Court privatisation? Go the whole hog and arbitrate

Court privatisation? Go the whole hog and arbitrate

I was recently motivated to take up cudgels in defence of arbitration in the worthy pages of the Law Society’s Gazette. What I said in that letter and why I wrote it are not particularly relevant to this blog piece, rather, it is the response which I received from one legal commentator, when I referred to the letter on LinkedIn, which I want to mention. The point made? ‘Arbitration is privatisation of justice’.

The individual’s reply pre-dated the media revelation that the government is contemplating privatisation of the courts. Oh, the irony and timing of it all...

Access to justice

As we know, the cuts to public funding in April 2013 are estimated to have deprived 600,000 people from getting state-funded legal advice and representation. Some 200,000 no longer qualify for such help with divorce, separation, related financial matters or child contact and residence disputes.

The recent YouGov Sixth Sense report, Family Law and Divorce, found that 24% of its sample had used legal aid to fund some or all of their divorce proceedings. The report notes that this option has now gone for all except a limited number of cases.


Not content with dismantling the legal aid system, the government is now reportedly contemplating privatisation of the courts. The supposed leak to the media indicates that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is considering selling off court buildings and transferring 20,000 court staff to a private company. Presumably any private company could then charge larger fees and attract investors, making justice more inaccessible for the less well off?

Of course, an MoJ spokesperson has said, “The proposals being considered are not the wholesale privatisation of the courts service”. They would say that, wouldn’t they?

Whatever the MoJ really has planned ma

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About the author:
Tony Roe is a solicitor and family law arbitrator at Tony Roe Solicitors, Berkshire