Fast track trial costs

The DCA has issued a consultation paper on fast track trial costs under CPR 46. It is proposed that these costs should be increased to take account of the rise in inflation since they were first introduced in April 1999 and that the increased costs should apply to any trial that takes place on or after the new rules are implemented. The consultation period ends on 4 May 2007 and a summary of responses will be published in June 2007. The paper is available on the DCA website.

Trial fees

The DCA has published a paper entitled Civil Court Fees. Some of the proposals have been foreshadowed in earlier papers – in particular, trial fees were meant to be introduced in April 2005 but the complexities of introducing them (and resistance to the proposals) forced the government to backtrack. Trial fees have re-emerged again, this time proposed in full only for courts dealing with large commercial cases ie Commercial, Admiralty, Technology & Construction and Patents Courts and the Chancery Division.

At the moment, as with the costs of civil litigation generally, the fee structure is front-loaded. The fees charged at the issue stage fund the system, whilst the fees charged at the later stages of a case cover only a small proportion of the cost of cases which proceed to a full hearing. What is proposed is a reduction in issue fees in smaller cases which are currently subsidising the rest of the civil court system. A new system of fee remissions is also proposed for means-tested individuals.

To remedy this perceived imbalance, a single hearing fee is proposed for multi-track cases based on the cost of one day in court. It is planned to introduce a system of additional daily or half-daily fees in due course for longer trials in commercial cases with a pilot in one of the specialist courts in 2008. Consideration of whether the same approach should be extended to all trials of two days or more will be put back to a later stage. The consultation period ends on 25 June 2007. The paper is available on the DCA website. Comment: the proposals have not been well received by City firms. This is in part because Annex A to the con

sultation paper reveals that civil courts (excluding family cases which had a deficit of about £100m and a fee recovery rate of 39%) made a profit of £45.5m in the financial year 2005/2006. This follows large increases in fees for civil claims in January 2005. The introduction of trial fees will be strongly resisted in the light of this information.