Faculty defends state funding of civil justice system

The Faculty of Advocates has come out in strong opposition to Scottish government plans to make litigants fund the civil justice system through court fees.

Its response to the government consultation says the civil justice system “should be funded by the state from general taxation” as “a cornerstone of a democratic state” which is “vital to every citizen, whether or not he or she ever becomes a litigant”.

In July, the Scottish government issued a consultation on increasing court fees, aimed at achieving “full cost recovery”.

It proposed either increasing all fees by 24 per cent, or increasing fees for only some actions while leaving others untouched.

However, the Faculty believes the proposed increases would impede access to justice, and that requiring a person to pay expensive court fees could be a breach of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Faculty said: “As a matter of principle, the civil justice system should be funded by the state, not litigants.

“The civil justice system is a cornerstone of a democratic state. It is the duty of the state to provide an accessible civil justice system…To the benefit of society at large, the law is made, declared or clarified daily by the civil courts. The civil justice system is vital to every citizen, whether or not he or she ever becomes a litigant. The benefits to society justify it being funded in full from general taxation.

“Many state-provided services are funded from general revenue, on the basis that these services benefit the whole of society, and not just those in immediate need of them. Our society accepts that, without regard to their means to pay, individuals should have access to medical care, and that every sort of person should be served by the police and emergency services.

“The Scottish Government has recognised that charging tuition fees to students limits access to higher education for many and that charging for prescriptions might deter people from seeking medical assistance. The Faculty considers that access to the courts is of equal importance.”