The Commons Select Justice Committee has launched an inquiry into whether or not the introduction of court and tribunal fees has affected the public’s access to justice.
The Select Committee is made up of 11 cross-party MPs who will be tasked with assessing the overall impact of court fees. A separate review of Employment Tribunal fees by the Ministry of Justice will also run until the end of the year.
The Justice Committee launched the inquiry with the following statement:
“Over the course of the last Parliament the Coalition Government pursued policies aimed at decreasing the cost of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to the public purse, through the introduction of and increases to various fees and charges.”
“The Justice Committee has decided to hold an inquiry into the effects of the introduction and levels of these fees and charges.”
Tribunal fees have caused a great deal of controversy since their introduction, and Unison has challenged the Government on the costs several times at the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Since the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees in July 2013 it has cost UK employees:
Between £160 and £250 when submitting a claim to a Tribunal.
Between £250 and £950 if the claim is listed for a final hearing.
Following the introduction of the fees the number of equal pay claims has fallen by over 80%, whilst claims for discrimination have fallen by over 90%.
The Justice Committee is welcoming submissions addressing the following questions:
How have the increased court fees and the introduction of employment tribunal fees affected access to justice? How have they affected the volume and quality of cases brought?
How has the court fees regime affected the competitiveness of the legal services market in England and Wales, particularly in an international context?
What have been the effects on defendants of the introduction of the criminal courts charge? Has the criminal courts charge been set at a reasonable and proportionate level? Is the imposition and collection of the charge practicable and, if not, how could that be rectified?
If you have any first-hand experience or insight into the above you can make a submission via the Parliament Committee page. The deadline for submissions is 30th September 2015.