Naomi Campbell case: Strasbourg rules "success fees" violate free expression
18 Jan 2011

The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously ruled that the payment of success fees of up to 100 per cent in privacy and defamation cases, under CFA agreements, constitutes a violation of the right to free expression.

In a judgment in Mirror Group News versus United Kingdom, the court said the “flaws” of success fees and the CFA system “are such that the Court can conclude that the impugned scheme exceeded even the broad margin of appreciation to be accorded to the State in respect of general measures pursuing social and economic interests.”

The Mirror newspaper brought the case to Strasbourg after it was forced to pay £500,000 in costs and success fees to model Naomi Campbell, after it was found to have breached her privacy by photographing her leaving a drug addiction treatment centre. The court upheld that there had been no breach of the Mirror’s free expression in the privacy ruling won by Campbell.

Media Legal Defence Initiative, the Open Society Justice Initiative, Index on Censorship, English PEN, Global Witness and Human Rights Watch jointly intervened in the case to express serious concern about the costs of defending libel and privacy claims in the UK. NGOs and small publishers — including bloggers — are extremely vulnerable to the threat of a costly libel or privacy actions in the UK. They simply do not have the means to defend themselves, and are easily forced to apologise and retract allegations even when they know them to be true.

Jo Glanville, editor of Index on Censorship said: “This is a resounding triumph, spelling the end of success fees in defamation and privacy cases, one of the most serious chilling effects on freedom of expression in the UK.”


6 responses to “Naomi Campbell case: Strasbourg rules “success fees” violate free expression”

  1. […] Today (18.1.2011), “The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously ruled that the payment of success fees of up to 100 per cent in privacy and defamation cases, under CFA agreements, constitutes a violation of the right to free expression.” (Index of Censorship) […]

  2. court case no; ouc 59941 Margaret Cooper-v-Donal D Davis
    & court case no; ouc 68065 Margaret Cooper -v-The Law Society UK’s chief exec Desmond Hudson

    accountability by the regulating Law Society UK is compulsory by law if they are to regulate the solicitors that graduate in the UK-on 21st January 2011, at Clerkenwell County Court, the UK law legalized ‘attempted murder’, theft of home, savings and jewellery to the value of over 650,000pounds sterling, physical and emotional abuse by ex husband when I was told that I am not entitled to punitive and aggravated damages by my divorce solicitors after a court hearing to hear my court claim for damages of 20years of marriage in which my ex tried to kill me twice, he stole all we had,(police reports available)and spousal and child maintenance for our 2 kids, from my divorce case from George Cooper ex RAF Q8077345-
    any future divorce cases claiming spousal & child maintenance should cite my case as an example of how ‘wrong’ the UK Law Society which is after all the legal regulating body for UK solicitors-
    like any other Limited company, the partners are to be held accountable for the damages caused by their employees, in this case, all the UK Solicitors!
    & I am requesting all media to quote these court cases, as this is a 1st in UK Legal history-
    anybody can sue the Law Society-
    [email protected]

  3. […] Strasbourg rules libel lawsuit “success fees” violate free expression Lawyers acting for claimants in privacy and libel cases should no longer be allowed to recover a “success fee” from defendants, the European Court of Human Rights ruled this week. NGOs including Index on Censorship and English PEN intervened in the case to express serious concern that the threat of disproportionate and costly libel cases was having a chilling effect on free expression. […]

  4. […] Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) made an important ruling in MGN Ltd. v UK […]

  5. Michael says:

    Great news!

    But, I am suffering from cognitive overload induced by recursively parsing “STRASBOURG RULES SUCCESS FEES”.

    How about some self-censorship of mentally-indigestible headlines :-)

  6. Law Think says:

    Jackson LJ will be pleased that all his work finally amounted to something. Surely contingency fees are the way forward?

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