Saturday, July 30, 2016

NO MONEY NO JUSTICE: Slow, costly courts, £220K a year judges on junkets & justice staff on the take prompt Scottish Government proposal for 25% hike in court fees

Scotland’s courts to become 25% more rip-off than before. EVERYONE knows the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) and our powerhouse Sheriff Courts & the fabled Court of Session teeter on the brink of consternation, calamity, comedy and collapse at the end of each working legal week.

Every time a member of the judiciary takes time off their busy schedule of frequently flying £5K international holidays on the taxpayer - to perform the actual £200,000 a year job of being a judge and sit and listen to the daily farce and often dodgy evidence presented by Crown Office prosecutors before the Criminal Courts - you would honestly think from their faces - the end of the world had arrived.

Judges are so rich poorly paid these days, they have to conceal their vast wealth with the threat of constitutional calamity if it were revealed - or flog their multi million pound Victorian villas, properties in the country, undeclared holiday homes in Dubai or wherever - to members of their own family – for millions of pounds and avoiding those awful taxes which apply to the rest of us.

Let’s not even talk about the others … week long holidays in Qatar, North America, the far east, or jetting off to New Zealand for a week, then retiring a few days later, the gold Rolexes, collections of valuable items, taxpayer funded security fit for Royalty, extra ermine gowns & hanging around the works of Leonardo Da Vinci in the hope of life eternal.

How about the well paid poorly paid overworked court staff you say? Well, not really.

‘Hospitality’, undeclared deals on the side with law firms and other less talked about financial arrangements for increasing numbers of court staff compensate for the daily struggle of putting pen to paper and reminding the elderly sheriff the one before him ‘is a bad yin’.

So, where does all the money come from to pay for your access to justice and the privilege of appearing before someone festooned in 18th Century fancy dress and surrounded by wood panelling and enormously expensive digital recording equipment - conveniently unplugged so as not to record the daily courtroom farce or your expert witness disagreeing with Lord know-it-all.

The Scottish Government gave the Scottish Court Service a whopping £88.9million of your cash in the 2016-2017 budget. Plenty there to go around.

The judiciary on it’s own receive a staggering £40million of public cash, to groan, grizzle, gloat & giggle as they listen to counsel after counsel, litigant after litigant – while dreaming of appearances & junkets to warmer, wealthier climes.

The Legal Aid budget – once standing at over £160million a year and now allegedly a very very very dodgy £136.9million in the 2016-2017 budget - your cash going on lawyers, criminals and some of the most laughable, inept court hearings in existence.

The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) – widely regarded by all sides as the pre-eminently most corrupt institution in the entire Scottish justice system – received a staggering £112.5million of your cash. To do what? to cover up it’s own staff and prosecutors leaking case files and evidence to criminals, or snorting cocaine and beating up Police Officers.

And, let’s not forget the £58 million of public cash spent by the Scottish Court & Tribunal Service on new doorknobs, a lick of paint and new scones for the Court of Session ‘powerhouse’ - which must rank as Europe’s slowest, most distorted, most expensive & interest ridden seat of justice, ever.

All this must be paid for, somehow. Loads-a-money. Your money. Certainly not theirs, for they are all public servants paid for by you.

So we come to the Scottish Government’s proposal to go for ‘full cost recovery’, buried in the now familiar loaded consultation papers issued by the Justice Directorate of the Scottish Government.

And, instead of blaming the fee rises on our slow, difficult and inaccessible courts, the Scottish Government instead has chosen to blame budgetary cuts imposed by Westminster.

The Scottish Government Consultation on Court Fees 2016 sets out proposals for fees in the Court of Session, the High Court of the Justiciary, the Sheriff Appeal Court, the sheriff court, the Sheriff Personal Injury Court, and the justice of the peace court. Court fees are a major source of income for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and it has become necessary to increase fees in order to achieve full cost recovery. It seeks views on two options each of which is aimed at providing full cost recovery.

Fee hikes across the board of almost 25% for civil actions in Scotland and alternative targeted rises are being proposed by Scottish ministers – as part of a consultation on Scottish court fees which runs until October.

Court fees have generally been reviewed every three years, with the last round being implemented in 2015, however this time around "the Scottish Government has decided to accelerate the move towards full cost recovery".

The Consultation on Court Fees – open until 12 October 2016 - sets out proposals for fees in the Court of Session, the High Court of the Justiciary, the Sheriff Appeal Court, the sheriff court, the Sheriff Personal Injury Court, and the justice of the peace court. Court fees are a major source of income for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and it has become necessary to increase fees in order to achieve full cost recovery. It seeks views on two options each of which is aimed at providing full cost recovery.

The Scottish Government states “It is necessary to raise fees so that the Scottish Court and Tribunals Service is able to achieve full cost recovery from its courts. We are consulting on two options seeking the views of stakeholders on the best way to achieve this. Stakeholders will be able to provide their opinions on which option is better from the point of view of their own court actions and, if they are an organisation, of their clients. This will help the Scottish Government's decision on which option should be incorporated into the necessary Scottish Statutory Instruments.”

“A review is justified both by the need to end the cost to the public purse of subsidising the civil justice system, and by the introduction of the new simple procedure which replaces the current small claims and summary cause procedures."

Simple procedure will be phased in from 28 November for actions worth not more than £5,000. It is planned to retain existing fee levels for summary cause and small claims actions, so that at present levels lodging a claim for up to £200 under simple procedure would mean a fee of £18, and £78 for a claim above that level and up to £5,000.

