What Should Be Done with the Profits of Justice? ; LEGAL OPINION ++ Increasing Court Fees Have Generated a [Pound]34m Surplus. Robert Verkaik, Law Editor, Asks How This Money Should Be Spent and Who Should Benefit
Verkaik, Robert, The Independent (London, England)
The phrase "access to justice" has been something of a mantra for politicians and law reformers over the last 10 years. It is really a reworking of the legal maxim "justice for all" and is aimed at ensuring that no one, be it those on low income or wealthy businessmen, should be at a disadvantage when going to court.
But "access to justice" is a relative term because courts are in effect part of a state monopoly. While the quality of justice in England and Wales continues to be judged to be of a very high standard, there is little interest in arguing for separate justice systems to compete for litigation business. But when the same courts are seen to be making money hand over fist from fees paid by the ordinary litigant, the charging regime set by this monopoly becomes a much more critical issue.
Last year the civil courts profited by [pound]34m, suggesting that the fees are doing more than just keeping the courts running on time. For the wealthy individuals and corporations who regularly use the courts, legal costs can be written off as a necessary expense. Not so someone trying to win compensation from a dodgy holiday company or a small business seeking payment on an overdue bill.
Businesses and their legal advisers understandably argue that recent increases in court fees should now be reversed. Duncan Harman- Wilson, a partner at the City law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP, comments: It is pretty shocking to see the level of profits that are now being raked in from civil court users. …