Ministry of Justice has no plans to scrap court fee increases
Last week, the House of Commons Justice Committee published its response to the employment tribunal fees introduced by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) earlier in the year. The report revealed that many MPs believe the new fees will have a 'significant adverse impact' on access to justice for people in meritorious claims. The MPs have called on the MoJ to 'substantially reduce' the fees involved in employment tribunal cases, and increase the threshold for fee remission.
In the report, the MPs have also expressed their wish that ministers publish a review of fees in employment tribunal cases immediately. The MPs also want the MoJ to scrap the divorce petition fee increase, and ensure that the £10,000 fee cap for money claims isn’t charged unless a full impact review is completed by the government beforehand. Ultimately, the MPs said in the report that the research the MoJ used to justify the fees increase was insufficient.
Ministry of Justice: most vulnerable will still be protected
The MoJ has responded to the issues raised in the report, saying that it will consider the findings, but insists that the most vulnerable in society will continue to be protected. The MoJ is expected to publish a full response to the report in September, but in the meantime said that the cost of the UK courts and tribunal system is unsustainably high, and that those who use the system should be expected to pay.
In response to the issue of fee remissions raised in the report, the MoJ said that it has put in place measures to ensure that the most vulnerable in society, and those who cannot afford to pay won’t have to. According to the MoJ, the courts and tribunal system in the UK cost £1.8bn in 2014/15 and only generated around £700m in income, which according to the government is unsustainable.
Legal bodies welcome the Justice Committee report
The Law Society has come out in support of the Justice Committee report, saying that the UK Government now needs to take on board the views of professionals and experts both within and outside the legal profession. The President of the Law Society Jonathan Smithers added his views, saying that access to justice is out of reach for many ordinary people in Britain as a result of court fee increases for things like divorce, immigration, employment and property. He finished by saying that further fee increases will only widen the gap for access to justice in the UK’s current two-tier justice system.
The chairman of the Bar Council also expressed her views, saying that the new fees were a ‘'shot in the dark' because of the government’s lack of research. Many small businesses, individuals and those worse off are being denied access to justice because they simply cannot afford the legal fees.
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