The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine has launched a full-scale review of civil court fees in an attempt to lift the £55m deficit faced by the Supreme Court and to turn all civil courts into profit-making bodies.

The Lord Chancellor’s Department (LCD) has charged the Civil Justice Council (CJC) with performing the review which, in turn, has appointed a consultative panel to look at ways of raising fees.

The express aim of the review is to find ways of increasing civil court fees. One expert involved in the process predicted that the CJC could recommend a 100 per cent privately funded civil court system.

“We could look at the arbitration model, whereby court users pay for the rent of a court for the day as well as pay for the judge,” the litigation expert said.

In 2001-2002 the Supreme Court, which also includes the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, made a loss of £55m after meeting just 20 per cent of its fee target (The Lawyer, 31 March 2003).

The Office of the Master of the Rolls is also understood to be involved in the review. The consultative panel has recently been appointed, although they have not met.

The LCD was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.