How deftly Lord Reed wielded his stiletto. Last week’s Supreme Court judgment on tribunal fees ought to be tucked into the induction pack of every lord chancellor.
That it should come to this: senior judges obliged to explain at length to the executive why the rule of law is important and why access to the courts underpins it. This is the true legacy of Chris Grayling, the worst lord chancellor anyone can remember.
It may ‘be helpful’, the judgment ventures (with a pained harrumph of exasperation), to explain ‘why the idea that bringing a claim before a court or a tribunal is a purely private activity, and the idea that such claims provide no broader social benefit, are demonstrably untenable’.
This the judgment proceeds to do in witheringly simple terms that could have been designed to (and do) humiliate the government. See paragraph 68.
So let us hear no more doctrinaire nonsense about commodifying justice so the courts ‘pay their way’ and do not impose a ‘burden’ on those citizens who never set foot in one. Ensuring every citizen can secure access to justice is part of what being a ‘citizen’ means. Or should mean.
Have we at last reached a tipping point in the seemingly endless degradation of our justice system, and the scandalous exclusion of people without generous means? Many lawyers dare to hope this ruling has ramifications that extend far beyond labour relations.