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The Comparative Cost Of Litigating In England

The Comparative Cost Of Litigating In England

A recent announcement from the English Ministry of Justice suggests a significant rise in the fees payable to courts when litigating in England.  In fact, increases of up to 622% are contemplated.

According to the Civil Justice Council, the body responsible for overseeing the civil justice system, the fee to start off a payment action for £190,000 will increase to £9,500.   This compares with a court fee of only £202 in the Court of Session in Scotland.

These changes have been criticised in the consultation period with the Civil Justice Council warning of a ‘chilling effect’ on access to justice in England and that the increases represent a ‘tax on litigation’.

Although certain “big-ticket” litigators are unlikely to be deterred, the cost increases may well result in reduced business for the courts of England and Wales as companies, who have an alternative, decide it is too expensive a jurisdiction in which to resolve disputes. 

There is no doubt about it, litigating in the Court of Session in Scotland offers litigants a cost-effective alternative; and it is not only the court fees North of the border which are less.  A significant element of the cost of litigating in the English courts is their procedural rules which require an expensive and burdensome procedural step known as disclosure. This requires each party to disclose to the other any document potentially relevant to the action, a step not required in Scotland.

In times past, the High Court in England offered litigants a very attractive and cost-effective forum for determining disputes.  There is no question, for many that remains the case.  However those without the budget of a Russian oligarch may be increasingly tempted to look to alternative forum in which to litigate. 

Ruairidh Wynne-McHardy
Trainee Solicitor