Telegraph: Cap lawyers’ success fees in libel cases at 10 per cent, says Jack Straw

Success fees for lawyers in libel trials should be capped at 10 per cent, Justice Secretary Jack Straw has suggested, as part of plans to boost freedom of speech and investigative journalism.

News organisations and investigative journalists in the UK have argued that the risk of huge legal bills in libel cases has had a chilling effect on investigative work. The use of Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) in particular has been criticised, as these have under “no win no fee” terms allowed lawyers to claim a success fee of 100 per cent on top of their usual rate from the losing side.

Straw said such fees should be capped at 10 per cent and will undertake a four-week consultation of the proposals.

Last year freedom of expression groups Index on Censorship (IOC) and English PEN launched a campaign to reform libel fees and court proceedings and suggested that fees should be capped at £10,000.

But a Law Society spokeswoman told the Telegraph yesterday:

Reducing maximum success fees to 10 per cent would be tantamount to abolishing conditional fees and would thus leave people who have been libelled with no effective access to justice.

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