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Court fees not a key factor when deciding to take case to court, study finds

Date:3 APR 2014
Journals Manager + Online Editor

MOJ research has revealed that participants bringing civil and family cases to court typically felt that court fees were affordable, and they would not have been deterred from starting court proceedings if court fees had been set at the higher levels they were asked about in the study.

The report, The role of court fees in affecting users' decisions to bring cases to the civil and family courts: a qualitative study of claimants and applicants, presents findings from a qualitative study exploring why court users decide to seek redress through the civil and family courts and the role that court fees play in their decisions, in the context of other factors that might influence decisions to take a case to court. The study also explored court users' views on potential increases to court fees.

The introduction of the report states:

'The overarching objective of this research was to provide evidence on the role that court fees play in decisions to seek redress through civil and family courts, in the context of other costs that may be incurred and other factors that might influence decisions to take a case to court. The aim of the study was to explore:

- why users decide to use the courts to resolve disputes;

- what role costs and court fees play in this decision;

- views on potential increases to court fees;and

- in what circumstances decisions are price sensitive.

A qualitative study was undertaken to address the research aims. Fifty-four in-depth interviews were conducted with a range of civil claimants and family applicants whose cases had commenced between August 2012 and March 2013. The findings reflect the stated views, beliefs and experiences of those interviewed, and only pertain to those who had decided to use the courts for their case. The study included individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and covered those who were represented (either having paid themselves, were funded through conditional fee (otherwise known as "no win, no fee" (NWNF)) arrangements or had been funded via legal aid) and those who represented themselves (litigants in person). The study does not cover those who resolved disputes using alternative means, or who had been deterred from bringing their case to court for any reason.

Given the focus on understanding the rationale behind user behaviour and decision making, a behavioural-research approach was adopted based on the "COM-B model" of behaviour change (Michie et al, 2011). In this "behaviour system" capability, opportunity and motivation interact to generate behaviour that in turn influences these components.'

For more information visit the MOJ website. The full report is available to download here.