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Background Info

I am someone who believes in self-litigation.  I believe that in cases which are not complex and do not require a solicitor or an advocate that I should be allowed to self-litigate through the courts.

However, I am prevented from doing so due to hearings fees.  I do not qualify for fee exemption in Scotland as PIP is not one of the qualifying benefits.  It is, however, a qualifying benefit in England and Wales.

In Scotland, there is no low-income test for those who aren't on any benefits, unlike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This needs to change as an important part of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights is for a person to have access to justice.  This includes the right to self-litigate. 

Whilst fee exemption is available for those in receipt of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit, for those on disability benefits like PIP or on a low income, it is not.  This means that our human rights are at risk.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service stated in their response to Fiona Hyslop MSP’s letter that it is the Scottish Government who determines court fees and not the court service. The response also stated that a review of court of session fees was underway.  However, this review did not include sheriff court fees. 

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice also responded to Fiona Hyslop MSP’s letter, stating that court fees had an important role to play in paying for our justice system. However, his response didn't address the issue of those who cannot afford to pay court fees, including those in receipt of PIP. 

I want the committee to examine the Sheriff Court Fees Order 2018.  I would like the Committee to ask the Faculty of Advocates to consider whether the current fee exemption rules within the Sheriff Court Fees Order 2018 comply with Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  I would also like the committee to look at the court systems for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to see if fee exemption processes can be improved in Scotland.

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