The Law Society has launched their challenge to the government over their proposed court fee hiked that are expected to see a staggering 600% increase.
Since the proposals were announced there has been wholesale opposition from the personal injury industry accusing the government of going against the principles of Magna Carta by ‘selling justice’.
A pre-action protocol letter for a judicial review over the proposed court fee increases has now been submitted by the Law Society, which has already received the support from the biggest representative body within the personal injury profession, APIL.
The astronomical court fee hikes are being proposed by the government as a way of making departmental savings and the Justice Minister Shailesh Vara was quick to defend the increases.
He said: “Our courts play a critical role and it is vital that the principle of access to justice is preserved by a properly funded service. It is only fair that wealthy businesses and individuals fighting legal ballets should pay more in fees to east the burden on taxpayers.”
However, the Law Society has challenged this notion and whether or not the government actually have the power to raise the court fee for the purpose of making savings. They are also challenging whether or not the government is proceeding without evidence to justify the increases, something they haven’t been averse to doing with other important pieces of legislation.
Speaking about the proposals, Law Society President, Andrew Caplen, said: “The government’s policy on “enhanced court fees” amounts to a flat tax on those seeking justice. The government’s hikes – due to come in from April – will price the public out of the courts and leave small businesses saddled with debts they are due but unable to afford to recover.”
The Justice Minister also claimed that the changes would not apply to 90% of claims and that waivers will also be available for those who cannot afford to pay.
Scott Rees and Co partner, David Byrne, supported the Law Society’s stance on the proposals. He said: “What these increases would do is discourage people from making personal injury claims when they are well within their rights to do so because they will not be able to afford the fees.”
“The proposals are completely unrepresentative of what access to justice is all about and does the exact opposite of what Mr Vara says in terms of the preservation of it.”
“It is unthinkable that the government can expect that the amount a claimant pays for their court fees can be judged by the severity of the claim. Just because you have been forced to make a claim for a serious or catastrophic injury, does not mean that you are able to afford higher fees, There is simply no correlation between a person’s wealth and what value their personal injury claim comes to.”
“This is the latest method the Government have concocted in order to choke the life out of the personal injury profession and once more it is comes at the expense of the genuine victim’s access to justice.”
“The Government were quite adamant when they first introduced the proposals for the Jackson Reforms and LASPO, that they would always prioritise access to justice, yet they consistently let victims down by introducing financially motivated legislation and this latest proposal is a step to far.”
Joining APIL to co-sign the Law Society’s pre-action protocol letter are the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the Bar Council, CILEx, the Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR), the Chancery Bar Association and the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL).
Within the letter,the Law Society has requested that the Government provide information on how much money it proposes to raise through the enhanced court fee costs and where the money will go and how the modernisation of the court services will appear in the government accounts.