The STUC has launched its Access to Justice campaign in a bid to stop its members being priced out of the justice system.
The organisation has lodged a petition at the Scottish Parliament calling on the Government to ensure access to justice for all by abandoning plans to make those who use the courts pay 100% of their running costs.
The petition also calls on MSPs to rescind various orders which mean that 70% of court costs are already met by those seeking justice and only 30% is met by the state.
Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC said: “We believe that our members and the general public will be horrified to learn that the government only funds 30% of the costs of running our civil courts, and they want to opt out of that.
He added: “The central point of STUC’s Access to Justice campaign is that the ability to be heard in court is a fundamental human right, which will become less available if increasingly subject to cost considerations.
“We believe there is real danger of access to justice will be available only to the rich and powerful because those on low income simply can’t afford the risk of being hit by huge legal bills if they go to court.”
“One of our major concerns is that there has never been a debate in the Scottish Parliament over whether it is justifiable to charge for the right to be heard in court. The initial decision to begin charges was never taken through introducing primary legislation.”
He said that swingeing court costs could put a whole range of civil actions out of reach of STUC members including; seeking redress for medical malpractice, seeking the custody of a child, fighting attempts to repossess their homes suing for compensation after a workplace accident through an employer’s negligence.
He added: “The ultimate irony is that the state, quite rightly continues to fully fund the criminal justice system, but it wants to opt out of paying for our civil courts.
“So if a drunk driver kills someone’s partner, the state will pay the full cost of running the courts that deal with the accused, but if the victim’s family seek redress for the loss of a breadwinner, they run the risk of huge court bills.”
“That cannot be right.”