Lucky 7

Lucky 7

July, it could be said, has been a lucky month for the powers that be....Lucky 7

After what appears to be an inordinate amount of time, the Supreme Court has finally handed down its decision in Coventry – v – Lawrence. The issue in question being, were the CFA regulations in place prior to April 2013 incompatible with Article 6 of The European Convention on Human Rights?

A majority decision of 5 to 2 ruled in favour of compatibility (Lord Clarke, former MR and Lady Hale, deputy president of the Court dissenting) and therefore providing once and for all a conclusive answer to this contentious issue that remained unquestioned by a generation of Judges and was all but abolished by the Jackson reforms.

Was it all necessary? The Judgment consists of nearly 50 pages and although it contains some interesting analysis it raises the question as to the overall cost and who pays? The hearing was over 3 days and involved in excess of 20 Barristers and 8 interveners, the combined expense must be enormous. Were the Courts ever likely to expose the Government to the consequences of finding that the CFA regulations were in fact incompatible?

Lords Neuberger and Dyson, who delivered the decision concluded that while in some individual cases the scheme might be said to have interfered with a defendant’s right of access to justice, it was necessary to concentrate on the scheme as a whole.

In a recent announcement the Ministry of Justice revealed further plans to increase Court Fees, clearly to enhance the principle of access to justice (but only if you can afford it).

The maximum fee for money claims would rise from £10,000 to £20,000. Fees are currently payable on 5% of the value of a claim up to a maximum fee of £10,000. Fees for possession claims increase by £75 to £355 and general applications will increase by £50 (if by consent) and £100 (if contested).

Fees for Divorce proceedings also increase from £410 to £550, these three measures would bring an additional £60m into the MOJ’s coffers.

It is also an interesting point that there will be no increase in the fees for personal injury and clinical negligence claims, could this be that these fees are ultimately paid by the insurers (as if there hasn’t been enough done on their behalf) and the Government the via NHSLA.

Add this to Michael Gove’s proposed closure of up to 25% of the “underused” Courts it is difficult to see how these measures assist “the man on the Clapham omnibus) to achieve justice.

This week saw Barristers join Solicitors in strike action after the CBA voted in favour of same on 15th July.

On Thursday 23rd July, criminal Legal Aid lawyers met with Michael Gove to discuss a solution – none was reached. Surprisingly, although the CBA were invited to the meeting, they chose not to attend. This concerned many Solicitors who are of the belief that Barristers are more popular with Mr.Gove than Solicitors, him having previously agreed not to reduce Barristers’ fees.

Practitioners groups are due to meet with MOJ officials on Monday 3rd August, Mr.Gove will however not be in attendance. One can only hope that common sense prevails in the end. It has been nice to see the building support over Twitter which hopefully will conquer the obvious divide and rule attempt by the MOJ #notafatcat #saveukjustice – long may it continue.