Higher court cost awards are sought

LARNE Borough Council wants to increase the maximum amount of costs it can recover from prosecuting cases at the magistrates court.

The NI Courts Service has issued a consultation document asking for views on proposals to raise the cap on court fees, which has not been reviewed since 1979.

In response, the local authority has stated that a maximum sum of £300 would “seem reasonable” for the majority of cases that it is involved in.

According to the council, most of its cases involve representation by a solicitor only, with a much smaller number of cases requiring counsel. Over the past two financial years, legal costs ranged from £115 to £1500, with an average cost of £208 in 2010 and £475 in 2009.

However, the council also feels that the £300 cap should not apply to certain cases that bear considerably higher fees, and believe that a framework should be put in place to allow these costs to be recovered.

“Associated costs regarding the enforcement of building regulations, licensing requirements or health and safety regulations tend to exceed £300 in the vast majority of cases. Due to the complex nature of the cases, costs can range from £1000 to £5000. The proposed normative cost award would not satisfy costs incurred on these cases,” the council added.