The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) have raised concern over plans by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to increase fees at over 200 courts throughout the UK.

The MoJ announced proposals to aise court fees in November 2023 to shift a greater financial burden onto users of the court system, which is predominantly subsidised by taxpayers. Up to 202 court and tribunal fees are set to rise by 10 percent from spring 2024, generating a potential £42 million for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

However APIL has warned that these increases could create barriers for injured people who need to access the courts.

As well potentially putting victims off pursuing litigation for a personal injury claim, it could encourage defendants to offer lower settlements in the knowledge that claimants may want to avoid court costs.

APIL president Jonathan Scarsbrook, said:

“We understand an increase in fees may be necessary to continue to help fund the courts and tribunal system, however justice cannot be restricted to those with the means to pay. The court system should, in the main, be funded by central government as it benefits the whole of society.

The cost of litigation is a key concern for anyone who needs to pursue justice through the courts, and fees should not be so high as to put victims of negligence off litigating their action. Defendants might also take advantage of this situation by offering low settlements, knowing that claimants are fearful of the costs involved.”

Ensuring the Help with Fees scheme keeps pace

Scarsbrook also stressed the importance of the Help with Fees remission scheme evolving in tandem with any rises in court fees. The scheme exists to aid claimants with limited financial means, ensuring that all individuals with injuries can access the necessary services and support.

“Although the Help with Fees scheme is being revised by the MoJ, there are no plans to review it regularly. This needs to happen every two years alongside reviewing court fees. This way the scheme will keep pace with any increases and particularly vulnerable people will not fall between the cracks.

Our courts system is a public service which benefits all of society so it’s vital the costs remain affordable for everyone.”

APIL is also advocating for claimants to receive a minimum level of service entitlement should court fees surge. This would mean courts would have to adhere to service level agreements, including time frames to ensure efficient and fair proceedings for all parties involved.

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