There has, understandably, been an outcry over the latest court fee increases proposed by the Ministry of Justice. The Gazette led on the story and it is reassuring that the president of the Law Society is saying the right things in opposing the relentless government crusade to hinder access to justice.
How disappointing, then, to read in the same piece the comment from Rebecca Harling of Thomas Eggar: ‘It is right that those using the court system, who can afford to do so, should pay for its use.’
That is banal and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of most people and businesses who use the courts.
As an insolvency and debt recovery specialist, I would happily introduce Ms Harling to the large number of my SME clients who will find that the fee increases dramatically affect their attempts to manage cashflow, which is the lifeblood of their businesses. There is no fee remission or waiver proposal for them.
Money claims account for most county court business. Proposals again to increase issue fees dramatically, and to double enforcement application fees, will ensure many businesses suffer. Perhaps officials (and Ms Harling) would like to come and see first-hand the very real struggle that business owners are facing at the hands of a government that keeps saying it is trying to protect them.
We are careering toward a two-tier legal system. It is the duty of all legal practitioners to oppose this.
Stephen Allinson, consultant solicitor, licensed insolvency practitioner, Lester Aldridge, London WC2