The Ministry of Justice announced today that court fees for divorce is to increase from Monday, 21st March from £410 to a whopping £550*, a massive 30% increase. Although this was first discussed last summer, it was not included in the fee increase towards the end of last year so it has come as a surprise to many divorce lawyers. The government appears to ignore the human casualties that often requires a court resolution out of necessity but instead seems hell bent on hiking fees where people are most vulnerable. Legal Aid for family matters were drastically cut in 2013, which was followed by the reduction in criminal legal aid, on top of which making it harder for anyone who has a grievance in an employment matter who has to pay a substantial fee. More recently the government announced the proposal to ban whiplash injury claims along with increasing the small claims limit for personal injury to £5,000 which means anyone who has ever suffered an injury will know that even a simple claim can be complicated when you have a large insurance company making it less than easy for you. It seems this government is targeting vulnerable people without having an idea how ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ their actions. Can it be cost effective to increase court fees when the court’s time is taken up a litigant in person who will need much more time than if he/she was properly represented.
Anyone looking in will agree, the system is failing the most vulnerable.
It is worth remembering that wealthy politicians from privileged backgrounds are able to ‘afford’ legal services and full protection of their legal rights. Many hardworking middle income earners who earn up to £70,000 per annum and lower income working families cannot afford the same protections of the law as those of the privileged. So who is the law working for? The cuts in legal services and increases in court fees lead to the creation of two societies, protecting only the most privileged in our, so called, society.
* subject to parliamentary approval”