Information

Scottish court fees 2022 to 2025: equality impact assessment

Equality impact assessment (EQIA) relating to 6 Scottish Statutory Instruments (SSIs) providing for fees in the Scottish civil courts and the Office of the Public Guardian in the years 2022 to 2025.


Stage 2: Data and evidence gathering, involvement and consultation

Characteristic

Evidence gathered and strength/quality of evidence

Source

Gaps identified and action taken

Age

Neither the Scottish Government nor the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) collect specific information about the age profile of people who make use of the civil courts.

However, results from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey and the Scottish Civil Justice Statistics 2020-2021 indicate that 28% of adults said that they had experienced at least one civil law problem in the last three years for which data is available. Just under two-in-five (39%) had resolved the problem, while just over a third (34%) were still trying to resolve the problem. 17% had tried to resolve the problem but had to give up and 9% were not planning to do anything.

Those aged 60 and over were less likely than the other age categories to have experienced civil law problems (17%, compared to 34% of both 16-24 year olds and 25-44 year olds and 32% of 45-59 year olds).

The report 'Is Scotland Fairer' 2018 reported that "some groups – including children, disabled people and ethnic minorities – were significantly more likely to live in relative poverty AHC [after housing costs] than others. 'Relative poverty' was defined as "households who are living on less than 60% of the median income for Scotland, after housing costs". Generally, those in these groups will find it harder to meet the cost of court fees than those in other groups. Some of those in the 'disabled' category will be disabled owing to age (see next section on disability).

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2019/20 (section 8.4) is the main section relating to civil law in the main findings report).[9]

Scottish Civil Justice Statistics 2021-22 (section 3.1).[10]

Is Scotland Fairer? 2018 produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission[11]

Persons of any age can be affected by civil law issues and people of all ages benefit either directly or indirectly from efficient and fair access to the civil courts.

No specific gaps have been identified.

The Scottish Government is aware of the problem of 'relative poverty'. It has increased the gross annual income threshold at which those on benefits have to start paying fees from £18,000 to £20,592. This is in line with the Living Wage in Scotland.

Disability

The Scottish Household Survey 2014 shows that just over one-fifth (22%) of households in Scotland contain at least one person with a physical or mental health condition or illness lasting or expected to last 12 months or more. This figure covers all members of the household including children. As would be expected, households comprised of older people are more likely to contain someone with a long-term condition compared to other types of households.

The Scottish Government does not hold information on the proportion of people involved in civil litigation who have disabilities. The Scottish Court and Tribunals Service (SCTS) Court User Satisfaction Survey 201910, indicated that only 2% of court users self-reported as having a long-term illness or disability. However, prevalence of civil legal problems and disputes is higher for disabled people at 30% as opposed to 21% in the general population. In addition, only 39% of disabled people had solved their most important/only problem whereas 52% without a disability had succeeded in resolving their most important/only problem.

The 'Is Scotland Fairer?' 2018 report stated: "Disabled people were more likely to live in poverty AHC compared with non-disabled people in 2015/16 (24.3% compared with 16.6%). Between 2010/11 and 2015/16, the percentage of disabled people living in poverty increased from 21.0%. Approximately 1 in 4 of those with mobility (21.5%); dexterity (22.2%); memory (25.0%); or learning, understanding or concentration (28.0%) impairments were likely to be living in poverty. The proportion of people with mental health conditions living in poverty (37.6%) was double that for non-disabled people (16.6%)" 'Relative poverty' was defined as households who are living on less than 60% of the median income for Scotland, after housing costs.

Scottish Household Survey 2016.[12]

The Scottish Court and Tribunals Service Court User Satisfaction Survey 2019.[13]

Is Scotland Fairer? 2018 produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In 2012, the Welfare Reform Act and the Welfare Reform (Further Provision) (Scotland) Act 2012 gave the Scottish Ministers powers to manage some of the changes arising out of the UK Government's legislative changes, such as preserving Scots' entitlements to "passported benefits" such as legal aid and court fee exemptions.

UK benefits are widely used in Scotland to inform decisions about exemptions from court fees and to passport people onto eligibility for legal aid. For example, if a person is in receipt of income support then they are automatically eligible to be exempt from paying court fees.

Universal Credit - a key feature of the UK Government's welfare reform - abolishes all the UK benefits previously used to passport people onto other Scottish benefits.

Scottish Ministers recognise the importance of entitlements for those receiving benefits such as court fee exemptions and have maintained similar access to them under the new arrangements. It is not our policy to restrict access by narrowing the eligibility criteria.

