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Conditional Fee Arrangements

Volume 539: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2012

19. What assessment he has made of the effect of his reforms to conditional fee arrangements on people's ability to pursue civil cases against newspapers and other media organisations. (92491)

The Government are reforming the operation of conditional fee agreements through the provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. The relevant impact assessments are published on the Ministry of Justice website. We believe that meritorious claims, including against media organisations, will still be able to secure representation under CFAs.

Victims of phone hacking are absolutely clear that they would not have been able to take their cases forward were it not for no win, no fee arrangements being available; nor would the critical mass of cases been built up to break the scandal open. Why are the Minister and the Government on the side of powerful media moguls against vulnerable victims?

Quite the opposite: in fact, the high and disproportionate costs in the present system hinder access to justice and can lead to a chilling effect on journalism and academic and scientific debate. In the Naomi Campbell case, the European Court of Human Rights found the existing CFA arrangements with recoverability in that case to be contrary to article 10 of the convention.