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Court fees – an attack on justice?

“Some years ago, court fees rose sharply because government said the court system should be self-funding and paid for by the users, rather than the tax payers in general.
Fair enough, you might say.
I have read commentary that suggests that the aim has been achieved, and that civil courts, following a round of closures and staff reductions as a result of the government’s ‘austerity measures’, do now cover their own running costs from the fees they generate.
So, is the new round of increases in line with inflation? To ensure that courts continue to be self-funding?
Consider this:
A claim valued at £20,000 currently attracts a court issue fee of £610. From 9 March, the fee will rise to £1,000; a £390 increase or 64% extra!
So lets say you’re a small business and a customer owes you £20,000. Do you sue? Well, you’ve got to find £1,000 up front and then there are extra fees to find once you’ve got judgement, to send in the bailiffs or petition for bankruptcy.
And what if the sums are larger? Say, £150,000. Currently the court issue fee is £1,315. From 9 March, you’ll have to pay £7,500; an increase of 470%, to attempt to recover your money through the courts.
In the summer of 2013 fees were introduced for the first time in Employment Tribunals. Since then claims presented have fallen by up to 80%. The unions representing the workers affected by the change have brought legal action to challenge these fees and been unsuccessful, making any challenge to the increase in county court fees almost certainly doomed to failure.
This year sees the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, which laid the foundations for making the English legal system one of the most widely adopted and widely respected worldwide. It enshrined the right of the common man to have access to justice, a right that is shortly to become theoretical rather than practical.”
 

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