MARCH 3, 2015
Over the last couple of years I have on many occasions dealt with changes in the law which were either designed to, or have had the effect of reducing access to justice.
There is yet another change which will possibly come into force on the 9th March which will again restrict access to justice for individuals and businesses alike. As with so many of these changes they will come into effect with the public in complete ignorance as they are seldom reported by the media.
What I am referring to is the huge hike in the cost of issuing proceedings for a “money claim”. This means any claim where the remedy sought is a payment of money. The changes apply to any claim where the sum claimed is between £10,000 and £200,000 where the issue fee will go up from its current level to 5% of the amount claimed.
To put the above in context, if a claim for £50,000 in damages is issued before the changes then the court fee will be £610. After the changes come into effect the issue fee for the same matter will be £2,500! The higher the value of the claim the greater the difference between the current fees and the new ones.
The implications of this hike in fees are many fold but may well lead to those individuals or businesses with a perfectly valid claim being unable to pursue it through the courts as they simply cannot afford the fees.
In personal injury it will put more pressure on the less straight forward cases which are of course those most likely to end up in court proceedings. The legal expenses insurers who are invariably covering personal injury cases are going to be far more reluctant to allow less than clear cut cases to proceed when the potential cost of losing has gone up dramatically.
This is yet another example of a restriction on the public’s access to the courts which will come into force without the knowledge of the public.
The Law society and other interested bodies are seeking to challenge these changes and it is only to be hoped that their intervention will change the governments mind at the eleventh hour.