The Government has recently announced that it is to press ahead with proposals for a massive increase in court fees. Unsurprisingly, this is causing concern among the judiciary, litigants and legal practitioners.

Cases that are pleaded in excess of £10,000 will attract a fee based on 5% of the claim’s value (subject to a £10,000 cap). This will result in a huge increase for court fees, particularly for high value cases.

A 10% discount will continue to be available for claims issued electronically. Fees for claims of less than £10,000 are unaffected by the changes. It will also be possible for low income claimants to rely upon a fee remission scheme, thereby avoiding the exorbitant fees.

The Civil Justice Council has expressed concern about the proposals and given an example of a sample case valued at £190,000, which would result in an increase in current fees by 622%. We share their concerns that such a major increase will act as a barrier to access to justice by pricing many potential litigants out of the courts.

By way of a comparison, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd recently noted that the new UK court fees are 25-100 times greater than those paid in New York.

There can be little doubt that this move will further restrict a litigant’s access to justice and that parties will have to place greater reliance upon alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and mediation. It may also prompt defendants to enter into meaningful negotiations in the pre action stages, where liability is clear cut, to avoid payment of the associated issue fee.