Monday, June 09, 2008

Failure of MacAskill's 'Bring your litigation to Scotland' campaign results in soaring costs of access to civil justice

Well well well .. we told you so !

It seems that Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's campaign to get companies and individuals to bring their legal business or litigation to Scotland has failed so much, the only way to bring in more money is to ramp up the fees for accessing civil courts instead !.

Nothing like pricing ordinary folks out of access to justice Mr MacAskill .. another failure ? let's hope the First Minister steps in with some ideas of his own ...

The Scotsman reports :

Cost of going to civil court is set to soar

Cost of going to civil court is set to soar

By Michael Howie

THE price of justice in Scotland's courts is set to soar under controversial government plans.

The Scottish Courts Service has announced that fees for accessing civil courts will increase by as much as 100 per cent.

Civil servants want to end subsidies for the use of courts by thousands of people and firms who every year turn to the law to resolve disputes.

Consumer groups and lawyers say the fee increases are unfair and will disproportionately hit the most vulnerable people in society, such as women who require protection from violent partners.

Scotland's civil courts cost about £30 million a year to run, approximately half of which is paid for by fees and the remainder from the public purse.

The Scottish Government wants to end the subsidy for the vast majority of people who use the civil courts to settle grievances, including personal injury claims, child custody battles and divorce.

The changes, which will have to be approved by MSPs, will increase sheriff court costs by 31 per cent and Court of Session costs by 49 per cent.

Only people who receive civil legal aid – those on benefits and very low incomes – will be exempt from the charges.

The fees are used to pay for the administration of courts, including providing sheriffs and judges.

But the increased charges have been met with a wave of criticism, amid accusations that the government is shirking its responsibility to provide a courts system to settle disputes.

Richard Keen, QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said making criminals pay for the cost of running Scotland's courts would be a fairer system. He said: "We don't expect people to have to pay for their own operation. And we don't expect them to pay the cost of sitting exams. That's because we recognise that the wider society benefits from having a funded national health service and education system.

"One can apply the same argument to accessing the courts. This is going to hit hardest some of the most vulnerable in society, such as people who suffer family breakdowns and women who need protection from violent partners."

Elizabeth Welsh, the vice-president of the Family Law Association, said the move would make it even harder for vulnerable people to get justice.

"Increasingly, people trying to access courts are unavoidable cases like protection orders for domestic abuse victims, or care arrangements for children.

"With civil legal aid being so hard to access, these court fee increases are just another barrier to accessing justice. People are already struggling to be able to afford to go to court."

She added: "There is a principle at stake here. Saying the court users should pay for the costs of running the courts fails to recognise that access to justice is a broader social issue.

"It's in the interest of everyone in society that people who, for instance, suffer domestic abuse, are not barred from going to court because of prohibitively high fees."

Eleanor Emberson, chief executive of the Scottish Courts Service, said: "We are committed to ensuring that Scotland has a cost-efficient civil justice system and we are working on changes to our procedures that make better use of technology and that will give better service to our users. Where we are able to reduce our costs, we will, and those using court services will benefit."


THE cost of a "proof" hearing in court to settle a personal injury claim is currently £230. Under the proposals, that will increase to £500.

Applying for a "simplified" divorce will rise from £70 to £90.

At the moment, it costs £57 to issue a writ in the sheriff court. The courts service wants to raise that to £75.

Small claims actions up to the value of £50 will jump from £8 to £15, although the same charge will also now apply to claims between £50 and £200, which currently attract a £44 charge. Claims for sums between £200 and £3,000 will rise in cost from £44 to £65.

The cost of a petition to appoint an executor will rise from £12 to £15.

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