Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Government proposes change to costs in libel cases

The Government has today announced plans to cap legal fees in libel cases.

A rise in both the number of libel cases and also their high profile nature has led national newspapers to complain about the "chilling effect" that the associated legal costs have on the freedom of expression.

The Justice Minister: Bridget Prentice, said: “Excessive costs and their threat may force defendants to settle unwarranted claims...The aim of these proposals is to bring more effective cost control to litigation in defamation proceedings and to ensure that costs in this area are more proportionate and reasonable...We need to ensure that people’s right to freedom of expression is not infringed and media organisations continue to report on matters of public concern. "

The proposals are: limiting hourly rates, cost-capping (or at least the consideration of cost-capping) and considering proportionality when assessing claimable costs.

IP Freely has no problem with the sentiments behind these proposals (especially considering the prevalence of CFA's in such cases and a seeming absence in keeping costs proportionate) however one would not want to see a situation whereby a client could not defend (or bring) a case for fear of not recovering their costs.

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