Carter-Ruck hits back at libel 'casino' claims

Martin: ‘libel not just for rich’

eter Carter-Ruck and Partners has rejected claims that the no-win no-fee system for libel has become a “casino where the lawyers win every time”.

Instead, it says the new conditional fee agreements (CFAs) have opened up the libel laws to all – including journalists – rather than just the rich.

The “casino” claim was made by David Hooper, a partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, who claimed costs in such cases were “spiralling out of control” (Press Gazette, 19 September).

Hooper described the CFAs as “bonanza and casino time for plaintiff lawyers”. Lawyers are allowed to claim up to double their normal costs in nowin no-fee cases if they are successful because of the risk they have taken of getting nothing if they lose.

But Guy Martin, a partner at Peter Carter-Ruck, claims that since CFAs were introduced by Parliament, in the Access to Justice Act 1999, pursuing a claim for libel is no longer solely the preserve of the rich.

He told Press Gazette: “The CFA system is about facilitating access to the court for those wrongly attacked in the media who cannot otherwise bring actions to clear their names because of their lack of financial means. It’s allowed us to act for people from all walks of life irrespective of their means, including school teachers, nurses and journalists.

“Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners has been at the forefront of no-win no-fee libel cases. The firm started its CFA libel scheme in 1999. In the four years since then a comparison of the total success fees we’ve recovered, against the very substantial fees we’ve written off due to time spent on CFA cases we’ve lost, shows we’ve just about broken even.”

Martin added: “The current rules do not lead to more ‘speculative’ claims.

We turn down many more CFA applications than we accept. Libel cases are often complicated both factually and legally and may involve hundreds of hours’ work at all levels of the firm to conduct them. It would be foolhardy for any firm to make such a substantial investment of resources on a speculative claim.”

He said the firm had represented many claimants under its CFA scheme, including a journalist, Ehsan Ullah Khan, who could not have contemplated bringing a libel action without it. “The current rules mean that libel claimants are now on a more level playing field with newspapers,” said Martin.

By Jon Slattery

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