Court fee increase imminent as levy clears parliament

Topics: Costs, fees and funding,Government & politics

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Court fees will increase from next week after the House of Lords last night rubber-stamped the planned levy.

A 5% charge will be added to all civil claims valued at more than £10,000, with fees capped at £10,000. According to the statutory instrument, the order comes into force on the following Monday after it is made.

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The government says the levy will bring in £120m a year to fund the court service and that the majority of current cases will not be affected.

Speaking during a debate in the House of Lords to approve the statutory instrument initiating the change, justice minister Lord Faulks maintained the principal reason for the fees was financial and to ensure the courts are properly funded.

‘There is only so much that can be done through cost-efficiency measures alone. In the current climate, we must also look to those who use the courts to contribute more towards the running of the courts, where they can afford to do so.’

But the fees brought criticism from a number of peers who spoke during the debate, which lasted until past 10pm.

Cross-bencher Lord Pannick, who tried unsuccessfully to introduce a 'regret' motion, said the hope now lies with a potential legal challenge to the fees. The Law Society, joined by a number of legal representative groups, has set in motion a judicial review bid to oppose the legality of the fees change.

Pannick said his ‘regret’ and ‘astonishment’ at the government’s action was only mitigated by ‘my optimism that the courts will inevitably add this order to the long list of Mr Grayling’s regulations which have been declared unlawful in the past three years.’

He added: ‘Funds are needed to pay for the court system, but there is no point in having a civil court system if ordinary people are to be charged an entry fee which they cannot afford to bring basic claims for breach of contract and personal injuries.

‘For many people - those suing for debts or to recover compensation for personal injury - litigation is often a necessity to keep your business alive or to maintain any quality of life. The minister is absolutely right that there are already many impediments to access to justice. That is surely no justification - no excuse - for the state to erect further high barriers.’

Section 180 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides the lord chancellor with a power to prescribe fees above cost. A consultation was started in December 2013 and the proposed fees unveiled earlier this year. 

The Ministry of Justice has told the Gazette the courts will be prepared for next week’s new fees.

‘Changes have been made to HM Court and Tribunals Services computer systems and relevant public facing leaflets in readiness of Monday’s launch,’ said a spokesman. ‘We have also briefed court staff on the new fees.’

Readers' comments (23)

  • so...Their Lordships passed this....who would have thunk it ??

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  • Obviously the Court needs fees to be able to operate but they must have been making quite substantial losses if they have to increase their fees by such a substantial amount.

    It must be comforting to know that if your margins aren't looking so healthy, all you have to do is hike up your fees...simple. Well there's a business lesson for all of us. Actually no, ignore that - in all businesses in any sector, that tends to be frowned upon by customers/consumers and will generally result in them going elsewhere. Good job the particular service in question has a monopoly.

    Good luck with the Judicial Review (famous last words) !

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  • But, Guy, they will go elsewhere. The court does not have a monopoly on fisticuffs, protection rackets, or other unscrupulous debt collectors.

    And the real lesson is that there is no need to repay your debts any more, at least not to the small private businessman, as he will not be able to afford to sue you. Solicitors spring immediately to mind. (And the cost of losing will be astronomical.)

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  • So its justifiable to increase Court Fees and reduce Solicitors legal fees.

    Wasn't the Northampton Bulk Issuing Centre created to keep costs to a minimum, which in turn could be passed on to the public?

    Law Gazette = Daily Doom and Gloom

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  • And so much for:

    "TO NONE SHALL WE SELL JUSTICE"

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  • Grayling.
    It is impossible to rationalise this buffoon's actions with the application of common sense. He is a complete Neanderthal.
    This man continues to wreak havoc in a once highly regarded legal system, and will not stop until he is plucked from the position that he does not understand, and ought never to have occupied.

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  • Anybody know if the fee for Part 8 claims is going up?

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  • Lovely, now lead by example please. Each Lord should pay 5% of his / her total income to fund the House of Lords - that has my vote.

    So, now can someone tell me please how a severely injured claimant, or screwed over company on the verge of going under can now afford to pay the court fee?

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  • So Lord Faulks thinks the Courts need to be properly funded. Why doesn't he put his own house in order first? Take the Civil Justice Centre in Manchester. Built as a PFI with, from memory, a 40 year lease. When it opened the rent was £10m a year at a time when Manchester County Court's turnover was £3m. The MOJ tried to improve the figures by closing down the great Salford County Court and moving them into Manchester. They then tried to do the same with Bury County Court but failed due to the public outcry over the fact that Bury had only just moved into a new building. Complete lunacy which has to be funded some way!

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  • Lord Faulks quote: "Anyone advising a claimant will probably need to satisfy that claimant that there is at the very least a better than even—probably a 75%—chance of success before they commence proceedings."
    So there you are, no one should issue unless they have a 75% chance of success. Justice?

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