In a previous blog, I mentioned that the Ministry of Justice was intent on making the administration of justice and the court system, self-funding.
Happily, in July 2017, the Supreme Court found that the employment tribunal fees scheme introduced in 2013, was unlawful and a barrier to justice and should be abolished with immediate effect. Understandably, the introduction of the fee scheme to issue a claim in the employment tribunal saw a 70% drop in claims.
This does not stop the government from introducing a new regime however, but as the last one was unlawful, the fees paid since 2013 will need to be refunded. Ouch!
The bad news is that civil court fees remain at a level that does act as a barrier to justice. These have shot up to an eye watering £10,000 for a claim of £200,000. Try funding that following a life changing accident which has had a devastating effect upon your life.
But it’s okay – the Ministry of Justice have saved £102 million in the year ending March 2017. The number of full-time staff in the court service has reduced to 15,749 from 17,587 five years ago, a loss of over 1,800 people.
So what is the public getting for their money? Surely a super slick and efficient service with no delay and instant access to justice?
Err… not quite. These relentless cuts in spending on the court service not only restrict access to justice but positively grinds it to a halt. As an example, we have been waiting over 18 months for a trial date on one matter and have not even been given directions as to disclosure and witness evidence – a shocking decline in service and I fear it’s only going to get worse.
Trying to get through to anyone on the phone is almost impossible now and when you do they can’t tell you anything about the claim – computer always seems to say, “No.”
The £105 million should be ploughed back into the service to recruit well trained back office staff and invest in a decent computer system before we give up all together and tell clients not to bother…