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‘Wrong’ to shift court costs from taxpayers to litigants, says Jackson LJ

Senior judge says there is a ‘point of principle’ to speak out against court fee hikes

21 September 2016

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The government will need to decide whether civil court fees should continue to rise at a rate far in excess of inflation, with recent hikes now a real source of concern, Lord Justice Jackson has admitted.

The increases in court fees, which saw costs for launching a civil claim jump by up to 620 per cent, have been criticised by lawyers for placing access to justice out of the reach of individuals and small businesses.

Practitioners argue the hikes have already deterred those with lower value claims from bringing claims to court, while a number of leading judges criticised the increases as ‘another poll tax on wheels’.

Writing in his new book, – The Reform of Civil Litigation, published by Thomson Reuters – Jackson LJ says that ‘whilst it is not appropriate for a judge to “campaign” about court fees (or any other form of indirect taxation), there is a serious point of principle here’.

With the civil courts playing a role in the proper functioning of the economy, Jackson has said it would be wrong for ‘the entire cost or most of the cost of the civil justice system’ to be shifted from taxpayers to litigants.

Launched this week, Jackson’s book also looks at other controversies in civil litigation such as broadening the use of fixed costs from personal injury cases to a much broader range of cases.

The Lord Justice of Appeal said he expects the use of fixed costs for different types of cases to be expanded in the future. He has previously called for fixed costs to apply to all claims valued up to £250,000.

Although lawyers have balked at the suggestion, Jackson has now argued that the increase in personal injury claims shows that fixed costs have not reduced access to justice but only reduced the costs of litigation.

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Judiciary Court fees Jackson Reforms Civil Litigation