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Committee condemns plans to raise court fees

Government proposals to raise the court fees payable for divorce and other civil actions are “not fit for purpose”, an advisory committee has declared.

In December the Ministry of Justice published proposals to  increase the fees, the Guardian reports, with the aim of raising an additional £190 million a year.

But plans have now been heavily criticised by the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), a standalone organisation which provides the government with “external independent scrutiny of new regulatory and deregulatory proposals”, examining the evidence for new legislation. The RPC has issued a rare ‘red report’ on the proposals, the paper notes, saying the fee increases would raise more money than required by the Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.

“The [proposals] are not fit for purpose…..The proposed change is intended to increase the fees charged to some users of the civil and family courts system beyond the level necessary to recover costs…..The Ministry of Justice has not explained sufficiently the outcome the proposal is intended to achieve – whether the proposal will result in the court service generating an adequate level of revenue to meet its costs, or whether a surplus will be generated.”

There was no “supporting evidence or discussion of the risk”.

The RPC issues green, amber and, less frequently, red reports. It has issued only 12 red reports in the past three years.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Shailesh Vara defended the plans, saying:

“Hardworking taxpayers should not have to subsidise millionaires embroiled in long cases fighting over vast amounts of money, and we are redressing that balance.”

He added:

“Vulnerable groups must also be protected, which is why we are keeping the fees the same for sensitive family issues, including adoption applications and child contact, and scrapping the application fee for victims of domestic violence seeking injunctions to protect themselves.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. u6c00 says:

    If I recall, the proposed cost for a divorce petition was to be £750.

    That level is very much beyond many people on low wages. It might also lead to more costs applications and more misery. The government ought to be doing more to reduce the amount of conflict in divorces, not increase it.

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