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8 April 2014 / legal-blog
A blog article by Jonathan White
The Government confirmed this week that its latest cost-cutting initiative is an increase in court fees. In an attempt to reduce public spending, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will introduce a series of changes from 22 April. Fees for compensation claims between £5,000 and £10,000 will increase by 81% to £445, with an additional £200 fee for all claims up to those in excess of £300,000. A standard fee of £280 will be introduced for all civil cases which are not about claims for money and permission to apply for judicial review will be increased from £60 to £135. The only real relief comes for local authorities, which will see a reduction in the fee required to take a child into care.
The Government has made a number of arguments for these increases. Courts minister Shailesh Vara said resourcing of courts is of high importance but should not be subsidised by taxpayers’ money. With the Government’s spending deficit still looming large, Vara argued that courts must be targeted as part of the changes needed to bring public spending down.
The introduction of such fees has already prompted criticism from many who fear that they will act as a barrier to justice, making it harder for ordinary people to seek the fair resolution that they deserve. Both the Law Society and the Civil Justice Council (CJC), amongst other organisations, warned against such increases during a period of consultation earlier in the year. It seems, however, that their warnings have fallen on deaf ears. The CJC’s description of such increases as “wholly excessive” seems particularly apt.
With the fee for issuing a Personal Injury (PI) case now nearly as much as the MoJ believes lawyers should be paid for running them, it appears the Government has lost touch with reality. These increased court fees follow a similar pattern to those introduced to employment tribunal cases last year. Just as employees were priced out of bringing claims against their employers, the fees announced this week could seriously affect the ability of individuals to take legal action. Once again we see those in need priced out of access to justice and instead faced with the Government’s smokescreen, which appears to be solely focused on cutting costs.
In contrast to the Government’s proposals, the Civil Justice Council has suggested that “price increases should be proportionate and set within a logical framework, explained and consistently applied”. The CJC has warned that such high court fees may just act as the tipping point for action not being brought.
The ever-increasing price of our legal system has meant that it is almost impossible for injured people of modest means to bring claims if they are not supported by organisations such as National Accident Helpline and our panel firms. We believe that everyone has the right to access justice and claiming should be as simple as possible. As organisations such as ourselves and the Law Society continue to push back on such changes, it is imperative that the Government addresses these concerns.
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