A number of Welsh lawyers are opposing the Ministry of Justice’s plans to increase fees for money claims from April 2015.
Watkins & Gunn Solicitors is against the plans due to concerns that it will have a negative effect on access to justice. The Monmouthshire Law Society President Ashley Harkus has also written to all of the MPs in the region to alert them to the effects of the increases.
The plans come following a consultation held in December 2013 to increase court fees in a number of areas, including money claims, personal injury, commercial proceedings, hearings and divorce proceedings in a bid to raise an extra £190m for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS).
Money claims include debts such as loans, utility bills, business debts owed under contract for goods or services delivered. The plans will also increase the fees for obtaining a divorce.
The changes will also mean that small businesses who are forced to progress legal action with debtors will have to pay extra money to take the company to court. This can severely damage a business’ cashflow and could result in businesses not seeking legal action and being forced into bankruptcy.
Watkins and Gunn Solicitors is supporting the Law Society’s campaign against the changes due to deep concerns that it will make the legal system unaffordable and less accessible.
Clive Thomas, Managing Partner of Watkins & Gunn and President of the South Western Law Societies (ASWLS), said: “We have been against the proposed changes to increase court fees since the consultation began in 2013. The court system should be accessible to everyone and not just for those who can afford it. It is a sad irony that this latest set- back to access to justice comes during the 800 year anniversary of Magna Carta which gave all free men the right to justice which no man should sell, deny or delay.
“With the legal aid cuts in 2013, and now the fee increases, it is making progressing legal action extremely expensive and difficult, which is why we are urging everyone to support the Law Society’s campaign to oppose these changes.”
Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: “Court fee hikes introduced by the government from April spell disaster for access to justice, pricing the public out of the courts and leaving small businesses saddled with debts they are due but unable to afford to recover.
“We will not let these changes go through without challenge. As well as responding to the latest consultation – which closes in February – we will be pressing the government to reverse its decision which will have a far-reaching impact on both our members and consumers.”
Watkins & Gunn Solicitors is an award-winning law firm and was the only firm in Wales to be selected in the category of “Law Firm of the Year” at the prestigious Halsbury Legal Awards 2014. Most recently, it was chosen for the 360 Legal Group Member Firm of the Year 2014.
The firm offers a wide range of legal services including Accident Claims, Medical Negligence, Wills and Probate, Employment Law, Educations Law, Public Law, Business Law, Divorce and Family Law, Childcare Law, Criminal Law, Road Traffic Law and Property.
The Law Society is the independent professional body, established for solicitors in 1825, that works globally to support and represent its members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law.