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Court fee changes under fire

The government has decided not to increase fees for divorce applications but is going ahead with higher charges for civil court proceedings to recover money owed.

The Ministry of Justice, which published its response to a consultation on proposed reforms to court fees on 16 January, had proposed increasing the divorce application fee from £410 to £750. It said: “Respondents to the consultation were particularly concerned about raising the fee for a divorce. We have listened to those concerns and we have decided not to pursue this measure for the time being.”

However, it will increase the fee issue to proceedings for the recovery of money to five per cent of the value of the claim for all claims over £10,000, adding: “The fees for claims of less than £10,000, which represent over 90 per cent of all money claims, are unaffected by these proposals and will remain at their current levels.”

The maximum fee to issue proceedings will be £10,000, the fee payable to issue a claim for £200,000.

The consultation had also put forward proposals for higher fees in commercial proceedings but the government has decided against implementing these.

The Civil Justice Council, an advisory body that oversees and is responsible for modernisation of the civil justice system, said that it was “extremely concerned” by a fee based on five per cent of the value of a claim.

It warned that this could effectively price many people out of the courts, adding that it could have a “disproportionately adverse effect on some groups e.g. small and medium enterprises, low income individuals and thereby undermining equality before the law.”

The move was also criticised by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, which said that the fee for a claim of £200,000 for a serious injury would increase by 560 per cent.

Association president John Spencer said: “This move is bound to discourage people from making valid claims – people who have every right to make them.

“This new regime will dictate that some seriously injured people will be expected to pay £10,000 up front to bring their cases to court, and many simply won’t be able to afford it.”