The government has announced consultations about increasing Court fees as well as closing some Court buildings, that may result in fewer cases coming to Court and more ADR or online dispute resolution.
The Court fees consultation closes on 15 September 2015, which is a short timescale. Under the proposals, the maximum fee for money claims would rise from £10,000 to £20,000. Fees are currently payable on 5% of the value of a claim up to a maximum fee of £10,000. Personal injury and clinical negligence claims will be excluded from the higher cap and fee remissions for those ‘of limited means’ will still apply. There would also be a ‘general uplift’ of 10% to a ‘wide range’ of fees in civil proceedings.
Following consultations carried out by the coalition government earlier this year, the ministry confirmed it would increase fees for issuing a possession claim in the county court from £280 to £355. Fees for general applications in civil proceedings will increase from £50 to £100 for an application by consent, and from £155 to £255 for a contested application. Applications such as injunctions for protection from harassment or violence will be excluded from any increase.
Fees for divorce proceedings will increase from £410 to £550. This appears to penalise those who have no alternative but to bring proceedings, for example to obtain a divorce or to obtain possession of a property from a tenant.
At the same time, there is also a consultation which closes on 8 October 2015, which suggests closing under-utilised Court buildings and consolidating or integrating them into larger hearing centres, which it is suggested would “provide the organisation with a reduced and sustainable estate from which to deliver our business, increase efficiency, and improve our services.” This could be seen as putting the cost saving Court closure cart before the IT modernization horse, because the infrastructure is not sufficiently advanced to allow for litigants to access justice remotely or online yet, which might make up for physical Court closures.
Written by Peter Causton