The government has published a long awaited consultation paper on civil court fees. As we have previously reported, the government has been considering for some time whether or not to introduce hourly fees for trials and appeals to the Court of Appeal. In the consultation, the government proposes introducing a fixed hearing fee for multi-track trials based on the average cost of those trials. The average length of a multi-track trial is just over one day in length in the county courts and 1½ days in the High Court. It is proposed that this hearing fee should be based initially on an average cost of a one day multi-track trial which is currently £1000. However the proposal is also to introduce a system of additional daily or half daily fees payable in longer trials. The paper states that more work is needed on how this system would work in practice. The intention is for pilot daily hearing fees to be introduced in one or more of the specialist jurisdictions of the High Court, probably starting in 2008.
The consultation is available on the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/cp0507.htm. We will be responding to this consultation and expressing our concerns that trial fees are contrary to the principles underlying access to justice and could damage London as a centre for resolution of international commercial disputes.