The Government has been accused of attempting to profit from injured people and putting a “tax on justice” after a hike in the cost of issuing some civil court claims came into force.
Anyone attempting to claim more than £10,000 through the civil courts will now have to pay five per cent of the value of the claim, subject to a maximum fee capped at £10,000.
Lawyers opposing the change say it amounts to a 600 % increase on the current charging structure and will deny justice to injury victims and hit small to medium sized businesses who may not be able to afford to recover debts they are owed.
However the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says it will not affect 90 per cent of cases and waivers will be available for those who cannot afford to pay.
It is intended that it will raise £120m – cash which will go towards and repairing the crumbling infrastructure of many courts.
The Law Society has already begun legal action in an attempt to force a judicial review over the move which it said would affect debts owed to small businesses as well as personal injury and clinical negligence claims.
Anthony McCarthy, a director of Macks Solicitors, in Middlesbrough, said:
“To issue a £190,000 claim last Friday would have cost £1,315.
“To do it today costs £9,500. That is a massive 622 per cent increase.
“This is an attempt by the Government to profit from injured people and those who are recovering business debts in order to fund the infrastructure of the courts.”
Mr McCarthy said debtors would be far less likely to pay up if they thought their creditor could not afford the court fees.
In a House of Lords debate last week justice minister Lord Foulks said litigation was “very much an optional activity“.
“There is no logic or sense in this. It is a terrible decision that has been criticised by litigators across the board.”
Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said it was only fair that those who could afford to pay should contribute more in fees to ease the burden on hardworking taxpayers.
“Court fees are a small fraction of the overall cost of litigation and Britain’s reputation for having the best justice system in the world remains intact.”
Source – Northern Echo, 10 Mar 2015
A probation service union is seeking a judicial review amid concerns over a “dangerous privatisation” move.
The Government announced this week that Sodexo will play a leading role in running probation services in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear.
The French firm, which has managed the 1,300-capacity HMP Northumberland since 2013, will take on the work of Northumbria Community Rehabilitation alongside the charity Nacro.
Napo, the probation service union, is now calling for a judicial review, and says introducing the reforms could place the public at risk.
Mike Quinn, spokesperson for the Northumbria branch of Napo, said:
“This is an important step in our campaign to halt these ill conceived plans to privatise probation.
“It should serve as a reminder to both the Government and bidders that we won’t give up in our fight to protect the public from this dangerous privatisation.
“The government simply can’t be allowed to carry on with plans which put the safety of the public in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland at risk without allowing proper piloting of their plans, or even publication of their own risk registers. They’re yet to convince anyone but themselves that there plans are any more than a way of making money for large companies.
“Northumberland and Tyne and Wear has been well served by a top performing probation trust for years.
“Over the last 6 months the minister has systematically attempted to destroy the Probation service – he must remember that the result of this isn’t just disgruntled workers with low morale, it’s an increase in crime and the victims of crime. It’s time he saw sense and called a halt to this privatisation.”
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says the reforms will lead to better management of offenders in the region.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 31 Oct 2014
Human rights group Liberty has announced it has been granted permission to bring a Judicial Review of the Government’s controversial bedroom tax, based on the policy’s impact on separated families with shared custody of children.
The scheme, which has affected the North East, cuts parents’ Housing Benefit if they have a ‘spare room’, even if that room is used by a child who lives with them on a part-time basis. Liberty is challenging the lawfulness of the relevant regulations on the grounds they are irrational and a violation of Articles 8 and/or 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights which stipulate the right to a private and family life and no discrimination.
A High Court Judge has now indicated that it is in the public interest for Liberty’s arguments to be heard and has given permission for the case to go forward.
The human rights group launched the claim in April last year.
Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty, said: “A child’s bedroom is their sanctuary and these parents are providing stable and secure homes, not ‘under-occupying’ their properties. This one-size-fits-all rule discriminates against families outside a certain narrow mould, meaning that our clients represent thousands of parents who want to be part of their children’s lives. A Government who talks of prioritising families should know better.”
Liberty is seeking a ruling that the relevant provision – Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 – is incompatible with its clients’ and their children’s rights under Article 8 and/or Article 14 of the European Convention – and thus unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 01 May 2014