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One month on from the increase in court fees…

May 7th, 2016

Is the gap in accessing justice widening further? Trainee Solicitor, Georgina Went, outlines the changes to court fees and the effects one month on.

Following the Governments consultation, the Civil Proceedings, Family Proceedings and Upper Tribunal Fees (Amendment) Order 2016 was made on Friday 18th March 2016 and came into force on Monday 21st March 2016.

Here is an outline of the changes which have been made:

  • In possession claims, the fee for issuing proceedings has increased from £280 to £355.
  • The fee for general applications made on notice within civil proceedings has increased from £155 to £255.
  • The fee for general applications made without notice has increased from £50 to £100.
  • The fee for applications made by consent has increased from £50 to £100.
  • The fee for applying for a decree of divorce under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 was increased from £410 to £550.

It is no secret that the Ministry of Justice are seeking to plug the £100m hole in their current budget. The increase in the above court fees are intended to generate more than £60m in additional income each year, clearly revealing the motivation behind these increases. However, the question needs to be asked, when did the Ministry of Justice become a profit seeking business?

Justice Secretary Michael Gove has outlined that ‘one of the biggest barriers to justice, is costs. Action needs to be taken to reduce costs in civil justice’. He goes on to say that ‘we need reform of our legal system to make access to justice easier for all’.

However, these dramatic increases in fees are not having a positive effect on individuals and they are creating an even larger barrier to justice.

It has also been suggested that these fee increases will make the court remission scheme more generous and will allow a broader range of individuals to qualify for the same. Notwithstanding this suggestion, does it not seem counterproductive to introduce higher court fees in order to fund an enhanced remission scheme which will now be in more demand than ever before?

In March 2015 The Law Society shared with us their concerns about increasing court fees and this further attack on access to justice. They argue that increases will put people off going to court when they have genuine claims; it will provide large companies with an incentive to deny liability when they know individuals or small businesses cannot afford to fund the court process and will lead to the insolvency of many small businesses.

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