Even if these increased court fees do result in greater efficiency, the war he’s waged on access to justice in the UK means that many will not be able to benefit
Yesterday the justice secretary Chris Grayling announced a potentially significant hike in court fees for wealthy individuals and businesses pursuing litigation in the UK. Given that earlier this month he was urging the world’s tycoons to come to the UK to solve their legal their disputes, it is surprising that he’s now saying it is going to cost them much, much more to do so.
He also seems intent on encouraging the world’s tycoons to use our world-class legal system, charging them more for the privilege, but cutting accessibility to UK citizens who cannot afford it at the same time.
Presently, a one-off court fee of £1,670 applies to cases involving claims of any figure over £300,000, whether £300,001 or £10 billion. Grayling proposes to remove the cap, looking to cream off larger amounts from the really big cases in order to increase efficiency in courts and ensure ‘value for money’ for the taxpayer.
First, while it's not wrong to want those who can afford it to pay more, it is not immediately clear why milking the world’s wealthy for as much as we can will result in greater efficiency for them, given that they are already happy to fight their costly battles in our courts. Do we hear them complaining about a poor service?
SECONDLY, GRAYLING MUST be joking when he talks about making the legal system more effective for the lowly UK taxpayer. In all its splendor, here’s what he said yesterday, in a written statement to Parliament:
‘I also want to ensure that those who litigate in our courts pay their fair share, and that it is possible to raise the revenue and investment necessary to modernise the infrastructure and deliver a better and more flexible service to court users.’
Just which court users is he talking about? He doesn’t seem to care too much about those living in his own country. Grayling proposes cuts of up to £350 million to legal aid; to be announced in April, these will remove public funding for an enormous range of civil cases, including divorce and those involving family and housing problems.
Even if these increased court fees do result in greater efficiency, the war he’s waged on access to justice in the UK means that many will not be able to benefit.