No Win No Fee for Libel and Slander Under Threat

Judith Thompson

The government is planning to change the way in which libel and slander cases can be funded. The proposal is that on 6 April 2019, traditional Conditional Fee Agreements (where the base costs and success fee can be recovered from an unsuccessful defendant) will be replaced by a new style of funding arrangement, where the claimant has to pay their own success fee.

The impact of this is best explained by way of example. If a claimant with a conditional fee agreement had incurred costs of £10,000 when the claim was settled, the defendant would have to pay damages, the £10,000 base costs, plus the success fee of another £10,000. Under the new regime, the defendant would still have to pay the £10,000 base costs, but the claimant themselves would have to pay the success fee. Most cases settle before costs get to that level, and this example is given for illustrative purposes only.

There are proposals currently being considered as to whether after the event insurance premium (which insures a claimant against having to pay costs to the defendant, if their claim is unsuccessful), will remain recoverable from defendants, or whether they too will be payable by claimants in future.

This is a significant change in the way no win no fee agreements for defamation cases, which covers both libela and slander, will be dealt with.

Judith Thompson, partner at Samuels Solicitors LLP who specialises in no win no fee defamation claims says: “this change to the funding regime will be significant for solicitors and for claimants. It seems obvious that access to justice will be affected for people who have been libelled, but who may not have the means to pay legal fees. One possible way that solicitors might be able to help is by reducing success fees, but this may also mean that the number of solicitors prepared to take on this type of work will dwindle."

The good news is that for the foreseeable future, Samuels Solicitors LLP will continue to offer no win no fee agreements in libel and slander claims, in cases where there is a good chance of success.

If you believe you have been the victim of libel or slander, you should act quickly to take advantage of the no win no fee arrangements which are currently in place.

Contact us today to find out how we can help.