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Small businesses are being ‘priced out of court’, says Doerries

2nd Sep 2016

Lawyers fear that companies and individuals have been priced out of court, as new figures have revealed a one-fifth drop in the number of  (CCJs) against businesses in the first half of 2016.

Statistics from the Registry Trust show that there were 42,091 CCJs against businesses in England and Wales in the first six months of 2016, a 19% fall year on year.

The figures also show thatb the total value of CCJs has decreased by 12%, falling to £149m. The drop in value and number of judgments is the lowest since before the financial crisis of 2008. The number of High Court judgments also fell by 50% compared with the first half of 2015.

The chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said that the government’s introduction of enhanced court fees risked making justice ‘out of bounds’ for those in need.

“Small businesses seeking debt owed to them by customers, who are often other businesses they supply, can turn to CCJs as a last resort to get the money owed to them, but by increasing court fees the government has cut off those small businesses’ only real and last hope of getting that money, which is vital given how important cash-flow is to SMEs. They are being priced out of court,” said Doerries.

In January 2015, the Ministry of Justice raised court fees for money claims, including those issued for late payments, debt, and compensation as part of a government plan to make the court system pay for itself.

A year after their introduction, the Master of the Rolls at the time, Lord Dyson, accompanied by Sir James Munby and Sir Ernest Ryder, warned of the dangers enhanced fees would have for the justice system when giving evidence to the justice select committee.

Remarking on how the legal world’s predictions had appeared to come true, Doerries said the Bar Council took ‘no pleasure’ in seeing its warnings become a reality.