The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

Well, if I may, Lord Leveson, I'll go away perhaps to consider it and submit something too, but I find your idea very attractive. Because when we went in for the Jackson reforms, of course in this area and several others people argued that I was barring access to justice for people of low means because no longer would lawyers take them on. I have tended to answer that by saying the main difference actually is your lawyer will not make as much money as he did before if you're successful, but I conceded I think earlier on that the lawyer will make a more careful assessment of risk. At the moment he expects to make a lot of money when he wins one case and that makes up for the couple he's prepared to take on and lose because in the long run he will have a very successful practice, and therefore you have to be -- the lawyers will have to be very much more careful about the risk they're incurring.

Also, because we're going back to the old system whereby any success fee, if the plaintiff allows you to take a success fee, it will be taken out of the plaintiff's damages, everybody will start thinking a little more about what costs they're incurring.

I don't know what the figures are in litigation, but certainly in the CFA cases against the National Health Service, lawyers and expert witnesses who appear for plaintiffs tend to be paid four or five times as much as lawyers and expert witnesses who appear for the defendant, who knows he's going to have to pay it.

I still think you will have people of ordinary means having good cases brought under our modified CFA with less reward to those who act for them.

Then people argue we should have qualified cost shifting, which in other areas, particularly personal injury claims, is what we propose, where you can't get legal aid and where you are taking on a big employer, big company, that in certain cases you can shift the cost burden so the plaintiff is at much less risk. I'm reluctant to do that in the case of defamation, although we'll have a look at it, because I think it would produce a flood of claims if you were not careful. People are very sensitive to things they don't like written about them in the newspapers and in the media, and once you start popularising the idea that anybody can go along and have a go in court without too much financial risk in circumstances where the CFA-based lawyer is no longer bringing his careful judgment to bear even, you might produce a great rash of defamation cases, and I'm not attracted by the idea of producing a litigious society in this particular area.

Going back to the regulator, I think the idea that the regulator might answer all our prayers and be a regulator, a mediator of disputes proposing a remedy and, in certain cases, actually adjudicating and giving a modest award is quite attractive.

In most of these cases I don't think finance should play a large part in it. I don't think great sums of damages are very often appropriate unless somebody can demonstrate they have indeed suffered a substantial financial loss in the course of their career and their business.

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech