Libel costs cut in bid to make justice accessible

 

Whitehall Editor

People who sue the media for defamation will only have to pay their own lawyers’ fees even if they lose a case, under plans to reduce the cost of justice in libel cases.

Under the proposals, lawyers  representing individuals suing  newspapers or television programmes would also no longer be able to apply excessive no-win no-fee charges which can leave defendants having to pay up to three times the cost of fighting the case if they lose.

Claimants would be able to apply to the court to only pay their own costs if they lost – limiting their  liability and encouraging lawyers  to represent them even with the restrictions to no-win no-fee charges.

The new rules would apply both ways, so individuals and small media organisations could also receive  protection if they were contesting a case brought by a wealthy celebrity.

The new protections have been put forward in response to concerns raised in the Leveson report that  potential libel victims could be put off from taking on large media groups and their expensive legal teams.

The recommendation was backed by victims of defamation and  invasion of privacy, including the families of Madeleine McCann and Milly Dowler.

They had warned that on their own the changes to no-win no-fee charges could have prevented lawyers taking on victims of press intrusion and defamation  because of the risk of ending up out of pocket.

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