If a flat rise is the option chosen, all Court of Session and sheriff court fees will rise by 24%, the amount needed to fund a deficit of £5.4m on gross fee income of £22.2m in 2014-15. That would mean lodging fees of £22 or £97 for simple procedure cases, £119 (from £96) for summary applications and ordinary sheriff court actions, £187 (from £150) for non-simple divorces, and £266 (from £214) for Court of Session or Sheriff Personal Injury Court actions. Hearing fees would jump from £227 to £282 in the sheriff court, and from £96 to £119 per half hour (single judge), or from £239 to £297 per half hour (bench of three) in the Court of Session.

Suggested targeted fee rises, the other option, would raise more money overall. The £18 simple procedure lodging fee would remain unchanged, as would the £150 divorce lodging fee and the £227 sheriff court hearing fees, as well as fees in the recently introduced Sheriff Appeal Court. However there would be a £100 lodging fee for a simple procedure claim for more than £200, £120 for summary applications and ordinary causes, and £300 for a Court of Session action. In that court the cost of lodging a record would almost double from £107 to £200, and hearing fees more than double to £200 for every half hour before a single judge, and £500 per half hour before a bench of three.

The alternative scheme would also see the introduction of graded fees in commissary court proceedings for authorising executors to handle a deceased person's estate. Whereas at present for all estates worth more than £10,000 there is a flat fee of £225, it is proposed to exempt estates worth less than £50,000 but to charge £250 for estates between £50,000 and £250,000, and £500 for larger estates.

The consultation paper states on Page 8: "We are aware that there will be a tipping point where fee increases may deter people from raising actions", the paper observes. "We do not believe that the level of rises in either option 1 or 2 as proposed will have a deterrent effect as individual fees will still be relatively low, particularly when viewed against the total costs of taking legal action including the cost of legal advice."

Be sure to enter your thoughts in the Scottish Government’s consultation. Go here to do so: Consultation on Court Fees You have until 12 October 2016.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Suffice to say the judiciary,court employees,lawyers on legal aid and the Crown Office are treating the public purse as one big jolly.

If Westminster spotted this and reduced funding well good on them I say.

Anonymous said...

+25%?

What happened to the rate of inflation?

How can anyone get into court with already crazy court costs jacked up so much by Sturgeon's mob and clearly designed to keep justice out of the reach of anyone with a decent case.

Anonymous said...

Since when did the Scottish Government subsidise the courts?If you look closely at the amount of fraud committed against clients and homes stolen by the legal profession the figure must be sky high and no one is doing anything about it even though the Scottish Government know everything that is going on.As you said yourself judges sit there allowing lawyers to rip off their clients and do as they please so try writing in to the Scottish government and tell them all they do is say we cant interfere and everything is hunky dory!

Anonymous said...

In 2009 Lord Gill noted in the Civil Justice Review that the costs involved in taking a case to Court were, even then, often inordinately high and effectively formed a barrier to justice for the public who had claims which could be well founded and would otherwise be heard.

'Nikkla', McRoadkill and the SNP have of course conveniently swept the report and the overwhelming majority of its recommendations for improvement under the carpet.

Vote SNP?......NOT ME!

Anonymous said...

How much of that Legal Aid money is actually taxpayers money going to Solicitors who are genuinely working for their clients? Bugger all.

First, if you are on Legal Aid and manage to win your case, the Legal Aid Board will "clawback" everything from you they have paid out even if you have only managed to keep what was your own property anyway. So, save your house from repossession by a lender who has no right to try for repossession, you still end up having to sell to pay the Legal Aid Board! To add insult to injury the money they have taken from you is listed as being paid by the Board to Solicitors, even though it was your money not taxpayers.

Second, the rates paid to a Solicitor actually doing their job for the client are a pittance. The only way to get a reasonable amount, to cover the costs of actually doing the work, is to game the system which penalises honest Solicitors in favour of those who don't actually care about their clients.

Third, experts get paid way over what a Solicitor doing the work (rather than gaming the system) can ever get. A Doctors 1 page letter can be charged at £200 and be paid, while it would take the Solicitor weeks of work to get that as a fee. But the really dodgy bit is that certain "experts" doing reports (for example child welfare) are Solicitors on a Law Society list, who don't do Legal Aid work for ordinary people but only do these reports for courts at their private rates- which are paid for by the Legal Aid Board at the rate they charge, even though the Solicitor working for you is paid a fraction of that for the whole case. But a nice little earner for those pals with those in charge at the Law Society.

Basically there are a lot of honest Solicitors trying to do their best for their clients, but the system set up by the Legal Aid Board and the Law Society is biased in favour of those who (a) suck up to them in charge, and (b) are only concerned about getting the money not helping their clients.

And if any of those honest Solicitor do try to challenge the corruption at the top, the full force of the system will be brought on them to close them down and blacken their name. There's a few firms closed down by the Law Society where it appears their sole crime in reality was to challenge what goes on, but an accusation by the Society shuts their doors and allow what they say to be pushed aside, pending years tied up in the SLCC and SSDT, because really it's them who are the crooks not the Law Society, honest. When eventually they aren't found guilty of the trumped up charges, that's because it was on a "technicality" or a "misunderstanding" because of course the Law Society would never make up complaints to shut them up, of course not and if you suggest it be prepared to be hit with a massive defamation court action.