Steep rise in court fees confirmed
Court fees are set to increase again in order to plug a £1 billion funding gap in the justice system, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed.
In a written statement, Justice Minister Shailesh Vara confirmed that fees will increase by ten per cent across a range of civil proceedings, including enforcement proceedings, determination of costs proceedings and civil business in magistrates’ courts, after a period of consultation last year.
Fees will also be introduced in the general regulatory chamber and tax chamber of the first-tier tribunal, and in the upper tribunal tax and Chancery chamber. Litigants will also be charged £100 to issue proceedings in the property chamber and £200 for a hearing.
However, the Government has back-tracked on its commitment to increase the fee cap to £20,000 and will instead keep the maximum fee cap for money claims at the £10,000 figure introduced in March last year.
Mr Vara said that courts and tribunals in England and Wales cost £1.7 billion in 2014/15, but the Government recovered only £700 million in income and that this growing funding gap needed to be closed.
He added: “Fees are never popular, but they are necessary if we are to reduce the burden of the courts and tribunals on the taxpayer.
“We have sought to protect the vulnerable at every stage. We have listened very carefully to concerns raised during the consultation and modified our proposals accordingly.”
In response, Law Society President Jonathan Smithers said: “The court service must not be treated as a profit centre, used to subsidise other public services. It is wrong to push through increases in court fees on top of those introduced in March 2015 when there has been no assessment of their effect.
“High court fees contribute to the development of a two tier justice system; they discourage people from bringing legitimate cases and make it harder for some people to get access to justice. Further increases will disproportionately affect people on lower incomes and some disabled people.”
Last year’s changes to court fees have already had a significant effect on some firms’ turnover and these proposed changes are likely to reduce profit margins and dissuade individuals from pursuing a case through the courts.