The Hidden or Role of Frontline Court Staff: Ushers, Interpreters, NGO Workers and Others

Anton Shelupanov (MA Oxon)

Justice Studio, London


Research has demonstrated that courts, police and other law enforcement institutions secure better compliance by defendants when they apply procedural justice principles to practice. Consequently, with better compliance with court decisions, come better outcomes in terms of crime reduction and public safety, as well for the life chances of defendants. Courts are a unique setting, where traditionally, the onus to practice procedural justice has been placed on the sentencers. However, many aspects or procedural justice, from the defendant’s arrival at court, through to the completion of forms and understanding all of the proceedings rather than only judicial decisions, fall outside the remit of practice of sentencers. Instead, the author argues, ushers, court interpreters and NGO workers offering services in court have a crucial role to play in ensuring that a defendant’s entire journey through court is founded in procedural justice principles. In the case of court interpreters this is of particular importance as they often act as the main filter between the defendant and all other parts of the court system.

Partly arising from the author’s experience in facilitating the creation of the UK’s first large scale Community Advice desk at one of Europe’s busiest criminal courts, and partly based on conversations with frontline court based staff, this research seeks to shine a light on the hidden role of these staff in creating a system grounded in procedural justice principles, and the degree to which they are able to practice such principles in their day to day work. Also of interest is their ability to innovate, and the systemic constraints and enablers of their ability to do so.

Themes: Procedural justice, justice for court officers & administrators


Anton is a specialist in justice reform and social innovation. Since 1999 he has worked with over twenty jurisdictions around the world and has led major penal reform programmes in China, Russia and a number of other Central Asian and Eastern & Central European countries. His expertise spans court reform, public and prison health, social investment, police & security sector reform, prison management, human rights, service design and community development. He has developed international instruments for the UNODC and the World Health Organisation, launched the Centre for Justice Innovation together with colleagues from the New York Center for Court Innovation, and worked with international organisations like the Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute (Soros) and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. A graduate of Oxford University, Anton has written two books, numerous articles and lectured at King’s College London and the universities of Birmingham and Bradford.

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