News International head of legal Tom Chrone last week lambasted the Irish legal system's handling of defamation claims, particularly the way in which barristers are used.
At a seminar – 'Defamation Actions in Ireland: Points and Pitfalls' – organised by Dublin firm McCann Fitzgerald, he criticised the dependency on barristers during settlement talks. In particular he hit out at the accepted practice of using two senior counsels plus a junior for the simplest of cases.
This meant that even when cases were settled out of court, legal fees were extremely high, he claimed.
Delegates at the meeting in London confirmed that settlement fees were often up to £15,000 per senior counsel, with juniors receiving up to two thirds of seniors' fees.
Chrone said there was often no need for barristers to be present for settlement discussions and that solicitors could equally well do the job.
He was backed up by Irish solicitors who said that it was difficult to defend the system. They said that the Irish taxing master justified it on the grounds that defamation actions were more complicated than others.