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APIL warns increasing court fees may price out injured claimants

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Personal injury lawyers have warned against plans put forward by the Ministry of Justice to increase court fees by 10 per cent.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced in November 2023 its proposals to increase more than 200 court fees, generating a potential £42 million for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

From spring 2024, court and tribunal fees are expected to increase by 10 per cent, with those using the court system— which is primarily funded by the taxpayer— expected to contribute more to these legal services.

But The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has warned that this could create additional barriers and prevent some injured people from accessing the courts altogether.

In a statement on the APIL website, its 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.

“Defendants might also take advantage of this situation by offering low settlements, knowing that claimants are fearful of the costs involved.”

The Help with Fees remission scheme, helps claimants who have limited means, meaning that injured people can still access the services and support they need. APIL says that it is ‘vital’ this scheme ‘keeps pace with increased court fees’.

“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,” said Scarsbrook.

“The reality in many cases is that solicitors fund disbursements, including court fees, for their clients and recover these at the end of the case. But if court fees rise too steeply, we could reach a point where solicitors are not able to take on the financial risk. Access to justice and legal assistance must remain paramount.”

In addition, if court fees rise, claimants should receive a minimum level of service entitlement, according to APIL, meaning courts would have to adhere to service level agreements, including time frames.

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