Prior to the most recent major hike in court fees over a year ago, if your client had a claim worth in excess of £300,000 the fee to be paid to the court to allow a court case to be commenced was around £1,900.
In April 2015 the fee was increased by the government to £10,000! This was an increase of around 500%!
Imagine going to your local garage and finding that the cost of filling up your fuel tank had increased overnight by 500%!
In fact increased court fees have been a growing concern since 2013 when substantial fee increases for Employment Tribunals were introduced. It is said that this increase led to a reduction in claims by some 70%.
This state of affairs has been reviewed by parliament’s Justice Committee consisting of Conservative, SNP and Labour MPs. The Committee’s report has now been published.
In essence the Justice Committee in their report are asking the government to think again about the increases made in court fees and a yet further proposal by the government to increase the maximum court fee from £10,000 to £20,000.
The Committee calls for a proper review of the impact of the changes to the fees already implemented and to defer further increases pending the outcome of that review.
In addition, the Committee opposes increases to the divorce petition fee and calls for Employment Tribunal fees to be reduced substantially.
Committee Chair Bob Neil MP (Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst) is quoted as saying:
“Where there is conflict between the objectives of achieving full costs recovery and preserving access to justice, the latter must prevail”.
How will the government react? We have to wait and see.
The old joke that British Justice is open to all like the Ritz Hotel is perhaps no longer that funny especially if the government chooses to ignore the Justice Committee’s sensible recommendations.