Letter: Attacks on Fayed

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The Independent Culture
Sir: You cite the view of a libel lawyer who asks "who wants to limit oneself to pounds 10,000 when with a jury there's always a chance of winning much more" ("Fast-track defamation laws delayed after lawyers complain they `just wouldn't work' ", 24 December).

Most litigants, however, do not see themselves challenged with the same sort of dilemma as that facing the contestants on a television quiz show.

About 400 people a year sue for defamation in the High Court and the great majority are ordinary people.

There is no legal aid for this sort of action, so the path to having one's reputation vindicated and costs met is beset with awful uncertainty and worry.

Most of the righteous do not proceed down this path but most of those who do proceed are righteous. They want justice not a big cheque.

Recent cases involving Jonathan Aitken, Neil Hamilton, and renewed interest in the 1980s Jeffrey Archer case have raised serious questions about the way the law is being used but the focus of concern should not be on the alleged greed of the common people.

GARY SLAPPER

Director

The Law Programme

The Open University

Milton Keynes

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