Government plans for dramatic increases in the cost of going to court could have a profound impact on access to justice, according to personal injury lawyers.
A claim valued at £12,000 would demand a court fee increase of almost a third under the new regime. The fee for a claim of £200,000 for a serious injury would be 560 per cent higher than it is today.
“The Government’s claim that fees are not a major factor in a person’s decision about whether or not to go to court is completely disingenuous,” said John Spencer, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). “This move is bound to discourage people from making valid claims – people who have every right to make them. And the idea that seriously injured people making higher-value claims are more likely to be able to afford the new fees is outrageous.
“The severity of an injury has nothing to do with the injured person’s capacity to pay,” he went on. “This new regime will dictate that some seriously-injured people will be expected to pay £10,000 up front to bring their cases to court, and many simply won’t be able to afford it.”
Pointing out that the planned increases have sparked criticism from both the judiciary and Civil Justice Council, Mr Spencer said that the courts operate for the public good, and should therefore be funded through taxation, with users paying a contribution towards the costs.
“These people do not ask to be injured,” he said. “They are injured because someone else is negligent. To expect them, on top of all that, to pay a court fee which represents more than the actual cost of the service is simply unacceptable.”