Access to the Courts is something that is very important to me, important for a few reasons.
I decided to pursue a career in law after a kind hearted solicitor helped my parents out around 15-20 years ago. My mother and father came from a poor background, they didn’t have money, they worked hard to make a living, everything the did they did for me, they taught me the right values ( well i think they did anyway) and im very proud of my dear old mum and dad.
My family had lived in the same house since 1945, in around 1979 my dad decided to buy the house under the right to buy scheme. They paid their mortgage without fail, my dad worked 7 days a week to ensure there was a roof over our heads, to ensure food was on the table and the lights stayed on and the house stayed warm.
Around 1995 my dad was scammed, scammed by a mortgage broker, im not going to name names as that would be pointless, but the story is quite important in my view.
So, my dad was scammed, he was sold an endowment mortgage, the broker received money from my dad to get him the best deal, however the broker breached his duty to my parents and took a huge backhander, he sold them a turkey, the deal was so bad that Stevie Wonder could have seen it, at least he would of if he had been a lawyer.
However my dad trusted the broker, he was very old school, his word was his bond etc, so he agreed the deal and the mortgage was in place.
My parents fell into difficulty, the reasons aren’t important other than to say that it was a direct result of the mortgage deal that my parents were sold.
Now my parents weren’t wealthy, they couldn’t afford a solicitor even back then, they tried to get legal aid to get advice about their situation but couldn’t as they were told they weren’t eligible. So the mortgage company started repossession proceedings against my parents home.
Now they weren’t entitled to possession, they were acting unlawfully, but the problem was that without legal advice they were up against a formidable and well resourced opponent. My parents lost their home with nothing more than a click of your fingers.
But that’s not the end of the matter, because my dad took advice from the CAB and he challenged the repossession. My parents were represented at the hearing by a lawyer, whom i am indebted to and who i can honestly say was the reason i am in the legal profession now. The lawyer, who i only know as “Michael” represented my parents pro bono, he did so because he didn’t like injustice caused by this company, he didn’t like the idea of the big corporation being able to take peoples homes without being challenged.
This chap saved my parents home, he had the repossession overturned and the house was returned to my parents.But for the intervention of this guy, i probably would never made it into the legal profession. But more importantly, my parents would have lost their home unlawfully and would not have been able to challenge the company, a company so well resourced that it had a solicitor and counsel at the hearings while my parents had nothing but themselves.
So access to justice is important to me.
I represent people who have been wronged by banks and financial institutions, people who have been subjected to the most appalling treatment, people who for example have been subject to fraud by banks because certain staff have fraudulently ripped up the clients original loan, and instead fraudulently created a loan with PPI to ensure targets are hit. Then when the client couldn’t pay what they dint even borrow, the bank issued proceedings seeking to secure a charge against the property. This is just one such example.
But there are others, thousands of them, cases like Keith Harrison who the High Court ruled had been “tortured” by the number of calls from the Bank, i could list thousands of cases, cases where people like you or i have been treated contrary to the law by the banks and financial institutions and have faced legal proceedings from their lenders in circumstances where proceedings should never ever managed to get within 100 yards of a Court.
The problem for most people i represent is that they are already in debt, often through no fault of their own, some i do concede are the architects of their own downfall, but none the less, we are all equal before the law, aren’t we? well not now it seems!!!!! you see the banks have unlimited resources, they can treat their customers badly and they can pay the fines, they can fund any lawyers they want, whereas the consumer, he gets the raw deal, he gets treated badly by his bank, the bank then sues him, he cant get legal aid, he is already in debt most likely hence why hes being sued and therefore has no funds to pay lawyers fees, so you can see what will happen? little guy loses his home, unlawfully in some cases, because access to justice requires a large bank balance.
Fortunately we have been able to help many who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get support. The problem now however is that the Government is looking to increase Court fees again, the effect the last fee increase has had is quite devastating on consumers. I can say from personal experience that many of my clients who are defending claims are placed into difficulty because of these fees. The point i am making is that, often when a claim is issued by the Bank or Financial institution, the Claim will be based on a written contract, a contract which under CPR rule 31.14 the consumer will be entitled to inspect.
Upon requesting the right to inspect the document, the response is often either blanket ignorance to such a request or in the alternative the response is from the lawyers ” we don’t have it but we will ask our client for it”
Quite often, the documents mentioned in a claim are central to the ability to prepare a Defence to such a claim, so what options does the consumer have in such circumstances? he can either file a Defence saying in effect he’s “embarrassed” or denies everything which in itself may not be compliant with the CPR or the alternative he can make an application to the Court for an order compelling the Claimant to provide inspection of the documents so as to allow for a Defence to be prepared.
Its important to note that often the pleadings put forward by the banks are woeful, so there may be scope to apply to strike out the Claimants claim, however with either approach, the consumer is left having to find £155 for the Court fee. Most people in financial difficulty struggle to pay this fee, a cursory glance at the @LegalBeagles twitter feed shows that people who have good defend-able cases are being placed in difficulty due to the fees increases.
But now the government wants to increase the fees up to £255 as i understand it for an application and £100 for a consent order. For people who are in financial difficulty ( but not entitled to fee remissions) and being treated unlawfully by their banks or financial institutions they face the stark reality that they could lose their homes despite having a clearly defend-able case purely due to not being able to pay for an application for disclosure, or summary judgment or even to fund being able to settle a case via a consent order.
These fee increases must be opposed, there is simply no justification for stopping access to justice for those who need it most. The Courts are shambolic, but that isn’t justification for increasing fees either. What the Ministry of Justice needs to look at is cutting the waste in the system. Waste such as ……….a Court sending out an unless order, which had expired before it was even drawn. When the order was received it was immediately subject to objections, however due to non compliance the order was enforced against the consumer and their defence struck out. A further objection was made citing common sense and pointing out the order would never had been complied with as it was expired before it was drawn.
What did the Court do? charge £155 for an application and a further £50 as the opponent put forward the offer of a consent order to put right the Courts error. Surely it is this type of problem that the Courts need to address and not hiking up the Court fees which will leave people without access to justice???