Veteran libel law guru, Peter Carter-Ruck has called for an overhaul of the way defamation cases are run. Speaking at a seminar in Disneyland where the senior consultant at Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners went head-to-head with Private Eye editor, Ian Hislop, he said: “I think it is scandalous there is no legal aid for defamation.
“Why should a person of means be able to sue while someone who could be out of a job [because of the defamation] with very little money not be able to?”
Calling for a suitors fund to pay for appeals he said: “Sometimes there's an appeal because the court made a mistake. Why should [litigants] have to pay the costs?”
He favours the limited qualified privilege on public interest issues afforded to journalists since a recent House of Lords decision, but with provisos.
“If something is very defamatory the journalist should show they have not acted recklessly and the other person should have right of reply.” He also issued a warning to lawyers who are taking on conditional fee cases with only a 70 per cent chance of success.
“I wouldn't take a case unless the chances of success are 85 per cent,” he said.