Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Proposed new fees for immigration and asylum cases

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On 21 April 2016, the Government published a consultation paper proposing new fees for proceedings in the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) and Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber). Following on huge rises in court fees for civil and family disputes, as well as huge increases in the fees charged in employment cases, the spotlight now falls on immigration and asylum cases.

At the heart of the government’s case for new charges is the statement:

The courts and tribunals service cost £1.8 billion in 2014-15, but only £700 million was received in income. This leaves a net cost to the taxpayer of around £1.1bn in 1 year alone.

This begs an important question: is it good policy for the justice system that its costs are met only by those who use the system, as opposed to being a collective responsibility which society as a whole should shoulder?

Whatever your answer to this question, you may be surprised at the level of fees which are now being proposed by the Government.

As the Minister stated when launching the Consultation:

We have previously consulted on plans to raise fees for proceedings in the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in order to recover around 25% of the £84 million annual costs of that Chamber. Having re-assessed MOJ’s financial position following the Spending Review, we need to go much further.

The new consultation proposes increasing fees in those immigration and asylum proceedings where a fee is payable so that the fee meets the costs of those proceedings in full. (Emphasis added.)

The consequence of this policy is that it is proposed:

  1. To increase fees in the First-tier Tribunal from £80 to £490 for an application for a decision on the papers;
  2. To increase fees in the First-tier Tribunal from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing.
  3. To introduce a new fee of £455 for an application to the First-tier Tribunal for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal.

The Government argues that the same principles should apply to appeals to the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) so the consultation also seeks views on introducing fees, set at full cost recovery levels, for these proceedings.

The consultation proposes:

  1. 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;
  2. a fee of £510 for an appeal hearing where permission is granted.

The Government concedes that some applicants will face difficulties in paying these fees, so to make sure that the burden of funding the system is shared as fairly as possible it will continue to exempt from fees those in particularly vulnerable positions. This includes those who qualify for legal aid or asylum support; those who are appealing against a decision to deprive them of their citizenship; and those children bringing appeals to the tribunal who are being supported by a local authority. The Government will also extend our exemptions to protect children being housed by the local authority and the parents of children receiving local authority support. In addition, it is consulting on further extensions to the exemptions scheme in this consultation to make sure the most vulnerable are protected.

The Government claims that these proposals will raise around an additional £37 million a year.

There are at least two fundamental questions that these proposals raise.

First, as mentioned above, is the policy of full cost recovery the right one, particularly where it is decisions of the state that are being challenged. The now defunct Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council sought to establish some principles in relation the question of who should bear these cost – which included the principle that, at least to a degree the Government department that made a decision which was overturned should pay part of the cost of the appeal.

Second, the whole of the Consultation Paper is based on assumption that the introduction of these fees will have no significant impact on the numbers of cases going through the tribunal system. If, however, the impact is similar to what has happened in employment cases, there will be a significant fall in appeal numbers, which no doubt the Government would like to see but which will prevent the Ministry of Justice achieving is financial targets.

Details of the government’s proposals are set out in the consultation can be found at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/first-tier-tribunal-and-upper-tribunal-fees.

The consultation runs until 3 June 2016.

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Written by lwtmp

May 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm

One Response

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