Access to Court – Free to All provided you can afford the price of admission?

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.

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Isabel Bathurst

Associate, Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence

Isabel joined Hart Brown as an Associate in June 2017 after spending five years as Partner at Pierre Thomas and Partners, working on high value...

Associate, Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence

Isabel Bathurst

Isabel joined Hart Brown as an Associate in June 2017 after spending five years as Partner at Pierre Thomas and Partners, working on high value cases with a foreign element including the leading case under Rome II of Syred v PZU and HDI which went to trial in 2015. This claim involved 2 passengers in a vehicle involved in an accident in Poland. However, the claimants lived in England and were able to bring their claim in the English courts but the court applied Polish law to the valuation of the damages awarded to each claimant.

Isabel has experience of both clinical negligence and personal injury claims, particularly catastrophic injury claims involving brain and spinal injuries, and as well as having a Diploma in Advanced Litigation, she is also an APIL Senior Litigator.

Most memorable case?
Syred v PZU and HDI (2015)

First album purchase?
Michael Jackson - Bad

Favourite film?
James Bond films

Favourite travel destination?
Italy

What would you have done if you had not become a lawyer?
I always wanted to be a nurse