Consultation on increased court fees
What are the implications of the the Ministry of Justice launching a Consultation seeking views on proposed increases to hundreds of court fees?
The Ministry of Justice (“MoJ”) launched a Consultation (“the Consultation”) on 10 November 2023 seeking views on proposed increases to hundreds of court fees.
The last time court fees were increased was in 2021. Since then we have seen a 17.8% rise in the consumer price index (“CPI”). The MoJ has proposed that, as a result of the CPI rise, an increase in court fees by 10% is appropriate. The MoJ believes that this will create a fair balance between users and the Courts and Tribunal Service (“HMCTS”) in the face of the increasing cost of running the service. The proposed fee increase is projected to generate income for HMCTS of between approximately £34 million and £42 million. The increase in fees, if it proceeds, will affect fees across civil, family and criminal cases.
The Consultation makes reference to 202 fees that will be increased (they are set out in Annex A of the Consultation). However, the final number of fees included is subject to change depending on:-
- the responses received; and
- the ongoing analysis by HMCTS of 70 fees to confirm their costs to HMCTS. No fee will be increased to a level which exceeds its underlying cost (with some exceptions) and it is for this reason that analysis is required of the individual fees by HMCTS.
The Consultation is also seeking views on establishing a review process for court fees every two years, having regard to the general level of prices and HMCTS costs. The Consultation suggests that more regular and smaller increases in fees would provide a sustainable stream of income for HMCTS and stagger the financial impact on the parties. Prior to this, review of court fees has been on an ad hoc basis and some of the increases have been quite substantial which has subsequently had an impact on the parties.
For those who are unable to fund the increased court fees, MoJ confirm that they will benefit from a revised “Help with Fees” scheme which will provide greater financial support when it is launched later in 2023.
What are the implications?
We reported previously that those with particular exposure to claims for personal injury should keep an eye on the rate of inflation when setting reserves. The proposed fee increases should be looked upon in the same light as they will undoubtedly be passed onto insurers and self-insureds.
Whilst the MoJ have addressed the issue of keeping fees affordable and in compliance with the duty of the Lord Chancellor to protect access to justice for all, the proposed amount that will be raised if the fee increase is implemented is not insignificant. Further, the increases will be a bitter pill to swallow for frequent court users given the significant delays caused by court backlogs at the moment.
Perhaps, with reform at the forefront of the Government’s mind, the additional funds will be channelled towards the completion of digitalisation of the civil court process and the relevant platforms that support it as a means to clear the backlog - time will tell.
The Consultation will run until 22 December 2023 and the subsequent increase in fees is scheduled for spring 2024.
We will track the progress of this Consultation and keep you updated on developments.
For more information. contact our insurance law solicitors.