In yet a further attack on access to justice, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed that it is to press ahead with its proposals to implement a significant increase in court fees. In cases involving claims for more than £10,000 in value, the proposed court fee is to be based on 5% of the claim’s value (subject to a £10,000 cap).
The government’s aim is to reduce the deficit on the costs of the civil and family courts by increasing the fees payable by those using the civil courts.
The measures come in for widespread criticism from claimant and defendant representatives, the Civil Justice Council (CJC) and the Lord Chief Justice.
The CJC is extremely concerned about the proposal which would mean a huge increase in court fees, claiming that the effect of such a major increase will:
- act as an effective barrier to entry to the justice system through pricing many court users out of the courts and thereby reducing access to justice for many;
- make alternatives to the civil process a far more attractive proposition, thus undermining the very intention behind the court fee increase and thereby risking significantly reducing fee income, which is critical to funding the courts and the justice system, and
- have a disproportionately adverse effect on some groups, eg small and medium enterprises and low income individuals, thereby undermining equality before the law.
The Lord Chief Justice also issued a response to the consultation, sharing the concerns of the CJC.
The proposal is latest in a line of attacks on those who seek justice in this country and follows radical changes to the funding of personal injury claims and the removal of public funding for certain types of claim.
Only recently, lawyers, MPs and legal experts reacted with alarm to the government’s revised plans to change the rules on granting permission for Judicial Review (in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill).
We believe that access to justice and equality before the law should be a right for every person, not only for those who can afford it, principles enshrined in the Magna Carta 800 years ago.