Upholding fair access to justice amidst proposed court fee hikes
By Law News
Concerns arise as Ministry of Justice plans 10 percent fee hikes, potentially barring access to justice
The Ministry of Justice's proposal to increase over 200 court fees has sparked apprehension among advocacy groups. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has raised significant alarms, cautioning that these fee escalations could pose formidable barriers for individuals seeking legal recourse, particularly those affected by injuries.
While the intended increment aims to bolster HM Courts and Tribunals Service financially, APIL President Jonathan Scarsbrook emphasizes that justice must not become a privilege reserved solely for those capable of affording it. The campaign group contends that the primary funding of the court system should ideally stem from central government resources, as it serves the entire societal spectrum.
Amidst fears that soaring fees might dissuade victims of negligence from pursuing legal actions, APIL stresses the potential exploitation by defendants offering meagre settlements, exploiting claimants' apprehensions about escalating costs.
APIL underscores the indispensable nature of the Help with Fees remission scheme, advocating for its continual alignment with increasing court fees. They urge the Ministry of Justice to regularly review this scheme every two years in tandem with fee revisions to ensure equitable access to justice for financially constrained claimants.
Jonathan Scarsbrook emphasizes the significance of affordable court costs, expressing concerns that steep fee hikes could burden solicitors, possibly leading to an inability to support clients financially through their cases. This financial strain could, in turn, compromise the essential provision of legal aid and access to justice.
Furthermore, APIL insists that if claimants are expected to shoulder heightened court fees, they must be guaranteed a minimum standard of service. This includes courts adhering to service level agreements, encompassing specific time frames for hearings to maintain fair and prompt legal proceedings.
The increase in fees will generate a potential £42 million for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).