Healy O'Connor

Fee to Increase in Courts Service

A range of new fees has been introduced by the Courts Service, following a demand from the Department of Finance for an increase in its fee income.

The increases are across the board and range from 8.3 per cent to one increase, in the case of special licences for the licensed premises in an area, of 455 per cent.

According to a spokesman for the Courts Service, the move follows the Department of Justice seeking an increase in the amount of fee income to be generated by the Courts Service in the 2011 estimates.

Following the requirement in the estimates for increased fee income, the Courts Service found it necessary to increase the level of fees on a range of transactions and services, the spokesman said in a statement to The Irish Times. These came into effect on August 22nd last.

“Fees had previously been increased in August 2008,” he said. “While reviews of court fees were last conducted in 2008, no fee increases were implemented until recently. Apart from the objective of generating additional fee income to meet the target set by the Department of Finance, we have also taken the opportunity to rationalise the fee structures and rates, particularly where there were anomalies between fees charged in different court jurisdictions for essentially similar services.”

He said the increases were modest in most areas, but acknowledged there were some exceptions where the increases were large.

These included an alignment of fees across different jurisdictions for the same service, for example, a notice of motion. Here the fees in the High and Circuit Court were brought into line, meaning an increase in the High Court from €40 to €60, an increase of 50 per cent. Similar increases existed where there were alignments across different jurisdictions for other services.

There was a five-fold increase in the cost of applying for area exemption orders under the Intoxicating Liquor Act. Special exemption orders under the Intoxicating Liquor Act allow late bar extensions in individual licensed premises and were increased significantly in 2008 for public order reasons, the spokesman said.

However, area exemption orders, which apply when a festival or similar event is taking place and covers all licensed premises in the locality, were not reviewed at that time. They have now been increased from €135 to €750.

“While it is a significant increase, it was in part catching up with the previous increase applied to special exemptions orders and also recognising that area exemption orders cover several licensed premises,” the spokesman said.

He pointed out that the service had powers under the Act setting it up to make proposals to the Minister on court fees and had taken a proactive approach to the management of fees.

Some of the fee increases will “raise eyebrows among members of the profession”, commented the Law Society Gazette.

(The Irish Times, 13th September 2011)

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