As they say, the Jury is out.
The Government has announced that the huge hike in Court Fees, some by as much as 600%, is due to take affect on Monday 9th March. Cue massive rush to issue everything beforehand of course but then what?
Justice minister Shailesh Vara was kind enough to declare in the House of Commons that it was ‘reasonable’ to suggest that the fee increase will not have any major negative effect and that there was 'little risk' that they would cut demand for or indeed damage legal services.
Well that's alright then. Phew!
Oh hang on a second. Didn't they do something similar with Employment Tribunal application fees recently? I wonder if those fees had any impact on claims. Let's check Mr Google...
Ah.. Seems like Mr Vara forgot to look at the evidence properly, if at all.
The introduction of the Employment Tribunal fees appear to have cut employment applications by over 70%, which is a lot. Now, if the same thing happens in the civil courts, I think there will be a huge curtailment in access to justice. Not just that of course but, the Government's 'justification' for the rise, namely to raise £120m, may in fact be doomed. If claims drop by even 50%, the revenue generated by the increases will be markedly reduced..
Wouldn't the Ministry of Justice be better off cutting out all of the waste in the civil system by going digital? Why do solicitors still have to send claim forms by post or DX? Why do they have to send multiple copies and cheques? Are we operating this system to try and employ as any people as possible in the civil service?
Every business person knows that the main cost in any organisation are the people. If the MoJ were to make the entire courts system digital, there would be huge cost savings including removal of many administration positions. I suspect this would far exceed any fee revenue increase and could genuinely be trumpeted as increasing access to justice.
The CPS have done it. Why can't the Courts?
PS Almost forgot to mention, our After the Event Insurance policies will cover the new fees at no extra cost to solicitor or client. Worth every penny I think...