The government must now urgently assess the cumulative impact of court and tribunal fee increases on access to justice in England and Wales and on the competitiveness of London as a centre for dispute resolution, the Law Society of England and Wales urged today, welcoming the Justice Select Committee (JSC) new report on fee increases

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: ’The Law Society and the solicitors’ profession have raised repeated concerns, in written submissions and oral evidence, now echoed by the Justice Select Committee, that punitive courts and tribunals fee increases are denying citizens and businesses the right to justice. The government must now heed the views of experts from across and beyond the legal profession.

’We welcome and reiterate the Committee’s unequivocal declaration that access to justice must prevail over generating revenue when the government is setting court and tribunal fees.

’Solicitors, who support people through court cases that have profound effects on their lives, are absolutely clear that court fee increases spell disaster for access to justice, pricing the public and many businesses out of the courts.

’Court fee increases that have now been adopted were opposed by 90 per cent of respondents to the government consultation, making a mockery of the consultation process. Today’s report vindicates the concerns of those respondents.

’All civil cases, from divorce, employment and immigration cases to landlords and small businesses trying to get their property back, are affected by fee increases which are tantamount to treating justice like a commodity. Justice is increasingly out of reach for many ordinary people. This will only serve to widen the access to justice gap in our two-tier justice system.’