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Hike In Court Fees, "Deep Concern" For Many

Many top judges in England and Wales have noted concerns over new Government proposals for rises in court fees, following an announcement last week by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Looking to realise around £120 million per annum, the department has proposed and increase in fees for all claims exceeding £10K. It is expected the fees will be based on 5% of the claim's value.

No Alternative?

Following a 2014 consultation, Justice Minister Shailesh Vara insisted there was "no alternative" but to expect funds to be raised by the courts. However, some of the UK's most notable judges are opposing the move.

Signatories to a letter to the department from the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas include Lord Justices Richards and Leveson, the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Sir James Munby and High Court Chancellor Sir Terence Etherton.

Expert Representation May Be Affected

Their lordships said the adverse impact on smaller businesses and personal litigants would be "disproportionate", especially for cases funded after the event. The number of litigants in person will probably rise, with litigants preferring to meet the new fees instead of instructing trustworthy legal representatives.

There are also concerns about how the rise will affect unspecified monetary amounts, such as in cases of personal injury where no valuation has been established at the beginning of proceedings.

Where the court's main function is to grant injunctions or deliver other solutions, many issued claims do not establish their precise amount. Others begin at a base estimate which can prove to be much higher, for which the judges requested information on the calculation of such fees.

The proposals make "sweeping and, in our view, unduly complacent assumptions about the effect on court claims," the judges said.

"London Could Lose Out"

The judges also fear the capital's appeal as an international hub for disputes will be compromised. Although their lordships applauded the decision to avoid daily hearings fees for commercial cases, they remain concerned that other centres will be favoured for general commercial work instead of London.

The letter to the MoJ noted that the proposed fees will be "25 to 100 times" higher than those of New York City. "A real concern will be uncertainty over future fee increases and the possible imposition of daily hearing charges putting major litigators off London, particularly as commercial cases can take years to develop."

Justice Barred

The Civil Justice Council (CJC), also comprised of senior legal people, has expressed similar concerns. The CJC asserted that the 5% hike will become "an effective barrier to entry to the justice system through pricing many court users out of the courts and thereby reducing access to justice".

In another study, due to finish in February, ministers have canvassed opinion on moves to raise possession claim fees by £75, a doubling of the £50 fee for general applications made by consent, and a proposed rise for contested claims by £100 to £255, with the increases applying to every applicant.

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Dated: 22/01/2015

Author: Greg Cox

Landlord - Residential Letting Contract

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