The Senior Judiciary’s response to the recent MoJ consultation on fees is a humdinger.
Parliament is referenced 28 times in 80 paragraphs.
The Judiciary’s response to this Ministry of Justice (MoJ) Consultation is predicated on the fact the Government does not accept this position and intends to ask Parliament to render the justice system self-financing. As has long been made clear there is a fundamental question as to whether the court system which benefits the economy and society as a whole should be financed by those whose use of it benefits not simply themselves but society as a whole. Ultimately it must be for Parliament to decide whether access to justice and hence the maintenance of the rule of law are to be self-financing. Under our constitution issues of taxation and expenditure are the province of Parliament.
While the Consultation Paper opens with a clear acknowledgement of the role of the courts, the bulk of the Paper, the proposals it contains and the prevailing approach appear to be based on a view that recourse to the courts is a matter of discretionary spending by those who can afford to and should pay its full cost and, in some cases, more than its full cost. It must be a matter for Parliament to consider how these two conflicting principles should be reconciled.
In summary, the proposals, particularly the novel concept of enhanced fees, give rise to major issues of policy which require public debate:
(i) How is the position of the courts in providing access to justice for all and maintaining the rule of law for the benefit of all to be reconciled with the proposition that they should be financed only by those who actually use them?
(ii) Should those who use the civil (non-family) courts subsidise those who use the family courts?
(iii) Should fee remissions for those who cannot afford to pay fees be financed by other users of the courts?
These are issues of policy which it will be for Parliament to decide, but we are concerned that they should be openly acknowledged and explained so that there can be a fully informed debate about them.
On the proposals relating to family the judiciary rightly criticise the proposals to increase the fee for a divorce to a whopping £750.
They point out that as the majority of petitioners are women they would be disproportionately affected by fees that might negatively affect their ability to access justice, thereby depriving them of the legal protection of marriage in future relationships.
What is particularly staggering is that the revenue generated from divorce cases is already £16.8 millions. And that the proposal for increase would generate a further £40.8 million.
And in a polite twist of the knife they point out the *cough* “misconception” about the person who pays the fees of a divorce.
The only thing I can really fault is the heinous reference to custody arrangements.
Goddamit. You remember that Parliament thing you mentioned 28 times? They abolished “custody arrangements” almost as many years ago.