Jun 28, 2016

MP Report Attacks MoJ On Court Fee Increases

We have reported previously on the hikes in civil court fees which came into force last year see various articles such as:

Court fees set to increase again?
UK Government to put brake on plans for further court fee increase
Court  fees increase to take effect on Monday 9 February 2015
Costs of bringing a claim to increase - a further update
Cost of bringing a claim to increase - update

On 20 June the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said that it will consider the findings of a critical report produced by MP's on court charges across the entire court system including employment tribunals.  Briefly the report (entitled "Report: Courts and tribunals fees" see here) by a cross-party group, the House of Commons Justice Committee, concludes that in respect of the fee increases:

The research basis was insufficient to justify the MoJ's fee proposals.
Ministers should publish a review of employment tribunal fees immediately.
The MoJ should rescind the increase in the divorce petition fee to £550.
The £10,000 fee cap for money claims should not be changed unless the government has made a full impact review.
Doubling of fees in the immigration and asylum chamber has caused 'considerable concern and could deny vulnerable people justice.

The increase in court fees was introduced to cover the costs of the operation of the court system.  Courts and tribunals cost £1.8bn in 2014/15 and generated £700m in income.  The government says that this is unsustainable.  However, the Committee concluded that the introduction of fees set to recover or exceed the cost of operation of the court system requires '...particular care and strong justification.'

Much of the report focused on the need for changes to the remission system, which reduces fees for those who can show they are in financial need.  With regard to employment tribunal fees in particular, the report called for the income threshold to qualify for fee remissions to be increased.

The MoJ said it intends to publish a review of employment tribunal fees – due out more than six months ago – 'in due course', but on the subject of remissions it added: 'We've made sure that the most vulnerable and those who cannot afford to pay won't have to.'

Responding immediately to the report the MoJ insisted that the most vulnerable are still protected. A spokesman for the MoJ said:

"The cost of our courts and tribunal system to the taxpayer is unsustainably high, and it is only right that those who use the system pay more to relieve this burden."

"Every pound we collect from fee increases will be spent on providing a leaner and more effective system of courts and tribunals."

A full response to the committee's report is likely to be released by the MoJ in September.


in: Civil Procedure, Legal News, News

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