Posted 5.2.15

MoJ court fees proposal - Cardiff & District Law Society writes to MPs

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Dear

Alun Cairns MP (Conservative) – Vale of Glamorgan  - alun.cairns.mp@parliament.uk
Kevin Brennan MP (Labour)  - Cardiff West - brennank@parliament.uk
Stephen Doughty MP (Labour) – Cardiff South and Penarth - stephen.doughty.mp@parliament.uk
Jonathan Evans MP (Conservative) – Cardiff North - jonathan.evans.mp@parliament.uk
Rt Hon Jenny Willott MP (Liberal Democrats) – Central Cardiff - jenny@jennywillott.com / willottj@parliament.uk

Increase in Court Fees

I am writing to you - as President of Cardiff and District Law Society (the Society) and on behalf of the Society - to inform you about the recent proposals from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to increase court fees in England and Wales. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the nature of the Society’s concerns with you, as well as any support you can offer in raising this important issue. 

The MoJ recently announced plans to raise revenue from the courts system by introducing a new structure for fees for bringing money claims over the value of £10,000. The announcement can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/396887/cm8971-enhance-fees-response.pdf.

Under the proposed system, the court fee to issue a £190,000 legal claim will rise by 622 per cent, from £1,315 to £9,500.

The type of legal claims affected include the recovery by a small business of a debt from a buyer of goods or services. Some SMEs are forced to begin legal proceedings by buyers delaying payment and creating a potentially devastating impact on the cash flow of their business. A recent example of this practice can be seen in the tactics used by large supermarket chains and food producers to delay payment to smaller British farmers.

Another type of claim could involve a pensioner with limited financial means seeking to lodge a personal injury claim. Many people cannot afford the extra £2,000 they would need to make a £50,000 claim, particularly if they are elderly or have been out of work for some time due to their injury. Such fee increases can actually be prohibitive and this will deter people from lodging claims altogether, thereby denying them access to justice.

The Society is concerned about the impact that the MoJ's proposals could have in/around Cardiff and indeed the rest of the country for both individual consumers and small businesses. If they go ahead, these proposals will also have a detrimental effect on the economic viability and sustainability of the legal practices of our members and the jobs they create throughout Cardiff and District. 

The Society is also concerned about the evidence base that the MoJ has used to come to its decision to increase court fees. The department claims that 90% of money claims will not be affected, but it is clear that the potential impact is much more serious than they have anticipated. 

It is a very sad irony that this latest set-back to access to justice should come during the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Most famously, its 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial, stating that: “No free man shall be...stripped of his rights” and "to no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice”. The proposed fee increases could be translated as effectively stripping the poorest of their rights and selling justice to those with the deepest pockets. 

The Society would appreciate any representations you could make to Shailesh Vara MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice, on its behalf at your earliest convenience.

I would be happy to host a meeting with you - or to meet with you at one of your constituency surgeries - to discuss this further.

Yours sincerely


Thomas A. Danter 

President - Cardiff & District Law Society

tomd@dolmans.co.uk

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