development of his professional career at Citizens Advice. In collaboration with Dr Jennifer Sigafoos, James published a chapter entitled 'What if there is nowhere to get Advice' in the edited collection 'Access to Justice and Legal Aid: Comparative Perspectives on Unmet Legal Need'. The chapter analyses the impact of Legal Aid reforms and cuts to other funding sources for 3rd sector agencies that provide free legal advice in the Liverpool City Region. James and Jennifer are currently leading a project researching the impact of legal aid cuts on the access and routes to justice, which will lead to further publications in this area.
Access to Justice
LIVERPOOL CITY COUNCIL (UK)
August 2019 - March 2022
The effect of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 on access to justice in England and Wales
EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (UK)
December 2017 - March 2018
Citizens Assemblies to Renew Engagement for the Future of Europe (CARE)
December 2017 - May 2019