Our interview with the head of the Court Service last week prompted these responses ...

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Dear Sir,

The chief executive of the Court Service appears remarkably complaisant in articulating government policy to raise court fees to a level where they cover the whole of the costs of the judiciary and the courts ("Free Agent for Justice", 3 January 1996).

Mr Huebner does not divulge that the proposal is so politically controversial that it has been rejected on constitutional grounds by both the representative body of the US judiciary and a recent commission on justice established by the Australian government.

As your correspondent, Stephen Ward, correctly comments, daily hearing fees of pounds 200 in the county court and pounds 500 in the High Court are being widely discussed as those necessary to raise the type of funds needed to close the gap between current revenue and costs.

Fees of this magnitude will undoubtedly deter poorer litigants, already hit by legal aid cuts that can require payment of lawyers' costs by those in receipt of means-tested welfare benefits. They will provide another weapon by which richer litigants can exercise pressure on the less wealthy by stalling on settlement. Furthermore, the very notion of imposing full costs on users denies that the courts have any public role beyond the adjudication of disputes between individual litigants.

Yours sincerely

ROGER SMITH

Director,

Legal Action Group

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