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Law Society launches judicial review of 600% court fee rises

Andrew Caplen [1]

Caplen: “Flat tax on those seeking justice”

The Law Society has issued a pre-action protocol letter for a judicial review challenging government plans to increase some court fees by over 600 per cent.

One of the grounds of the Law Society’s challenge is that the proposals would amount to “selling justice” contrary to the principles of Magna Carta.

The society also argues that government does not have the power to raise fees for the purposes it has stated in the Ministry of Justice consultation – to make ‘departmental savings’.

It accused the government of proceeding without evidence to justify the increases, which it described as “effectively a tax”.

The society went on: “Consultees were not told how much money needed to be raised from enhanced fees or why – this is a breach of the government’s own consultation principles, which state that sufficient reasons must be given for any proposal to permit intelligent consideration and response.

“When the government tabled its second round of proposals on higher fees for possession claims and general civil applications, it had already made up its mind about certain options, which is unfair.”

A spokesman added: “The society has asked the government to provide information on how much money it proposes to raise through enhanced fees and what it will spend the money on.

“It has also asked the government to explain how modernisation of the court services will appear in the government’s accounts.”

The society’s pre-action protocol letter was also signed by the Bar Council, CILEx, the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL), Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS), Chancery Bar Association and the Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR).

Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society, 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.

“State provision for people to redress wrongs through the courts is the hallmark of a civilised society.”

London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA) warned earlier this month [2] that the rises could mean that court fees for commercial cases exceeding legal costs, while the City of London Law Society has also attacked the increases.