Bar Council calls on MoJ to end “shot in the dark” approach to court fees

21 June 2016

Responding to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee report on court and tribunal fees, Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC, said: "The Justice Select Committee's report is further evidence that court fees are acting as a deterrent to those seeking justice. This is very clear from the sudden drop in employment tribunal cases following the fees being introduced. 

"In our evidence to the Justice Select Committee, we opposed enhanced court fees and challenged the concept of court fees being used as a tax to cross-subsidise other parts of the courts system. If some contribution is required by court users, as the committee says, the question is what is an acceptable amount having regard to the need to preserve access to justice.

"While we must acknowledge the budget pressures the Ministry of Justice is facing, it does not mean a 'shot in the dark' approach to imposing court and tribunal fees.  The committee found what we, and others (including the Judiciary), had been saying all along: the Ministry of Justice's evidence base for the charges was flimsy, and insufficient time was allowed to assess the impact of other, concurrent changes in the civil justice system. The reality is that employees, small businesses and others who may have a legitimate claim are being denied the chance to pursue it because of fees which they cannot afford.

"The Ministry of Justice now has an opportunity to learn from its mistakes and, as the Committee recommends and as we echo, hold off from its latest plans to restrict access to the Immigration & Asylum Tribunal by increasing fees by 500 per cent.

"Our justice system is world renowned and is supposed to provide justice for all. But the Government is pricing many people out of the justice system. Our courts and justice system are recognised overseas as the world's best. That reputation is being eroded by these increases. How can we maintain a world-leading justice system if few people can use it? It is therefore right that the committee have recommended that the Government should review the impact of the increase in fees for money claims on the international competitiveness of London as a litigation centre. This needs to happen before the Government decide whether or not to resurrect its proposal to double the £10,000 cap in such claims, or remove it altogether."  

                                                                     ENDS 

Notes to Editors 

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