The richest one percent of the population will own more than the rest of the world put together by 2016. This is the conclusion of the recent Oxfam report which is backed up by Credit Suisse and the World Economic Forum’s research. Perhaps more staggering is that the top 80 wealthiest individuals have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the world.
Inequality is nothing new. Politicians have planned to tackle this issue for centuries with Mr Obama’s State of the Union address being the most recent example. A two tier society has existed since feudal times and continued long after the decline of the Aristocracy. While the majority of the population face hard times and struggle to survive the present economic austerity, the rich get richer and inequality thrives. The demand for food banks has increased by 40% in the last few years and a growing number of pensioners struggle to heat their homes; yet the rich get richer.
Inequality in itself is bad enough. That fact that it creates a barrier to justice is unacceptable. As inequality increases access to justice must increase exponentially.
As the rich employer becomes wealthier and has access to more resources and more advice it becomes more difficult for the employee to assert his legal rights. The employee must have a means of accessing the advice necessary to combat the power inequality and achieve justice.
The recent court reforms have made accessing justice more difficult and will likely widen the social divide. The privative jurisdiction of Scotland’s highest civil court is set to be raised. This means that instead of ensuring that insurance companies pay fair compensation to injured individuals, Scotland’s top judges will be spending their time dealing with commercial matters and solving the disputes of the rich.
Meanwhile the poor are banished to lower courts where their access to representation is more limited and where there is more difficulty in recovering costs. Without the ability for solicitors to recover fair costs they can not represent their clients effectively. While the rich insurance companies can afford to pay for proper advice, individual clients require to rely on speculative agreements, legal aid, and fair costs recovery in order to even begin to access justice.
While the rich get richer the law must adapt to ensure inequality does not equate to injustice.