It was not that long ago that the Ministry of Justice changed the court fees, increasing those fees for claims of over £10,000 to 5% of the amount that is being claimed. They set a maximum fee of £10,000 for those fees.
Now the Ministry of Justice are once again talking about increasing the court fees – even though the last increase was less than six months ago. The proposals that they are putting forward would mean that for claims other than personal injury or clinical negligence, a maximum court fee of £20,000 could apply to issuing claims, payable up-front.
In addition, some of the other fees that currently apply to court proceedings are likely to increase. At the moment, if you reach agreement with the other party about how to handle the case going forward, or even a final settlement of the whole case, you pay a £50 fee for the court to approve the agreement, and make it into a court order. This fee could increase to £100 under these proposals.
To be fair, the proposals do suggest there should also be an increase in eligibility for reductions in the court fees, but this is unlikely to help businesses!
This latest announcement comes hot on the heels of the Ministry of Justice announcing that they are consulting about the closure of a fifth of the country’s courts – including Bedford County Court. Milton Keynes and Cambridge will still have their courts, but if the plans put forward by the Ministry of Justice go ahead, then Bedford cases would be managed by a court further afield, such as Luton.
The courts are already significantly behind in dealing with many cases, with Central London County Court recently reporting a potential for a 55 working day delay. More court closures could mean additional administrative challenges for the court staff.
As we move to a landscape of less courts and more expensive fees, more people will be looking to other methods of resolving disputes, and enforcing their legal rights, and it will be worth talking to a lawyer to assess your case, and to consider what route might be most appropriate, and most cost effective, in all of the circumstances.