Trial fee refund abolished

Government takes more money from litigants as it abolishes the trial fee refund

The rules to obtain a trial fee refund changed with effect from 6 March 2017. There wasn’t much publicity about it and we only discovered it upon downloading the up to date form EX50 which contains the court fees.

The Civil Proceedings Fees (Amendment) Order 2016 is now effective and changed how the courts deal with trial fees. Until this came into force, if a matter settled and the court was notified before trial, it used to be possible to recover the trial fee paid, either in full or partially depending on how close the trial date is when the court is notified.

A trial fee refund is no longer available regardless of when the court is notified the matter is settled and the trial will not be going ahead.

The Effect of Scrapping the Trial Fee Refund

The notes at the end of the Order try to justify the change the Ministry of Justice tries to justify the change on the basis that the current court fee system is too complicated and that it wants to generate more revenue through the courts to pay for their cost. The court fee system is not complicated and this change is simply another way to get money out of court users.

The change also disadvantages the courts. Because of the potential refund, there was an incentive for litigants to notify the court early if a matter had settled. This gives the court the potential to use that trial time by putting other work before a Judge that day and listing hearings in that space. If the courts are only notified last minute, for example the day before a trial, there is little prospect of any hearing taking place before the Judge.

Please note the new provisions do not affect the ability to recover a trial fee if the notice of trial was given before 6 March, so there will still be a number of matters under which the court fee will be recoverable if a matter settles before trial.

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