Plans to extend fixed recoverable costs to civil cases valued between £25,000 and £100,000 will tilt the balance of power even further in favour of defendants, APIL says.
“Injured people are already burdened with high court fees. Ill-planned and ill-conceived fixed recoverable costs mean they face further inequality against well-resourced defendants,” said APIL’s president Gordon Dalyell.
“Controlling disproportionate costs above the current fast track level is best achieved through careful costs management and budgeting. But if fixed costs for cases are to be extended, as the Ministry of Justice is keen to do, the process for those cases must be fixed too,” he said.
In its response to the Ministry of Justice consultation, which closes today (6 June) the association has urged ministers to consider a dedicated ‘intermediate track’ for a limited amount of cases that meet a clear set of criteria - as originally proposed by Sir Rupert Jackson. The track should have its own procedure, with specific exclusions.
“Simply shoehorning certain cases into an extended fast track is not appropriate and will not achieve the Government’s aims of controlling costs. Fixing what can be recovered does not mean fixing actual costs,” explained Mr Dalyell.
“Defendant behaviour is one of the biggest causes of escalated costs and there needs to be a proper analysis of this before anything is put in place. It is not uncommon for a defendant to request a disproportionate amount of information from the claimant from the outset of a case, for example.
“Lawyers representing injured people will not be able to do their job effectively if they are unable to recover the costs for their work,” he said.