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Court Fees for Civil Actions Rocket
Lawyers at full service law firm JMW Solicitors LLP are warning that a last minute dramatic increase in court fees will create a ‘barrier to justice’.
The increase, which comes into effect from Monday, is applicable to claims to recover a sum of money and will affect the amount payable to the court to commence proceedings. This means that the maximum court fee for claims lodged at either County or High Court will rocket from £1920 to £10,000, an increase of 421%, and some fees are increasing by over 620%.
There are signs to suggest that some courts on the Northern Circuit have actually stopped claims from being issued over the last couple of days ensuring the higher fees (introduced on Monday) will apply to the claim even through it was submitted before the change was legally applied.
The Government argue that the increase in fees is required to make up for a short fall in the Court Service and ensure that courts are adequately resourced without costing the Taxpayer further.
Commenting on the increases, Eddie Jones, Partner and Head of Clinical Negligence at JMW said:
“In terms of most of the clinical negligence cases we deal with, it will in the end, be the NHS that bears the brunt of these increased court fees. The government is moving funds from one public body to another by generating revenue for the Ministry of Justice but taking money out of the NHS. These changes mean that, for certain people, the government are disregarding their entitlement to justice.”
Lawyers at JMW argue that the increase in court fees is basically a tax on people seeking justice and is restricting access to the courts. Anyone successful in their claim would be able to recover the High Court fees. However, many people will be left without thousands of pounds in the time before their case is heard which, depending on the case, can take up to a few years. The change will significantly affect small businesses as taking a claim to court will now involve significant upfront investment.
Commenting on the changes, Andrew Farrell, Partner and Head of Commercial Litigation at JMW said:
“SMEs that have been weakened financially by the actions of others need to be able to call upon the courts to assist them in obtaining redress. This dramatic increase in court fees will have the effect of turning the screw on them – the greater the loss, the greater the distress to the business, the higher the fee, the lower their ability to afford to issue a claim. It is a Catch 22 and some unscrupulous businesses will seek to exploit it.
We will undoubtedly see an increase in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures being adopted instead of court proceedings. In principle, ADR is to be encouraged but a belief by one party that the other simply does not have the funds to commence a claim at court is likely to create an inequality of bargaining position, leading to a worse outcome for the wronged party.”
Individuals who need the protection of the courts from those who have infringed important personal rights may find that they can no longer have that protection or are unable to obtain adequate compensation.
Litigation in personal injury or mesothelioma cases will also be affected by this massive court fee increase.
Richard Powell, Partner and Joint Head of Personal Injury at JMW said:
“Law firms like us may pay the increased court fees on behalf of our clients but what may have once cost our business a few hundred pounds in court fees will be more like £10,000, depending on the serious of the cases we have to issue on. This means we may need to look at the viability of more cases to make sure they are commercially feasible for us. In the future ATE insurers are bound to consider if they also need to increase their fees and this could mean that people who use litigation to maintain their quality of life may find it harder to get insurers to cover their court fees upfront. We feel that no one should be prevented from bringing a sensible case to court just because of a lack of funds or a desire from the MoJ to see the court system become self-sustaining.”
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Note to Editors
JMW Solicitors LLP is one of the leading Manchester law firms and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients. We are committed to providing legal services in a cost effective and timely manner.