Too high a price for justice

Too high a price to pay for justice

12 March 2009 pr012.09

Justice may be priced out of reach of ordinary people if the proposed changes to Civil Court Fees go ahead says the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX).

In its submission to the government over fees ILEX has expressed deep concern that the price increases as proposed are not justifiable particularly in the present economic climate.

ILEX believes there are already enough barriers in place for individuals using the court systems. The proposed increase will undoubtedly make many people question whether it is worth going to court at all. This brings with it the risk that many worthwhile claims will not be pursued through the courts and justice will not be served as a result. A healthy courts and civil justice system is essential for society and should be available for all who require it and not just for those with the ability to pay.

“We understand and accept that government has a duty to make the court system as efficient and cost effective as possible, but where this need conflicts with the right to justice and the development of the law, then justice must take priority,” says ILEX Law Reform Officer, Gus Ghataura.

“Law develops through the raising novel or difficult case in court that require clarification. Courts therefore provide an important public service and for this reason and we believe that taxation should contribute in part towards the costs. Placing all the cost on litigants is not only an unfair burden on them, but the inevitable increase in the total cost of justice that will bring will undoubtedly deter many from using the courts system.

“Whilst there are numerous exemptions and remissions currently in place to offset costs, in practice only the poorest members of society benefit. The increase in costs will place an unfair burden on those with low and middle incomes and as a result large section of society could be denied access to the court system.

“Although we are opposed to the increased as outlined we would be willing to work with government to identify ways a compromise could be reached which would allow costs to be reduced without compromising access to justice.”