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Court fee rises should be inflation linked - law society

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Today's announcement of increases in the fees for civil courts and tribunals appears to signal a change from a principles-based approach in setting court fees to one of pure cost recovery, the New Zealand Law Society said today.

The Ministry of Justice has announced fee increases of up to 18.2% from 1 July 2011 and says the adjustment is for inflation.

The convenor of the Law Society's Civil Litigation and Tribunals Committee, Andrew Beck, said that to his knowledge court fees have never before been adjusted to take account of inflation.

"Court fees are an important factor in access to justice. Fees for lodging claims or disputes are an important consideration for anyone who wants their day in court. The impact of any increase in fees should be evaluated by other considerations than just keeping up with inflation," he said.

Mr Beck said today's announcement had been accompanied by an indication that the Government was considering a "first principles review" of all civil court and tribunal fees. He said the best course would have been for any rise to be delayed until such a review was carried out, allowing full input from court users. The Law Society would obviously welcome the opportunity to participate.

Mr Beck said the Law Society and legal profession had not been consulted about the latest increases.

"This is in stark contrast to the last time civil court fees were increased, several years ago. At that time there was a comprehensive review with input from all interested parties and this considered many more factors than inflation. Any increase in fees has a direct impact on all litigants or anyone considering taking legal action. We urge adoption of the proposal for a first principles review," he said.

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