Libel: Straw takes action

Straw has reacted swiftly to the Commons committee report
Straw has reacted swiftly to the Commons committee report

By staff

The justice secretary has stepped in to reduce the amount libel lawyers can claim on 'no-win-no-fee' cases, just days after a Commons committee demanded reform.

Lawyers will be forced to cut their maximum charges from 100% to ten per cent.

The changes will take effect in April and were introduced in a statutory order.

The reform will please journalists, free speech activists and scientists, who all complain of a repressive atmosphere caused by the disproportionate costs incurred when defending a libel action.

Lawyers can double their fees under the current 'no-win-no-fee' system by claiming a success rate of 100% over and above their normal fee.

The extreme financial consequences of the cases mean many news editors simply apologise and print a retraction when defending news pieces they have confidence in.

"This is particularly important for ensuring open scientific exchange and protecting the future of our regional media, who have small budgets but play a large role in our democracy," Mr Straw said.

"This is a swift solution to an immediate problem."

The reform comes just days after a report from the culture, media and sport committee recommended reform to the libel laws, although it stopped short of demanding radical reform.


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