NEWS

Jack Straw cuts “success fees”
Index on Censorship today welcomes the Justice Secretary’s decision to cut lawyers’ fees dramatically in ‘no win no fee’ defamation cases, but warns that costs are only one part of a libel system in need of serious reform
04 Mar 10

Index on Censorship today welcomes the Justice Secretary’s decision to cut lawyers’ fees dramatically in ‘no win no fee’ defamation cases, but warns that costs are only one part of a libel system in need of serious reform

Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced last night (03 Mar) that he will cut the amount that lawyers can claim in “success fees” in defamation cases from 100 per cent of costs to 10 per cent.

Straw said:“Reducing the success fees charged by lawyers in no-win, no-fee defamation cases will help level the playing field so that scientists, journalists and writers can continue to publish articles which are in the public interest without incurring such disproportionate legal bills.”

The Ministry of Justice amendment was made by statutory order yesterday and will come into effect from April this year.

English PEN and Index on Censorship’s report on libel law, “Free Speech is Not for Sale” recommended capping base costs and making success fees and After the Event insurance non-recoverable.

John Kampfner, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship says the move is a welcome step on the road to libel reform.

He said:

“Our libel courts should be concerned to secure fairness for all, not to reward those with large pockets. It is now up to the legal profession to adapt to the new circumstances to ensure access to justice for claimants and defendants alike.”

Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship and member of the Ministry of Justice working party on libel reform said:

“We’re delighted that the Justice Secretary has addressed one of the most significant chills on free speech by slashing success fees in ‘no win, no fee’ cases – one of the key demands in our libel reform campaign with English PEN. While conditional fee agreements were introduced to provide access to justice, they had the unintended effect of in fact reducing access for newspapers, publishers and NGOs who could not afford to defend a libel action against a claimant lawyer on a CFA.”

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