Many local services in Scotland including both Court Fee exemptions and legal aid are affected by the changes to "passporting" benefits and the Scottish Government is considering its options in the longer term for determining eligibility for help and support.

The Scottish Government has added an exemption for those in receipt of the personal independence payment (PIP) who have a gross income of £20,592 p.a. or less. This is in line with the Living Wage.

More generally, it has increased the gross annual income threshold at which those on benefits have to start paying fees from £18,000 to £20,592. This is in line with the Living Wage in Scotland. This will assist some of the disabled who are not in receipt of PIP who are in receipt of other benefits and are 'relative poverty'.

Sex

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey indicates that 21% of males and 21% of females had experienced at least one civil law problem in the last three years.

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2019/20

The statistics relating to the sex of those experiencing a civil law problem suggest that gender is not an issue although there is some evidence that divorce fees are borne more often by women. One respondent to the consultation did point out, 'The fact that women are disproportionately poor, that they are disproportionately likely to be experiencing domestic abuse and its sequelae of homelessness and poverty, that 96% of the single-parent families on benefit are headed by women and a myriad of other aspects of women's reality means that even if the numbers are equal, the impact is highly unlikely to be so.' Another respondent highlighted the hypothetical situation of someone just above the legal aid disposable income threshold who would face significant fees in a case involving a hearing in the Court of Session. These points acknowledged, if women are disproportionately in poverty then they would also be expected to be disproportionately benefited by the system of exemptions that seek to support those on lower income. Further in relation to legal aid, the criteria should be noted, For income, the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) look at the gross income received by the applicant and a spouse or partner and deduct major outgoings such as tax, national insurance and mortgage repayments as well as allowances for dependents. Applicants are provided with a breakdown of items that have been taken into consideration. If disposable income is less than £3,521 legal aid is granted with no contribution from income. If between £3,522 and £26,239 then legal aid is granted with a contribution from income.

Capital takes into consideration savings, investments or equity in property owned by applicant and/or their partner, the house you live in is exempt. If the disposable capital is less than £7,853 there is no contribution, if between £7,854 and £13,017 legal aid is granted subject to the excess of £7853 being paid as a contribution.

It is therefore the case that people earning significantly in excess of average earnings would be eligible for legal aid and therefore exempt from court fees.

Gender reassignment

The Scottish Government does not hold this information in relation to the proposals.

 

Although there is no information available on either of these categories, all types of person can be affected by problems which would require resolution in the courts.

Sexual orientation

The Scottish Government does not hold this information in relation to the proposals.

 

Race

Respondents to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service 2019 Court User Satisfaction Survey identified their ethnicity as below:

The report "Is Scotland Fairer" produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2015 stated that "some groups – including children, disabled people and ethnic minorities – were significantly more likely to live in relative poverty AHC [after housing costs] than others. 'Relative poverty' was defined as "households who are living on less than 60% of the median income for Scotland, after housing costs".

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service 2019 Court User Satisfaction Survey.

"Is Scotland Fairer" 2015 report.[14]

Persons of any race or ethnicity can be affected by civil law issues and, similarly, benefit either directly or indirectly from efficient and fair access to the civil courts.

Ethnicity of Respondents Number %
Do not wish to say 11 1
White
Scottish 2096 84
Other British 184 7
Irish 29 1
Gypsy/Traveller 1 <1
Polish 41 2
Any other white ethnic group 42 2
Mixed or Multiple Ethnic Groups
Any mixed or multiple ethnic groups 5 <1
Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British
Pakistani, Pakistani Scottish or Pakistani British 12 <1
Indian, Indian British 8 <1
Bangladeshi, Bangladeshi British - -
Chinese, Chinese British 2 <1
Other 1 <1
African
African, African British 11 <1
Other 1 <1
Caribbean or Black
Caribbean, Caribbean Scottish or Caribbean British 2 <1
Black, Black British 2 <1
Other - -
Other Ethnic Group
Arab, Arab British 4 <1
Other - -
Not specified 31 1
Total 2483 100

Characteristic

Evidence gathered and strength/quality of evidence

Source

Gaps identified and action taken

Religion or belief

The Scottish Government is not aware of any specific information on the faith or religious belief of users in relation to the proposals.

 

Although there is no information available on this category, all types of person can be affected by problems which would require resolution in the courts.

Contact

Email: michael.green@gov.scot

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