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Advocates object to MoJ court fee remission plans
A proposed 18% restriction in eligibility for fee remissions in UK-run tribunals and the UK Supreme Court would significantly impair access to justice for the needy, the Faculty of Advocates has warned.
In its response to a Ministry of Justice consultation paper on fee remissions for courts and tribunals, the Faculty says that with remissions currently being given on the basis of need, a proposed saving of £5m from the £27.8m or so granted in 2011-12 would amount to a "huge reduction" affecting "large numbers of people who, according to the current system of assessment, would be judged unable to pay court fees, in whole or in part".
In particular, to assess means on the basis of gross income rather than disposable income "ignores the reality that some applicants may have outgoings which they cannot reduce", and seems contradictory when it is only disposable capital that would be considered, the Faculty comments.
It adds: "It therefore seems likely that the people most significantly prejudiced by the proposals will be those on lower incomes and with little or no capital. These are people who at the moment would qualify for full or partial remission based upon the existing net income calculations."
The advocates predict that the unfairness of the proposed reduction will have two effects: people will refrain from seeking justice because they no longer qualify for a remission; and people will face a burden from which they would otherwise have been exempt, which in some cases could cause considerable hardship – issues not addressed in the impact assessment published with the consultation.
And they point out that fees that people in Scotland would become liable to pay are "almost all at the higher end of the scale" – whether those charged by the employment tribunals or by the UK Supreme Court.
Click here to access the response.