Just like the star of Bethlehem, legal costs are in the ascent in Scotland.
The Scottish Government is consulting on raising court fees for Scottish jurisdiction. Its objective is to ensure that the fees collected are sufficient to pay for running its courts. A “demand-led” remission scheme is available which is intended to protect access to justice.
Court fees have generally been reviewed every three years, with the last full round being implemented in 2015.
In 2016 the Scottish Government concluded that it was necessary to move further towards full-cost recovery in the courts, which has been the policy of the current and previous governments for some time. The Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Order 2016 came into force on 28 November 2016. This order raised the level of fees significantly, although certain fees, such as those in the Sheriff Personal Injury Court, were frozen in order to protect access to justice. The overall effect was intended to bring the level of fees to the point at which they cover the costs of the civil justice system.
Inflationary pressures in the wider economy have driven the Scottish Government to adhere to the original three yearly review to set fees for the three- year period commencing on 1 April 2018 (by which point it will be 17 months since the last fees increase).
Unlike the position in England & Wales, where a policy of enhanced court fees has developed, it is not intended that court fees should move to a point where a profit is made (that could be used to subsidise other parts of the justice system).
A separate but connected development is the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government state that this will make the costs of civil action more predictable by increasing the funding options for pursuers of civil actions through greater availability of “no win, no fee” success fee agreements.
It is proposed that qualified one-way cost-shifting should be introduced for personal injury claims and this will also protect pursuers from the risk of having to pay their opponent's costs in personal injury cases if the case is lost, provided they have acted properly (as in England & Wales).
LEI ensures that personal injury claimants are able to keep their damages in full. Considered together these two developments support the premise that LEI will provide even better value than before for our policyholders in Scotland.
Landlords Legal Solutions
By the way – a reminder that we have updated our Landlords policy to reflect the new landlord and tenant law in Scotland.
With all best wishes for the festive season from the Product Development team at ARAG.