Niche set 5 Raymond Buildings has made a surprisingly high entry in The Lawyer's House of Lords league table. This is as a result of the volume of defamation cases that have reached the Lords in the last year. The set had nine appearances in total, compared with just two for its nearest rival 1 Brick Court. The sets' league positions, when ranked according to their number of appearances, are seven and 36 respectively. And while there is always an element of chance as to whether the case will get all the way to the House of Lords, the statistics illustrate the dominant presence of 5 Raymond Buildings in the leading defamation cases of the last year.
Five barristers at the set secured wins in their respective cases, which included possibly the most high-profile libel action of the year, Neil Hamilton v Mohamed Al Fayed. The chambers appeared on both sides of the case, with Desmond Browne QC and Adrienne Page on behalf of Al Fayed beating colleagues James Price QC and Heather Rogers QC for Hamilton, who also instructed Michael Beloff QC of 4-5 Gray's Inn Square. In Berezovsky v Michaels & ors Browne replaced Price, who had appeared for the respondents in the Court of Appeal, while Justin Rushbrooke was junior throughout. Price has appeared again in the Lords in Reynolds v Times Newspapers, a case where an appeal was lost despite the presence of talents such as Lord Lester and Puhspinder Saini of Blackstone. The victorious respondent counsel in the case were Andrew Caldecott QC and Benjamin Hinchcliff of 1 Brick Court.
Browne has seen an increase in the number of defamation cases that have gone the distance and anticipates further growth as a result of the new laws relating to freedom of expression introduced with the Human Rights Act. Browne says: "I went through years without appearing at the House of Lords, but this changed in the 1990s. In cases like Spycatcher and Goodwin, the European Court has shown itself more liberally inclined to freedom of expression than our own courts, including the House of Lords. It will be interesting to see whether, following the Human Rights Act, English courts attach greater weight to freedom of expression than they have in the past. The balancing act will be particularly significant in cases where the right to privacy under Article 8 is invoked."
The set, which is also known for its media and entertainment practice, has 20 tenants, including five silks.