22 January 2015
The government has announced that court fees will be increased.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid, Mr Shailesh Vara said; “I have decided to introduce a fee to commence proceedings for the recovery of money of 5% of the value of the claim on claims for more than £10,000, subject to a maximum fee capped at £10,000”. This constitutes an increase of up to 600%.
Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, expressed his “deep concerns”, on behalf of the statutory judicial consultees. He points out that; “Increases on this scale will have a detrimental impact on a number of court users, affecting individuals and businesses alike. There is likely to be a disproportionately adverse impact on small and medium enterprises and litigants in person. It needs to be borne in mind that while the court fee normally represents a relatively small proportion of total litigation costs it has to be paid up front and in full; whereas for individuals and smaller businesses the funding of cases is often after the event, post‐judgment”. His letter can be read in full here.
The civil justice council supported the criticisms. They also expressed concern at the methodology used, saying; “It is a matter of grave concern that the ministry is contemplating such a significant reform, and one that carries with it potentially far-reaching and damaging consequences for access to justice, on such a poor evidence-base. To take a vitally important example, the draft explanatory memorandum makes clear that there is no knowledge of what the impact of this proposal will be on SMEs as a key sector of the court-user community and the wider economy.”