Despite ongoing tensions from the profession over legal aid cuts and court reforms, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) continues to push its cost cutting agenda having yesterday (22 July) confirmed a fresh consultation on further court fee increases just months after raising certain civil court fees by 660%.
Announced by justice minister Shailesh Vara, the proposals tabled include introducing or increasing fees for tribunals, including the property, tax and general regulatory chambers; a general 10% rise to a wide range of fees in civil proceedings including for divorce and possession claims; plus an increase in the maximum fee for money claims from £10,000 to at least £20,000, which will affect claims worth £200,000 or more.
The first set of controversial changes was approved in a delegated legislation committee at the House of Commons in February, and took effect in April. At the lower end of the scale, a £15,000 claim which charged £610 in fees went up by 23% to £750, while at the higher end a £500,000 claim with a fee of £1,920 rose 421% to £10,000. The changes led to the Law Society announcing it was challenging the government’s decision, and represented by Kingsley Napley, issuing a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review and stating the move was akin to ‘selling justice.’
The latest proposals put forward in the consultation, which closes on 15 September, are expected to generate an additional £108m in income.
Research recently undertaken by the MoJ showed that 61% of respondents believe the proposals will have a negative impact on the UK’s competitiveness in commercial disputes, according to RPC.
In response to the latest proposals, Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: ‘The government introduced dramatic hikes to court fees just months ago. These latest proposals will increase fees by up to 1,320 per cent for some cases. They will deny individuals and small businesses access to justice, crippling them when trying to recover monies owed to them.’
‘All civil cases, from those filing for divorce to landlords needing their property back are affected by these latest punitive increases which are tantamount to selling justice like a commodity, leaving it out of reach for many ordinary people. This will only serve to widen the access to justice gap in our two tier justice system.’
For more on court fee reforms see: So much for the rule of law – court fees and undermining the City