We have previously reported on the Government's plans to increase the cost of bringing a claim in the English Courts. Now, in the 800th anniversary year of the signing of the Magna Carta, the Law Society and other such legal bodies such as The Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), are challenging the Government's decision with regard to the planned increase of the costs of bringing a claim by issuing a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review. This letter claims that the increases are contrary to the principles of the Magna Carta and are tantamount to "selling justice".
What is a Pre-Action Protocol for Judicial Review?
A judicial review is a process by which parties with sufficient interest in the decision or action of a public can refer the matter to a judge to review whether the decision or action are indeed lawful.
The pre-action protocol for judicial review is therefore a means by which the process of judicial review is initiated. It is essentially a compilation of codes of conduct and good practice which a party must adhere to before initiating a claim for judicial review. It requires both sides to exchange information in the interim stage and encourages the exploration of alternative dispute resolution. It also requires the Claimant, in this case the Law Society and associated signatories, to identify and bring to the Government's attention the issues in dispute.
A summary of the grounds of the Law Society's challenge is displayed here and includes, importantly, challenges that the Government does not have the power to raise fees for the purposes to make departmental savings and that the Government is proceedings without evidence to justify the increases.
The Law Society has now requested that the Government provide information on the value it intends to raise though the increased fees, due to come into force in April 2015, and its plans for use of the additional income.
The Law Society President, Andrew Caplen, has described the planned hike in the costs of bringing a claim as "...a flat tax on those seeking justice. The government's hikes…will price the public out of the courts and leave small businesses saddled with debts they are due but unable to afford to recover."in: Legal News, News