The Mirror’s phone-hacking lawyers have reportedly described the fees charged by their opponents as “wholly disproportionate”.
And reporting from a costs hearing ahead of a two-week trial set for February, The Guardian said the High Court judge “appeared to agree” after being presented with details.
The hearing was for a trial in which Sven-Goran Eriksson, Christopher Eccleston, Shobna Gulati, Alan Yentob, Garry Flitcroft, Abbie Gibson and two others, not named by the paper, are suing MGN.
The Guardian reported that Mirror Group Newspapers’ skeleton argument states that one of the claimants’ QCs wanted to earn £335,250 during the trial.
Trinity Mirror has set aside £4m for phone-hacking costs, but in court it said that this could triple if the claimants win their cases. The paper reported MGN was planning to spend £1m on this trial.
In its skeleton argument over costs, the publisher said the celebrities would have “no interest in the costs being charged by their respective lawyers” because of their “no win, no fee” arrangements. MGN does not have this agreement.
According to The Guardian, Mr Justice Mann “appeared to agree” with MGN when it highlighted the costs and number of barristers – four – acting for the claimants and described this as “plainly disproportionate”.
The judge said: “Is any of this litigation proportionate? At one level, all these costs are disproportionate for the claims being brought….
“There are still serious questions in relation to the proportionality of individual costs.”
Benjamin Williams, for MGN, rejected suggestions he client’s costs were “strategically low”.
According to The Guardian, there are 43 alleged victims of Mirror phone-hacking known to the court. Of these, 20 have issued claims, and the others have until 15 August to do the same.