The Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2021 will be enforced on 30 September 2021 following a public consultation surrounding ‘Increasing selected court fees and Help with Fees income thresholds by inflation’ in England and Wales.
As a result, courts and tribunals across England and Wales will note an increase in court fees across the civil and family jurisdictions.
Within their proposals for reform, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) stated that in 2019/20 a net fee income amounting to £724m was generated through court fees, compared to the running cost of HMTCS being £2bn. Citing the most recent rise in rates of court fees in England and Wales, which was implemented in March 2016, the MOJ referenced national inflationary increases so as to provide its rationale in once again increasing court fees on 30 September.
Held between March 2021 and May 2021, the consultation outlined the MOJ’s proposal to increase selected court fees in correlation with historic inflation, backdated to August 2016 through to April 2021. Following the opening of the consultation, 61% of the 89 respondents from across the legal, public, property, enforcement and court sectors disagreed with the MOJ’s proposal to apply inflationary rates to court fees.
A majority of the respondents opposed to the MOJ’s proposals suggested that it was not an appropriate time for the MOJ to increase court fees due to the current economic climate, largely caused by the impact of Covid-19. Adverse reactions to the proposals also stemmed out of fear, in that an increase in court fees will restrict access to those seeking justice.
Whilst noting a majority opposition to their proposals, the MOJ continued to move forward with the increase in court fees. Responding to the consultation, the MOJ stated that the proposed increases are a reflection of historic inflation and are therefore ‘not an increase in real terms’. Moreover, the MOJ indicated that the income generated amid increased court fees will assist with the running costs of HMCTS, so that the courts and tribunals are able to continue delivering ‘access to justice for all’. As such, courts, tribunals and clients alike will note an increase to court fees following the implementation of the Order from 30 September.
It is important to us that we keep our clients updated and aware of these key changes within the civil and family jurisdictions. These increases, while seemingly small, can have an impact on decision making and the overall cost/benefit analysis, particularly in relation to those due to commence any civil proceedings, or of course those who may have already initiated the litigation process.
Examples of fees that are due to increase are as follows:
A significant number of respondents to the consultation commented that family proceedings should be specifically excluded from any increase. In contrast, the increase in family court fees are actually larger than those in other courts. The government argues that applicants within family proceedings will prioritise their own or their children’s emotional wellbeing over cost, when deciding whether to initiate proceedings.
Whilst this may be true in some cases, higher family court fees will undoubtedly influence those considering an application. It is however expected that increased fees will promote the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution, including mediation, which could divert some individuals from entering into unnecessary proceedings. It is also hoped that the increase will lead to improvements in the service received from the family court, where limited resources have been stretched further during the recent pandemic.
£232 for an application relating to child arrangements, parental responsibility, changing a child’s surname, removing a child from jurisdiction or guardianship (an increase from £215).
If you have any questions regarding the impact of the court fee increases or to seek up-to-date legal advice on any Debt Recovery or Dispute Matters, contact Nikki Gates of 01202 294566 or email [email protected]. Alternatively, contact a member of our Dispute Resolution Team in Bournemouth.
If you have any questions regarding the impact of the court fee increases or require updated legal advice on any family matters, contact Amy Baugh on 01202 294566 or email [email protected]. Alternatively, contact a member of our Family Team in Bournemouth.
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