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Legal Costs

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) whether the Government plans to increase court costs for conviction in the magistrates' court for failure to pay a television licence in line with the proposed increase in costs for an application for a liability order against council tax defaulters; (253250)

(2) whether he plans to allow magistrates' courts to (a) reduce and (b) remit court costs in proportion to means for (i) unemployed persons on means tested benefits and (ii) other cases of hardship.

A consultation paper ‘Civil Court Fees’ (CP31/08) was published on 10 December 2008. The consultation period closes 4 March 2009. The paper proposes to increase fees in order to maintain full-cost recovery for civil business in the county courts and High Court and increase civil fees for the magistrates court to 100 per cent. cost-recovery. The current fee for an application for conviction within the magistrates court is in three stages, costing a total of £90. The consultation proposes a single fee of £250. There are no plans to increase the fee of £3 for an application for a liability order against council tax defaulters.

The Ministry of Justice is committed to ensuring that court fees do not prevent access to the courts for those less well-off. A system of fee concessions is available in the High Court, county court and magistrates courts to ensure those of limited means are not denied access to the courts because they genuinely cannot afford to pay the fees. The system allows a full remission or part remission of the court fee and is aimed at people who are in receipt of a specific means-tested benefit, whose income is below a prescribed limit and for some whose financial commitments leave them with little or no disposable income.