Civil courts set for 'pay as you go'

PLANS for a controversial new structure of daily fees for civil court users are expected to be published later this year, according to Court Service agency chief executive Michael Huebner.

Speaking at the County Court Users Association (CCUA) annual conference held in Birmingham last week, Huebner said that the agency aimed to introduce “a new structure which spreads costs across the life of a case.

This would ensure that “payment of fees is on a step-by-step basis, which reflects the service the litigant gets at each particular point in his or her case”.

Heubner told CCUA delegates that any new fees would be “worked out fairly”, based upon the principle of bringing the fees charged for services closer to the cost of services.

He said: “It is the Government's policy to recover the costs of civil courts. As a consequence, over the coming months I will be looking at ways in which to introduce a fairer system.”

He said a balance had to be achieved “between the costs of services provided, the fees paid and access to justice”.

As an approximate guide, Huebner intimated that 25 per cent of the daily administrative costs – including judges' salaries – could be charged to litigants.

One CCUA lawyer says delegates were impressed by the fact that “for the first time, a member of the court service says he has a genuine interest in solving its problems”.

CCUA members' concerns traditionally focus on efficiency and cost.

Members include banks, solicitors, utilities and credit companies, whose interests are mainly debt collection and litigation.