About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Monday, 16 June 2008

That fee increase

I am grateful to the Cafcass Google Group for drawing my attention to the remarks in a recent BBC broadcast, of Bridget Prentice MP commenting on the raising of court fees in care cases. She was asked why the government had disregarded the numerous views opposing the increase and referred to the institutional bodies such as the Local Government Association and the ADCS as 'accepting' that the changes would not place children at risk. She also commented that 'it must be right to resolve matters without going to court in the first place'. This small sentence is bristling with worrying implications. Does the government think that local authorities bring care proceedings because they have nothing better to do? How does this square with the number of applications which are granted by the court? Will this fuel the tendency which I have at least anecdotally noticed of some local authorities putting pressure on parents to agree to s 20 accommodation (or we will have to take the matter to court)? How many dead children will it be before there is an acknowledgment that any financial disincentive to issue proceedings aimed at child protection is a bad thing?

Here finally is the response to consultation (pdf file). The majority of responses were against the fee increase. It seems to argue that it is long-standing policy to charge fees for public sector services to any user of the service for good policy reasons so it is a policy that should be implemented in care cases regardless of the statutory obligations of the uses. However, it has never been the policy to do so in criminal cases to users such as the CPC so it should not be the policy now.

"In short, the principles of fee-charging policy apply equally to public sector bodies as to other users. Nor is it relevant whether the public body can be said to be acting pursuant of a specific statutory duty or its more general objectives. Indeed, it is axiomatic that court proceedings generally are, or should only be, brought in pursuit of some important objective, whether public policy or access to justice for an individual user. The significance of the issues at stake does not in itself provide a basis for differences in fee policy.
It has long been the case that fees are not charged at all to bring criminal proceedings. So the principles of the Fees & Charges Guide do not apply. There are no plans to change this policy."

Or am I missing something?

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