Mar 4, 2015

Court Fees Increase - To Take Effect on Monday 9 March

We have previously reported on the proposed increase in court fees and the opposition to the increase in such fees from various parties including The Forum of Insurance Lawyers, a collection of bodies and senior members of the legal profession and the Law Society.

Barring Parliamentary intervention which is considered unlikely the 5% levy on all claims over £10,000, up to and including claims valued at £200,000, will go ahead.  It has already been approved at the delegated legislation committee stage in the House of Commons with further debate to be held in the Lords this week.  Subject to clearing that Parliamentary hurdle the increased fees will come into force on 9 March.

Many legal professional bodies and judges have condemned the changes as being a threat to access to justice. In an effort to highlight the threat the increase fee pose the Law Society collected case studies from solicitors showing the impact the fees could have on ordinary people seeking justice. One such case concerned a pensioner who wanted to bring a claim against a financial adviser for the loss of the whole of his pension fund.  The fee begin court proceedings in this case will increase from £910 to £5,000.

In another case a young girl with brain damage due to a failure by doctors to diagnose meningitis as a young child will require £10,000 in court fees before any attempt to secure a financial settlement had been made.

Implementation of the proposals may accelerate plans for a judicial review to challenge the increase and may also see lawyers scramble this week to submit claims before the levy comes into force.

The Law Society issued a pre-action protocol letter last week as the first step to obtaining a judicial review of the increases. The letter has been signed by the Bar Council, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Commercial Bar Association, Action Against Medical Accidents and representatives of claimant and defendant lawyers.

Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: "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."

He went on to state that, "...the increases may leave small and medium-sized businesses saddled with debts they are due but unable to afford to recover."

The purpose of the fee increases is to help raise £120m a year to enable the government cover the cost of funding the court service in England and Wales.

In contrast to the claims of the various legal bodies and senior memebrs of the legal profession that access to justice will be significantly impaired, Justice minister Shailesh Vara told the House of Commons last week that it was 'reasonable' to suggest the fees will not have significant negative effect and that there was little risk they would reduce demand or damage legal services.

in: Civil Procedure, Companies, Consumer Law, Legal News, News

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