A series of court fee increases came into force yesterday with critics warning they will prevent access to justice for the poorest.
Changes to the upfront court fee for proceedings in England and Wales will increase the fee for compensation claims between £5,000 and £10,000 by 81% from £245 to £445. An extra £200 fee is added to all claims up to those in excess of £300,000, for which fees are capped at £1,870.
Smaller claims will either face smaller increases or no increase at all. Fees for permission to apply for judicial review rise from £60 to £135, while permission to proceed will jump 216% from £215 to £680. The Ministry of Justice has made it clear the taxpayer can no longer subsidise those using civil courts. But opponents of the increases say they are unfair and will be counter-productive.
'Being injured is bad enough, without having to face a heavy court fee. This is not a time when anybody needs extra barriers put in their way,’ said Matthew Stockwell, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. 'If injured people are put off making a claim by the upfront court costs and not given the resources to recover, adapt to injuries and support their families by recovering loss of earnings, they may have to claim state benefits and turn to other public services. 'The MoJ is creating an environment where the rich can seek justice, while others must find a way to raise the fee, or shut up and suffer.’
When the new fees were announced, justice minister Shailesh Vara said the courts made a cost deficit of £100m last year. He said the government did not believe that courts can be 'immune from the tough decisions’ that had to be taken to bring public spending down. The fee increases were opposed by, among others, the Law Society, City of London Law Society and the Civil Justice Council.