Access to Justice - The Supreme Court

On 8th July 2009, the Ministry of Justice published the Government’s response to its ‘public consultation’ in relation to the fees to be charged to members of the public for access to justice in the Supreme Court.

That it was a full public consultation on an issue affecting every Crown Subject in the United Kingdom is reflected in the report:

“The consultation was, however, widened and became a full public consultation in order to gather a range of views on fees in the Supreme Court.”

This will probably be the first time that any subject in the Kingdom has heard of this ‘full public consultation’ by the Government. A not unreasonable conclusion given the the underwhelming response to it:

“A total of 22 responses to the consultation paper were received. Of these, 11 responses, one half, were from members of the legal profession. A further 8 responses were from members of the Judiciary and 3 responses were received from Liberty and Justice (a joint response), the Legal Services Commission and Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office.”

Having kept the plebs out of their ersatz consultation by not actually going overboard to tell them about it, the outcome is fairly predictable:

“Having taken into account all the comments made, we are content that the fee levels proposed for civil cases will not impede access to justice and that if a system of concessions, analogous to other civil courts, is adopted this will help to ensure that the system does not prohibit access to the court “

In other words, access to justice is available to those on passport benefits and those who dine at the ‘Ritz’. At present, for example, an impecunious debtor, employed on the minimum wage has to find the sum of £500 to present a petition for bankruptcy in the County Court.

The result of the ‘consultation’?:

“A fees order will be placed before Parliament. Once it has been through the proper Parliamentary process the Lord Chancellor will ensure that the new fee levels are publicised in advance of them coming into force in October 2009. “

The Government will claim before Parliament that it has carried out a wide-ranging consultation among members of the public (without a single response from any single member of the public) in order to justify a charging structure that effectively prevents access to the courts by the man on the ‘Clapham Omnibus’.

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