Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Fees Deterring Court Use

13 October 2004

Fees Deterring Court Use

A New Zealand Law Society survey has shown that the massive increases in court fees imposed in the last three years are deterring people from taking cases to court.

NZLS President Chris Darlow referred to the survey results this morning when he appeared before Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee. The increases have been imposed by regulation, and the Society and NZ Bar Association have made a joint submission asking the committee to recommend that the relevant regulations be disallowed because the fees are impeding access to justice.

Appearing on behalf of the NZ Law Society, Sir Geoffrey Palmer noted that when the Regulations Review Committee had looked at the same issue in 2002, it found there was insufficient evidence to determine if the increased fees were impeding access to justice.

However, the evidence now showed that they were and, further, that they had been determined through a methodology that “was faulty, wrongly applied and which had produced an arbitrary result”. This justified the committee using its powers to recommend that Parliament strike down the regulations authorising the fee increases, he said.

Chris Darlow pointed out that the increases in civil court fees imposed in 2001 ranged from 76% to 650% while this year saw increases of a further 18% to 1,592%.

“The cumulative increases are massive – 900% for filing the documents to commence proceedings in the High Court.

“Because we regarded the issue with such gravity, we took special steps to gather as much relevant material as possible to put in front of the committee,” he said. This included a survey of law society members as to the effect of the fees and commissioning an independent economist to analyse how government officials had calculated the costs used as the basis for setting the fees. That analysis had shown a model that “suffered from erroneous assumptions and a lack of transparency” with results that were “arbitrary and insupportable on any rational basis” while the survey demonstrated strongly the deterrent effect that the increases were having on use of the court system. “Nearly half of the clients of lawyers surveyed looked for alternatives to using the courts because of the fees. The survey also strongly suggests that the further increases in 2004 will make that deterrent effect worse,” Chris Darlow told the committee.

He said that in his experience the fees were proving a disincentive to small business owners and ‘mums and dads’.

“For example, courts will not allow a High Court judge to walk into the courtroom in a trial which will last just five days without the claimant putting $13,000 on the table up front. “It’s all very well to say the registrar has a discretion to waive the fee but waivers are not available in practice to people who, say, own or have a reasonable equity in their home.

“And it’s all very well to blame lawyers for charging high fees but members [of the committee] may be surprised to find out how often lawyers ‘carry’ clients on a conditional delayed payment or reduced fee basis.”

Chris Darlow said that while high fees did not worry the wealthy or those on legal aid, they were having a big impact on the large numbers in between those two groups. Instead of people going to court, they were opting for arbitration and while this could be more efficient for the client, it meant that the decisions, being private, did not add to the body of law under which members of the wider public had to regulate their affairs.

“The long term effects on the rule of law by these moves will be quite serious,” he told the committee. NZ Bar Association Vice-President Robert Dobson QC said the fees were being set at a level to recover 50% of costs on the presumption that litigants personally derived 50% of the benefit of going to court. However, there was no justification for this presumption.

Rather, it was in the interests of a civilised society to have an authoritative third party dispute resolution process available to its citizens. Courts, he said, should be a fundamental government service levied against general taxes and were not amenable to ‘user pays'.

In addition, to the presumption as to private benefit being wrong, the basis for calculating the costs was “wrong, unreliable and arbitrary”.

“Even if some principled basis for partial recovery of costs could be found, the projections of costs thus far used are quite inadequate and deprive the regulations of any credibility,” Robert Dobson said.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Implications Of The Travel Bubble

Amidst the coverage of the hugs and kisses and reunion tears one hates to be a killjoy… But there has been little attention paid to the pattern of travel we’re likely to see with the Trans-tasman bubble. Clearly, there has been a lot of pent-up demand for the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) kind of travel which – while welcome on humanitarian grounds - will be of less benefit to our ailing tourism industry than say, holiday excursions and high-end business travel... More>>


Government: Border Exceptions Will See More Families Reunited

Hundreds more families who were separated by the border closure will be reunited under new border exceptions announced today, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said. More>>


National: Proposed Hate Speech Laws A Step Too Far

Reports of the Government’s proposed new hate speech laws go a step too far and risk sacrificing the freedoms New Zealanders enjoy, National’s Justice spokesperson Simon Bridges says. “The reforms are supposedly including protections to every ... More>>


Agriculture: Government To Phase Out Live Exports By Sea

The Government has announced that the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years, said Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor. “At the heart of our decision is upholding New Zealand’s reputation for high ... More>>


PM Ardern And PM Morrison: Commencement Of Two-Way Quarantine-Free Travel Between Australia And New Zealand

Joint Statement by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern Commencement of two-way quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand Today, Australia and New Zealand have fulfilled their commitment to establish two-way quarantine free ... More>>

Claire Breen: ACC’s Policy Of Not Covering Birth Injuries Is One More Sign The System Is Overdue For Reform

Claire Breen , University of Waikato Recent media coverage of women not being able to get treatment for birth injuries highlights yet another example of gender bias in healthcare in New Zealand. More>>

Police: Police Accept Findings Of IPCA Report Into Photographs Taken At Checkpoint

Police accept the findings of a report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) relating to photographs taken at a checkpoint in Northland. On November 16, 2019, Police set up a checkpoint down the road from a fight night event in Ruakaka ... More>>





InfoPages News Channels