Court Fee Increase
Court Fee Increase – again! Yet, this time, there is a substantial increase where the claim issue fee will be 5% of the value of all claims worth £10,000 or more. Perhaps of limited comfort is the 10% reduction on fees for claims issues on-line.
The court fee increase is intended to save an additional £120 million per year which the Government claim will keep the Court Service properly refunded. The Law Society and several other professional legal bodies believe that such an increase will restrict access to justice and will have a significant impact on both individuals and small businesses. For example, for clinical negligence or personal injury of £200,000, an upfront payment of £10,000 will be required to commence proceedings compared to the current £1,515 sum. The Law Society believes that this means legitimate claims will not be as readily pursued as court fees will be unaffordable.
The Government claims that 90% of claims will not be affected by the court fee increase because only a small minority of claims exceed £10,000. They also note that, for those paying legal costs, this charge will only be a small proportion of their claim. For those who have to act as litigants in person, and since reform of legal aid these are an increasing number, this will be the substantial part of the costs necessary to proceed with a claim. Smaller law firms could also lose business as more individuals are likely act for themselves in an effort to keep other costs down to pursue a claim.
The government appears to be on a mission to turn the courts into a profit centre, amounting to a flat tax on those seeking justice. People whose lives have been turned upside down by life-changing injuries suffered through no fault of their own may no longer be able to afford to access the courts to seek compensation to fund their care
The remission scheme introduced in 2013, which allows either waiver or partial waiver of fees, will remain in place. For now, however, it will not be amended to reflect the court fee increases.
The President of the Law Society considers the new fee to be a “flat tax on those seeking justice” and the Law Society has raised its concerns regarding both the power of the Government to raise such fees and what they consider an inadequate consultation procedure. Together with other professional legal bodies including the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), the society has sent a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review to the Ministry of Justice and are awaiting their response. For more information regarding the Law Society’s campaign visit: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/press-releases/flat-tax-court-fees/