500% planned fee increase for families seeking to challenge Home Office immigration decisions
Plans put forward by the Ministry of Justice yesterday to increase fees for those seeking justice through the Immigration and Asylum tribunal system by 500% is yet another step towards putting access to justice beyond the means of those who most need it, warns the Bar Council.
The representative body for all barristers in England & Wales warned that the move sends a damaging message to other jurisdictions around the world; that our renowned justice system is becoming increasingly beyond reach for many.
The Ministry yesterday announced proposals to raise fees in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber:
- First-tier Tribunal fee from £80 to £490 – an increase of more than 500% – for an application for a decision on the papers and from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing.
- A new fee of £455 for an application to the First-tier Tribunal for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.
- A fee of £350 for an application to the Upper Tribunal for permission to appeal, where permission has been refused by the First-tier Tribunal
- A fee of £510 for an appeal hearing where permission is granted.
The Bar Council also warns that this is yet another move by the Government to use the courts as way of taxing those seeking justice, following on the heels of “enhanced” court fees in the civil courts which risk excluding those seeking genuine claims, including small businesses and people who have suffered injuries.
Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, Chairman of the Bar, today said: “I have no doubt the Ministry of Justice’s intention with these proposals is to use the courts as a cash cow. However, it is likely to have the opposite effect and deny those seeking justice from having their asylum and immigration case heard. The cost is most likely to deter them when they have a legitimate claim.
“Our justice system is world renowned and is supposed to provide justice for all. But the Government is pricing many people out of the justice system.
“The outcome is likely to be that the Ministry won’t get its money. We’ve seen that the Ministry of Justice has received less income than expected from its increase in court fees last year. Equally, many people, including families from war torn countries such as Syria, may face deportation when they could in fact have a right to stay here, but simply don’t have that amount of money to spare to bring their case.”
This latest move comes on the heels of the Ministry of Justice’s introduction last year to hike court fees’ for money claims, which include late payments, debt and compensation. This was a blanket 5% fee on small businesses and individuals bringing claims worth between £10,000 and £200,000, with fees of up to £10,000 payable up-front. However, a letter from the Ministry of Justice to the Justice Select Committee in March this year revealed that the Ministry had not collected anywhere near as much as it expected from the increased court fees.