This post is the first in a short series, which was prompted by an email I received from Ken, a landlord. Ken told me
I am utterly dumbfounded by the costs relating to litigation/justice. The court fees are eye watering. Barrister fees are even more eye watering – why is it not free?
We all pay our taxes, we all pay our council tax but justice it would appear is for the rich only – if I have a legitimate grievance but no cash I am stuffed. The other side with oodles of dosh wins – not in keeping with the Magna Carta I would have thought?
This is of course something many, many people have said to me over the years. We all have to abide by the law, we are all supposed to know it (ignorance of the law is no defence usually) so why is it not free?
I’m not going to go down the Magna Carta route (but please feel free to post comments on this) other than to say that it does not really say that law must be free. More that everyone (be they King, Baron or Peasant) has to obey it. There is an explanation and a great video from Terry Jones on the British Library website.
But the law IS free now!
Technically, with the internet, we all have access to the law, for free.
- Here are all the statues
- Here are most of the important legal cases
- Here are the procedural rules used when bringing claims at court.
In the past, these could only be accessed in expensive legal text books but now they are available to everyone with a computer and internet access.
Paying for the law
But I don’t think that is what Ken meant. It’s very hard, unless you have had legal training, to make sense of those resources. What he was really asking was “why can’t we use the courts and bring claims without having to pay huge sums of money?”
There are two elements here
- The court fees and
- The cost of legal help
The legal help topic is a wide one and covers the cost of solicitors and barristers, the legal aid scheme and ‘one to many’ help services. Plus the underlying problem of the increasing complexity of our legal system which makes it difficult for people to use the system without professional help.
The start of a series
There’s a lot to say about all of these and I think it is too much to put in just one post. So I am turning it into a series – this is the introduction.
Note by the way that in this series I will chiefly be discussing the civil law only – the system which deals with disputes between individuals and organisations. Rather than the criminal law which is largely about the state punishing people for wrong doing. There is an explanation of the difference between the two here.
Next time I will be looking at Court Fees.