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15.02.16

Increased court fees denying access to justice claims Master of the Rolls

Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, the country's most senior civil judge, has expressed his concern over the effect of large year's increase in court fees.  In March 2015 fees for claims valued at £10,000 or above began attracting a court fee of 5%.  This resulted in some fees increasing by nearly 600%.

The ‘enhanced fees’ that were introduced in March 2015 were intended to make the court system self-financing and to soften the £100 million shortfall in the Ministry of Justice’s budget.  However, Lord Dyson expressed his concern to the Justice Select Committee that the increase in fees was  deterring small businesses and enterprises, who were not able to claim fee remission, from bringing claims and thus denying them access to justice. Lord Dyson said that those on modest incomes were also adversely affected by the new fees.

Dyson MR complained that the impact of fee increases had not been considered in full at the outset.  He said the consultation had had a very limited evidential base (consisting of 31 telephone calls) and that the changes had been implemented too hastily.  Dyson MR said that the civil court fees were now financing criminal and family proceedings and that the staged fees were a crude measure of the complexity of a case and the amount of resources that the court would need to devote to it.

At the same meeting, Sir Earnest Ryder, Senior President of Tribunals, commented that the increase in tribunal fees had led to a 70% decrease in employment claims being brought in the last year.  He stated that it is a position that ‘demands and explanation’.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court, drew contrast between the £100 fee to register a marriage and the uplift in the divorce fee to £550.  He stated that people will notice that the administration for a divorce does not cost five times that of registering a marriage but people will continue to seek divorce through 'gritted teeth'.

Lord Dyson recently announced that he intends to retire from his post in July 2016

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