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Court fees charged to litigants are expected to soar after the Ministry of Justice said the High Court and Court of Appeal should be paid for by court-users rather than the taxpayer.
The MoJ has launched a consultation on the fees arguing that the costs should be increased and proportionate to the value of the claim in dispute; that new fee bandings should be introduced for disputes worth in excess of £300,000; and time-related fees should be brought in to reflect the increased cost involved in providing longer trials.
The biggest impact will be felt by those involved in lengthy trials. Currently High Court users pay £1,090 for a trial hearing regardless of its length. Under government plans this will raise by 900 per cent for the longest of trials and those lasting more than 10 days will have to pay up £10,900 for the privilege.
The same increase will be applied to the Court of Appeal under the plans, while the permission-to-appeal fee is set to rise from £235 to £465 and a £110 listing fee is to be introduced at the appellate court for the first time.
Launching a judicial review (JR) application will now cost £235 instead of £60 and the cost of a JR continuation hearing will rise to £235 from £215, meaning that the fee for a JR will be £470.
The move comes as part of a wider drive to push down the cost burden of the courts on the taxpayer.
According to the MoJ, currently someone issuing a claim up to £300 will pay around 10 per cent of the value of their claim in a fee. When the claim value increases to £1m the litigant pays only around 1 per cent of the value in fees.
The MoJ said it wanted court fees to cover the entire costs of the non-criminal legal system by the 2014-15 year end.
At the latest year-end the running costs of the non-criminal courts in England and Wales stood at £612m, with around 80 per cent - or £489.6m - generated by court fees.
Meanwhile, the High Court is restructuring its administrative functions to reflect the operational changes introduced by the merger of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service in April.
According to an insider, staff at the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) have been asked to reapply for their positions although whether any redundancies will be made remains to be seen.
An HMCTS spokesman the changes are “designed to introduce a radically different leadership structure, which will enable more time and resource to be dedicated to frontline services”.
Hearing fee range
11-day trial cost
20-day trial cost
England & Wales (current)
England & Wales (proposed)
£1,090 - £10,900
Scotland Court of Session Inner House
£100 upwards (fees payable by time per half-hour)
£11,000 (based on 5-hour sitting day)
£20,000 (based on 5-hour sitting day)
Australia Federal Court £11,305
£2,265 setting-down fee plus £452 per day
£7,273 including setting down
New Zealand Supreme Court
£807 per day after the first day
Canada Federal Court
Up to three days free £94 per day plus administrative fees
at least £1,034
at least £1,880
Singapore Supreme Court
1st to 3rd days: free £4,570 for the 4th day £1,015 for the 5th day £1,523 per day for 6th-10th days £2,538 per day for 11th day onwards