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Publication - Report

The Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2016 - equality impact assessment record

Published: 18 Nov 2016
Part of:
Law and order
ISBN:
9781786525963

Provides a summary of the impact of the Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2016 on court users in relation to possible discrimination.

18 page PDF

239.1kB

18 page PDF

239.1kB

Contents
The Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2016 - equality impact assessment record
Stage 1: Framing

18 page PDF

239.1kB

Stage 1: Framing

Results of framing exercise

There was no specific pre-consultation impact assessment accompanied the proposals on which consultation took place. However, the consultation did take into account the equality impact assessments published for the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill and the assessment conducted for the Courts Fee Orders in 2015. [2] This is pertinent to the fees orders relating to the new courts and the consultation made reference to it:

"In relation to the civil court reforms (e.g. national personal injury court; Sheriff Appeal Court) these issues were considered when the Courts Reform Act was being developed. Overall, the Equality Impact Assessment on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill found that none of the groups with protected characteristics would suffer disproportionately as a result of the interaction of the measures in the Bill with their protected characteristic." [3]

The Scottish Government fully considered access to justice issues such as affordability for court users when developing proposals to increase fees. Factors such as affordability and the level of fee in relation to the value of claim have historically been taken into account when setting fees. For example, even with an inflationary increase applied, the increase for the small claims fee has been maintained at a low level.

Environmental

There is nothing to suggest that there would be an environmental impact from these proposals.

Rural Impact

As the proposals are to increase fees charged by court services across all of Scotland, both those living in urban and rural areas will be affected in the same way. There will be, therefore, no particular impact on rural communities.

Enforcement/Sanctions/Monitoring

Nearly all fees are paid for in advance of the service so the sanction for non-payment is that the service will not be performed. The proceedings may be struck out if the fee is not paid.

Extent/Level of EQIA required

The consultation was sent to a range of consultees. These included those who are directly involved with the legal process such as legal professionals, organisations in the justice system and the judiciary. The consultation paper was also circulated to organisations with an interest in legal issues through their concern for the welfare of the public in general or specific groups of people and to individuals who responded to the previous consultation on court fee and Office of the Public Guardian fee ( OPG) increases in 2015. [4] Interested parties who were not directly consulted also had a chance to respond to the consultation, which was publicly available on the Scottish Government website.

The consultation (which included the Scottish Government's pre-consultation assessment) asked:

Are any of the proposals likely to have a disproportionate effect on a particular group? If so, please specify the possible impact?

The Scottish Government is better informed on equality issues as a result of the consultation which concluded on 12 October 2016. In particular, a helpful response was received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission which highlighted the potential for decline in number of equality and human rights legal challenges as a result of higher court fees. Based on the responses to the recent consultation, the previous fee consultation entitled "Review of Fees Charged by the Court of Session, Accountant of Court, Sheriff & Justice of the Peace Courts, High Court, and the Office of the Public Guardian", which ran from 9 May 2012 to 25 July 2012, and the "Consultation on Proposals for Fees Charged by the Court of Session, Accountant of Court, Sheriff & Justice of the Peace Courts, High Court, Office of the Public Guardian, Personal Injury Court and the Sheriff Appeal Court", which ran from 23 February 2015 to 15 May 2015, the group that is most likely to be affected by the proposals is that of those on incomes just above the level that would qualify for exemption. There is no data to suggest that any of the protected groups would appear to be disproportionately affected.

However, the issue of court fees as part of the cost of court actions needs to be taken in context. In most cases the court fees form a small proportion of the cost of legal proceedings.

No further impact assessment is considered necessary. However, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service ( SCTS) will continually monitor cost recovery from the courts. In addition, there will require to be a comprehensive review of court fees in 2017.


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