Press waits for no win, no fee ruling

The
House of Lords has reserved judgment on a case which could lead to a
shake-up of the controversial no win, no fee system for libel and
privacy cases.

The Daily Mirror petitioned the law lords after
receiving a £594,000 bill from lawyers who acted for supermodel Naomi
Campbell in a House of Lords hearing in her privacy action against the
paper over its coverage of her treatment at Narcotics Anonymous.

Campbell
was represented by top media lawyers Schillings, who, under the
conditional fee agreement, were able to charge a 100 per cent uplift in
its costs – compensating for the risk of failure.

However,
Richard Spearman QC for the Mirror argued before the law lords that the
situation over claims for costs in actions which are funded in this way
was now “totally out of control”.He claimed that the scale of fees now
being charged amounted to a violation of the European Convention right
of Freedom of Speech. And he argued that Campbell would not have been
denied access to the courts in the absence of a conditional fee
arrangement.

Spearman said the question for the law lords to
decide was whether there was a pressing social need why unsuccessful
defendants in cases funded in this way should pay a 100 per cent uplift.

In
the case at the centre of the argument the House of Lords overturned an
earlier High Court ruling and an award of £3,500 for breach of
confidentiality and breach of the Data Protection Act was reinstated in
favour of Campbell.

A judgment is expected within the next few weeks.

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