Straw cuts legal 'success fees'

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Indy Politics

The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has moved to cut the success fees which lawyers operating on no-win, no-fee agreements in defamation cases can charge, from 100 per cent to just 10 per cent.

The move, introduced in a Statutory Order in Parliament, comes into effect from April. It follows a consultation on controlling costs in libel proceedings launched by the Justice Ministry in January.

Media and news organisations have protested that the conditional fee regime, which allows claimants' lawyers who win cases to claim a "success fee" of up to 100 per cent – or double their normal rate – has made the costs in defamation cases disproportionate to the damages a successful claimant might win. They also say it has had a repressive effect on freedom of expression, with editors either not running stories because of the risks of expensive libel action or settling to avoid the costs.