THE LORD Chancellor, Lord Mackay, has shelved his controversial plans to introduce £800 to £2,000-per-day civil court fees following pressure from lawyers, judges and civil rights groups.
And a public accounts committee report, released last Friday, warned that a drop in the total number of proceedings in the last few years was partly due to the deterrent effect of higher fees.
Vicki Chapman, of the Legal Action Group, said the report should "sound a warning" to the Government about the effect of increasing court fees. "It may act as a real deterrent to low-income households wishing to bring a claim," she said.
Although the Government is likely to increase fees again this year, it appears to have put its plans for pay-per-day fees on the back burner. Michael Huebner, chief executive of the Court Service, told The Times the Lord Chancellor was "likely to contemplate more modest proposals, possibly with some restructuring, but it would not be as fundamental".
The Law Society is claiming credit for the U-turn. Phillip Sycamore, the new vice-president, said: "We have been telling the Lord Chancellor for many months that his ideas for making litigants pay dearly for 'their day in court' were deeply flawed."
Suzanne Burn, the society's civil litigation committee secretary, said there would have been an outcry if the plan had gone ahead.
"How can you square fees like £2,000 for a day in the High Court with Woolf who is trying to increase access to justice?"