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Fieldfisher influence Parliamentary debate on massive rise in court fees

Last week, Fieldfisher set out it's response to Government proposals to increase court fees by as much as 600%. A written statement made by the Minister for the Courts and Legal Aid on the 16th January made it clear that it was the Government's intention to introduce a fee to commence proceedings for the recovery of money at 5% of the claim value for claims worth more than £10,000, subject to a maximum fee capped at £10,000. This statement has been met with widespread condemnation from the legal sector. The Civil Justice Council has calculated that that a claim worth £200,000 would cost at 6 times more in court fees under the new proposals than it would under the current regime.

Fieldfisher responded last week with a submission to the Ministry of Justice ahead of a Parliamentary debate on the reforms, arguing: “These massive increases in fees cannot be justified. Access to justice for injured victims of personal injury and medical negligence will be denied through the imposition of extortionate court fees. Our clients deserve a voice in opposing them.”

That parliamentary debate was commenced yesterday in the House of Lords, as members discussed the proposals which were set to come into force on 22nd April. One of the submissions made by the Lords arguing against these unnecessary fee hikes, included this statement by Lord Beecham, who quoted the Fieldfisher statement in saying:

"The leading solicitors firm Fieldfisher, which acts in high-value, usually personal injury and medical negligence claims, supplied an interesting perspective on the implications of the order. I ought to declare an avuncular interest, as my nephew is a tax partner in that firm. It points out that whereas after the Woolf reforms solicitors usually funded disbursements, including court fees, that cost would rise to millions of pounds per annum. Few people could afford a £10,000 payment and most solicitors will be unable to fund their clients’ actions. They point to fears of a negative impact on mesothelioma claims, where speed is of the essence. They conclude that the proposal,

"tips the balance further in favour of the Government and corporate interests in whose interests it is to delay, frustrate and deter access to justice and access to compensation. It encourages Defendants to make early low offers before proper investigation of the case and to continue to unreasonably deny liability"

This comes not from a niche, left-wing human rights firm of the kind so abhorrent to the Lord Chancellor, but from one of the City’s leading firms, which proclaims itself, "more than just a European law firm, specialising in providing commercial solutions across industries and sectors.""

Fieldfisher were also mentioned in a Guardian article outlining some of the major flaws of introducing these regulations

Sadly, in spite of our efforts, the House of Lords has rubber-stamped the reforms, however we understand that the Law Society has ordered a judicial review challenging the decision to increase court fess in this way, claiming that the Government has not justified with evidence why these increases are necessary.

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