Buy Zantac 75 Purchase Viagra Online Order Accutane Uk Cardura Cialis Interaction Diclofenac 75 Mg Dr Tab Sandoz

A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform


11:00 am - January 20th 2011

by Guest    


      Share on Tumblr

contribution by Gareth Winchester

On Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) made an important ruling in MGN Ltd. v UK case.

It unanimously ruled that success fees in libel cases are excessive, and breach Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to Freedom of Expression.

Background
Back in 2001, the Mirror had an article about Naomi Campbell visiting rehab clinics and were sued for breach of privacy. Campbell won £3,500 in damages, and her costs were claimed at £1.1 million.

After an appeal, they were reduced to £500,000. But MGN still considered the costs and success fees excessive and in 2004issued proceedings against the UK.

English Costs Law
The winner’s legal costs can be claimed from the loser, on top of damages. This is why personal injury firms usually say you’ll get 100% of your damages if you win.

However, only reasonable costs are allowed, i.e. you have to take into account how complex the case is, what is at stake, etc. and usually to the extent that they are proportionate.

Lawyer ‘success fees’ occur if a lawyer acts under a “Conditional Fee Agreement” (aka ‘No-win, No-fee’). They are a percentage of the lawyer’s basic fees up to 100%. Sometimes the amount is fixed by law, but not in libel. As a result, 100% is usually claimed.

The Court’s Ruling
What’s significant about the ECHR ruling is that it…

[C]onsiders that the depth and nature of the flaws in the system […] accepted in important respects by the [UK], are such that the Court can conclude that the […] scheme exceeded even the broad margin of appreciation […] in respect of general measures pursuing social and economic interests.

Basically the Court is saying that success fees in libel cases go too far.

That means the government has to amend the law. The question is, what will it do? There are three main options.

1. Last year, Jack Straw attempted to pass a law which would have fixed libel success fees at 10%. Unfortunately, it failed. This would be a simple way of complying with the ruling because a 10% success fee implies a minimal risk.

2. If not, there is the Jackson Report, which was a big review of legal costs published last year. The ECHR refers to its findings, including not allowing success fees to be recoverable at all, and instead would be claimed from their own client. Clearly this is another way the government could deal with the ruling.

3. There is also the option of amending the draft Defamation Bill, which does not mention success fees at all.

As usual it is a case of “wait-and-see”. Either way, the ECHR ruling is significant for libel reform in the UK.


Gareth Winchester blogs here and tweets from here.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Media

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


It’s not just a matter of excessive costs (and, tbh I sympathise with Naomi Campbell: her health is nobody’s business but her own): its that certain issues should not be in the courts at all. The courts should have no jurisdiction over settling science disputes, for instance: that’s not how science precedes. Nor should the courts decide on artistic merit in censorship cases.

Shatterface,

I tend to agree in principle, but considering law is an area where I believe the state monopoly is essential, could you tell me how you believe society should work out cases of censorship or even the Simon Singh case – which if something similiar had been said about say Chiropodists (n.b. for the anti-Chiropody fringe out there, I am assuming there is scientific evidence for chiropody working as advertised) would have indeed been a libel of a profession. The only other option I can see is some form of public vote, which would be a lot worse (the point of law is to protect liberty; democracy, as with Swiss minarets, does not do this).

I think that this is probably a sensible judgement though (albeit I’ve only skimmed it) – and from a free-market point of view, I think it is fully justifiable in that there is no marketplace of courts (I doubt even the most rabid free-marketeer wants the nightmare of conflicting jurasdictions as this is often the basis for wars…), so lawyers fees are intrinsically tied into a state-run monopoly and are therefore liable (only in the case of court hearings) to be regulated.

‘I tend to agree in principle, but considering law is an area where I believe the state monopoly is essential, could you tell me how you believe society should work out cases of censorship…’

I don’t believe in censorship other than extreme cases like child pornography which is actual child abuse and therefore not a free speech issue.

‘… or even the Simon Singh case – which if something similiar had been said about say Chiropodists (n.b. for the anti-Chiropody fringe out there, I am assuming there is scientific evidence for chiropody working as advertised) would have indeed been a libel of a profession.’

You can’t libel a profession. Simon Singh’s criticism of homeopathy was so mild as to make a mockery of the law – he called homeopathy *bogus*, for gods sake. Had he explicitly called homeopathy *fraud* thats still a matter for science to decide, not the courts.

‘The only other option I can see is some form of public vote, which would be a lot worse (the point of law is to protect liberty; democracy, as with Swiss minarets, does not do this).’

The Swiss minaret vote just illustrates that there are issues of liberty where democracy should back off as well as the courts: democracy without libert is just a tyranny of numbers.

‘I think that this is probably a sensible judgement though (albeit I’ve only skimmed it) – and from a free-market point of view, I think it is fully justifiable in that there is no marketplace of courts’

But there *is* a marketplace of courts – which is why libel litigants choose British courts over everywhere else.

4. Robin Levett

@Shatterface #3:

“But there *is* a marketplace of courts – which is why libel litigants choose British courts over everywhere else.”

Do you have some numbers on that? How much of a problem is libel tourism?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform http://bit.ly/fW1d7y

  2. ndwillis

    RT @libcon: A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform http://bit.ly/fW1d7y

  3. Gareth Winchester

    I wrote an article for @libcon: A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform http://t.co/TGltmsu #libelreform

  4. caebrwyn

    A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/2EjdG13 via @libcon #libelreform

  5. Dom Stapleton

    RT @dnotice: I wrote an article for @libcon: A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform http://t.co/TGltmsu #libelreform

  6. Police State UK

    RT @libcon: A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform http://bit.ly/fW1d7y

  7. Paul

    A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/gu5MW7j via @libcon

  8. Rachel Hubbard

    A significant ruling in the battle for libel reform | Liberal Conspiracy http://goo.gl/Mikki





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.