Jonathan Smithers, the president of the Law Society recently conveyed concerns that the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) plans to increase UK immigration appeal fees may deter Appellants from taking matters to the tribunals thereby denying people access to justice. At the beginning of this month, the Ministry of Justice published its proposals to increase Immigration and Asylum Chamber fees by up to 500% from the current fee of £140 to £800 per individual. We consider the impact of the Government’s proposals on access to justice below.
Access to Immigration Courts and Tribunals
Access to justice is a vital part of an effective and functioning democracy and a fundamental aspect of the justice system and underpins access to justice and the rule of law in England and Wales.
According the Government’s own ministerial foreword, the courts and tribunal system provides a wide, diverse, and integrated range of services for the public, including:
- providing the legal structure and certainty for business and commerce to flourish;
- offering protection to children at risk of harm or assisting separating couples with arrangements of their financial and personal affairs;and
- providing a criminal justice system that makes sure that anyone accused of a crime is given a fair and just trial.
The Government’s proposal highlights that there is a need for a properly funded courts and tribunals service that protects access to justice for all and therefore it has to balance the burden of funding the courts and tribunals between the general taxpayer and those who use the system.
The introduction of enhanced court fees for the immigration and asylum chambers, therefore falls part of the Government’s plan to achieving a system whereby Appellants bear the brunt of the costs of using the courts system.
The Government in itself recognizes that there is a likely possibility that there will be an over representation of people with certain protected characteristics who are affected by these proposals. However this will not be discriminatory within the meaning of the Equality Act as the proposals will apply to all appellants and therefore are not considered to result in people being treated less favourably because of their protected characteristic.
The law society has warned that the proposed increases will deny many access to justice and will be disproportionately felt by people with protected characteristics as the vast majority of immigration tribunal applicants are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said:
‘Everyone should be able to access the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, irrespective of their financial means.The tribunal’s role is to resolve disputes between individuals and the state that obviously will affect an individual’s life and future. Access to justice for all through the tribunal must trump the “full cost recovery” imperative driving the MoJ’s proposal.
MOJ’s Proposals to increase Tribunal Fees
According to Government statistics Courts and tribunals in England and Wales cost £1.8 billion in 2014/15, and the Government received £700 million in income in return. The purpose of consultation which ran from from 21 April until 3 June was to set out the Government’s proposal to run the UK Immigration and Asylum Chambers at full recovery costs levels as part of the Government’s ongoing agenda to reduce public spending.
Justice Minister Dominic Raab:
We have concluded that given the need to continue to pursue more ambitious cost recovery it is no longer reasonable to expect the taxpayer to fund around 75% of the costs of proceedings in this Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal.
We therefore propose increasing fees in the First-tier Tribunal from £80 to £490 for an application for a decision on the papers and from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing. We also propose introducing a new fee of £455 for an application to the First-tier Tribunal for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.’
The MoJ itself estimates that the fee increase would lead to a 20-40% drop in the number of appeals. It is a well known consensus that matters are often decided more favourably for Appellants by the courts. As a consequence, a drop in the number of appeals lodged due to unaffordable would mean Appellants are losing out to having their matters favourable and fairly decided at the tribunals.
Successful UK Visa Applications and Appeal Solicitors
Our team of experienced and professionally qualified immigration solicitors and barristers will be able to guide you through the process of making an application step by step and limit the possibility of failure by complying with the strict letter of law.
We also undertake a great deal of appeal work before the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal and have a successful track record of successful results for our clients. We have the experience and the knowledge required to take your case forward successfully. If you have had an application refused, contact us to discuss your case so that we can provide you with a case assessment.
Contact us so that we can review your case and provide you with an assessment.