Selling Justice?

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Despite fierce opposition from many including the senior judiciary, on 9 March 2015 the Civil Proceedings and Family Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2015 came into force in England and Wales and introduced hugely inflated Civil Court fees that will now apply to Personal Injury and Medical Negligence Claims alike.

In what appears to be yet another controversial sweeping reform by today’s Government, Civil Claims valued above £200,000 will now attract an upfront Court Issue fee of £10,000 – an increase of some 600%. All Claims valued between £10,000 and up to £200,000 that proceed to Court will now be charged at 5% of the value of that Claim.

Whether Court users are likely to see any qualitative improvements in the system as a result of this tax remains unclear. With no explanation provided as to how much revenue is sought to be raised by the increases and where that income will be spent, the Law Society has already lodged its intention to Judicially Review the decision. Similarly the Civil Justice Council have pointed out that the latest reform has proceeded on a “poor evidence-base” without proper consultation or impact assessment.

So, what is the potential impact? Take the example of a litigant in person (without legal representation) who has been unfortunate enough to sustain a serious spinal injury such as the type Novum Law specialise. In the event that this person has a viable Claim for recovering Damages by reason of the injury having been caused by the negligence of another, unless this person is able to fund the £10,000.00 to Issue his/her Claim in the Court or satisfy a stringent means tested fee remission application, access to justice will be denied.

Whilst Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has promised to keep the hike ‘under review’; sadly for many would-be Claimants who may not have the advantage of legal representation or solicitors able to fund the exorbitant fees on their behalf, these dramatic changes may well come too late. To think that those whose lives have been turned upside down by life-changing injuries sustained through no fault of their own may now be unable to afford access to our legal system in order to recover Damages for their long term care provision is a very worrying thought indeed…

“To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny right or justice”  Magna Carta.

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