Its lack of ‘trendiness’ is perhaps why over the last ten or so years, it's been so easy for government to chip away at your access to justice.
Wait a minute.
You were aware that your access to justice has been made more difficult recently, weren’t you...?
Looking beyond the headlines...
It's very easy to be swayed, not to say incensed by some of the cherry-picked cases from the popular press and online headlines about human rights abuses of terrorists and paedophiles. (Why should they have any human rights and why should anyone defend them being the common reaction.) But the hard truth is that nearly every right you have has probably been if not earned, then protected and preserved for your use by such cases. If your rights aren't protected, preserved and developed this way then the danger is that they disappear and that when you come to need them and enforce them they've gone.
You may have never needed to go to court and see a lawyer to take your case there and if that's right you're in the fortunate majority. And - that's the reason why justice isn't trendy.
We've mostly all had experience, directly or indirectly, of the hard-pressed NHS and naturally we want to save it, change it, develop it or champion it because of that. But the same public voice that cries out against cuts to the NHS and recently in support of the junior doctors isn't there to cry out against cuts to access to justice. It's not trendy and most people haven't been touched by the urgent need for it - unlike the need for urgent health care.
The price of justice
Court fees have gone up by 600 percent recently. That's right. 600 percent! (Oh, and there's now a proposal that there should be another increase; the idea apparently being that the courts should pay for themselves.)
Can you imagine the same idea in the NHS - that it should pay for itself? Of course not. But why should we accept it for the courts? Access to justice is as important as access to health care and hospitals. Your access to healthcare is something you take for granted and you probably take it for granted that you have access to justice as well. But consider this….
Here's an example that covers your access to both. It's December and you're crossing the road. A driver shoots a red light and runs you over, breaking bones and causing internal injuries. You're rushed to hospital for emergency treatment from a highly skilled team of doctors who save your life and then start the long haul to rehab and back to work. Sadly you're unable to recover your health fully quickly enough and find it hard to go back to the job you did for the same company for ten years before this accident. Your employer sacks you whilst you're on the sick without waiting to see how you recover and what you might be able to do when you get back to work.
So - at this point your access to health has done all that want and expect of it. Your life has been saved and medical care has put you back together again. Now it's time to access your right to justice but this is where you're in for a shock.
The driver of the car that put you in this position swears the lights weren't working and that's why he hit you. The police won't prosecute the driver and you want to bring a case at court for your injuries and loss of earnings. You want to bring a case at the Employment Tribunal about the awful way your boss has treated you. You've gone from being quite comfortably off to struggling to pay your bills and living costs.
You'll need a ‘no win, no fee’ lawyer to take your case. Ideally one who knows the area where you had your accident. A lawyer who can visualise and understand what you tell them and understand your description so that they decide to take on your case. But you discover that there are not so many local lawyers now and have to go to a large national organisation and they tell you that they'll take 25% of your damages if they succeed (your local lawyer wouldn't have done this when they were still about, but cuts to legal aid have meant the closure of many firms or them stopping doing that kind of work altogether).
So you may possibly lose out on 25% of your damages – to get you back to where you were before you had the accident because there are no local lawyers to take your case. That’s if you can get one of those large claims firm to take your case. Another problem you face is that they may not want to help you if there’s any doubt about liability and as the police didn’t charge the driver and there’s no conviction (meaning it’s your word against the driver’s) they may not be interested in taking the case anyway!
But surely you can recover your loss of earnings since being unfairly dismissed by your employer? Well get ready for another shock. Not so long ago you could get legal aid from a lawyer about your employment claim – not anymore. Not so long ago you could issue your claim in the Employment Tribunal without having to pay a fee to the Tribunal – not anymore. The Tribunal now charge a fee of £250 to issue your claim and £950 to hear your claim. An eye-watering £1,200 when you’re pretty low on funds already due to an accident that wasn’t your fault and an employer who’s not prepared to wait for you to get better properly. It won’t surprise you to learn at this point that there has been a 70% reduction in applications to Employment Tribunals since the introduction of these fees!
There must be a better way? There is!
As things stand in the scene we’ve set - you are at risk of losing your home, you’re unable to feed and clothe your family properly, you can’t keep them warm at home, you can’t afford Christmas. Bleak, right? And all because you didn’t know that these changes had been made - because if you had known they were on the cards and you had been able to see into the future that there was a time you’d need access to justice you’d have shouted out against these changes. You and everyone else.
Despite all of this we may still be able to help in this situation – we still do ‘no win, no fee’ personal injury work, we don’t charge a fee or take anything from your damages.
We still offer employment law advice and we will take on appropriate cases either on a no win no fee basis or advise sufficiently in our fixed fee package for you to be able to do something about matters.
It won’t be easy, but then nothing worth winning ever is.
A bit like preserving your access to justice – not easy but worth doing.
If you’re at all worried about getting access to justice, then give us a call today on 01670 368738. It won’t cost you a thing, and you’ll have (at the very least) a much better idea of what your options are.