Access to justice for all? | Court fees increase
Court fees to issue a monetary claim have recently been substantially increased – some by over 600%.
With effect from 9 March 2015, the court fee to issue a monetary claim between £10,000 and £200,000 is now 5% of the value of the claim. Monetary claims for more than £200,000 now attract a fixed court fee of £10,000. Court fees for monetary claims for less than £10,000 remain unchanged and you can still obtain a discount on court fees if claims are issued electronically.
There has been outcry in response to the recent fee increases since they are likely to have a significant impact on the ability for some to issue court proceedings – especially individuals and small businesses who cannot afford the upfront payment of the court fee (and who are not eligible for a fee remission). The right to access to justice for all now seems to be questionable, since it appears some will simply not be able to afford the court fee to issue what would otherwise be a legitimate claim.
We have already seen a shift in claimants serving proceedings in draft upon opponents to try and engage in early settlement discussions, without the need for formally issuing proceedings and incurring the significant court fee. It is likely that there will also be an increase in alternative forms of dispute resolution at an earlier stage of matters. In the event that claimants do issue claims, such significant court fees may have an impact upon any future settlement discussions between the parties since a claimant who has incurred the issue fee will obviously want to recover it from the defendant as part of any settlement.
We understand that the Law Society is seeking to challenge the government’s decision to increase the court fees, and has issued a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review. It will be interesting to see what will come of this, and what impact the new court fees have on litigation, in the coming months.