Tag Archive | "employment tribunal fees scheme"

JSC report on courts and tribunals fees


The Justice Select Committee (JSC) is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Ministry of Justice and its associated public bodies. On Monday the committee published its second report, on Courts and tribunals fees.

The JSC said: “First, although it is a legitimate position to object to any court fees being charged to litigants, that is not a position we share. Some degree of financial risk is an important discipline for those contemplating legal action, and a contribution by users of the courts to the costs of operating those courts is not objectionable in principle: the question is what is an acceptable amount to charge taking into account the need to preserve access to justice.”

The JSC’s response to that question is to call for an overhaul of the employment tribunal fees scheme and to scrap the recent increase in the divorce petition fee. A full response to the committee’s critical report is likely in September, but in the meantime the MoJ has defended its record on the imposition of fees.

An MoJ spokesman, quoted in the ‘Gazette’, said: “The cost of our courts and tribunal system to the taxpayer is unsustainably high, and it is only right that those who use the system pay more to relieve this burden. Every pound we collect from fee increases will be spent on providing a leaner and more effective system of courts and tribunals.”

The JSC focused much of its report on the need for changes to the remission system, which reduces fees for those who can show they are in financial need. The report says: “The cornerstone of efforts to mitigate the impact of courts and tribunal fees on access to justice is fee remission.

“Fee remission is only available to individuals, including those who conduct their business as sole traders. It is not available to companies, charities or other organisations. Claimants must submit separate applications for remission of each fee, and to be successful, they must first pass the disposable capital test and then the gross monthly income test in respect of each fee.”

In particular, with employment tribunal fees, the JSC called for the income threshold to qualify for fee remissions to be increased.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “The Law Society and the solicitors’ profession have raised repeated concerns, in written submissions and oral evidence, now echoed by the Justice Select Committee, that punitive courts and tribunals fee increases are denying citizens and businesses the right to justice. The government must now heed the views of experts from across and beyond the legal profession. We welcome and reiterate the JSC’s unequivocal declaration that access to justice must prevail over generating revenue when the government is setting court and tribunal fees.”

He went on to say: “’The JSC clearly recognises the Law Society’s concerns that punitive employment and immigration tribunal fees prevent people from upholding their rights. We urge the MoJ to act swiftly on the JSC’s recommendation that the fees charged in the Employment Tribunal should be substantially reduced. Court-fee increases that have now been adopted were opposed by 90 per cent of respondents to the government consultation, making a mockery of the consultation process. Today’s report vindicates the concerns of those respondents.”

He concluded: “’All civil cases, from divorce, employment and immigration cases to landlords and small businesses trying to get their property back, are affected by fee increases which are tantamount to treating justice like a commodity. Justice is increasingly out of reach for many ordinary people. This will only serve to widen the access to justice gap in our two-tier justice.”
The full text of the JSC report can be found at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmjust/167/16702.htm

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