Access to the court system has rarely been considered cheap. Between paying for a lawyer, your papers, your time out of work and the court costs themselves, you’ve always had to have either the determination or the bank balance to really believe in yourself. Unless of course you qualified for legal aid or some other, alternative, funding option.
The cost of access to our legal system is now growing, at a rapid pace. Legal Aid has been cut to the bone and is provided in only very specific circumstances, accessing other alternatives has been made harder, while at the same time the upfront cost of accessing the courts is increasing.
The government has confirmed that UK immigration and asylum tribunal fees are going to rise by up to 500%. Employment tribunals also require relatively costly fees for access.
As these costs grow, and the qualification for exemption for fees or other funding narrows, are we making it too hard for people to bring to account unfairness and illegality?
Of course, the funding of the court system is an issue. Without the fees that are paid then there would be a huge gap in the fund that keeps our system working. We don’t have an indefinite amount of money to spend, who does? Having no fees at all could feasibly lead to a massive increase in the number of cases brought, many of which are unnecessary, and could overwhelm the system.
It’s a challenging time for everyone involved in trying to ensure everyone’s ultimate goal in this process. To get the funding balance right and ensure that those who truly need to go to court to resolve a matter can do so, and can access justice, while making sure the court is able to do it’s job properly.