Al Fayed to appeal ‘cash for questions’ ruling

Mohamed Al Fayed will appeal a decision of the Court of Appeal, which found that the financial backers of former Tory MP Neil Hamilton were not liable to pay Al Fayed’s costs, despite his victory in the ‘cash for questions’ libel action

DJ Freeman chief executive Laurence Harris, who is acting on behalf of Al Fayed, said that he had last week applied to the House of Lords for permission to appeal the decision.
In the first instance, Mr Justice Morland ruled that Hamilton’s pure funders – a group of eight that includes such names as Greek socialite Taki Theodoracopoulos and the Duke of Devonshire – were not liable for the costs.
Al Fayed then took the case to the Court of Appeal, where the judges ruled that, as a matter of principle, pure funders should not be liable for costs. But the decision was met with mixed reactions from solicitors.
Sarah Webb, a partner with Russell Jones & Walker, which acted for four of the backers, said at the time that the ruling ensured that a “level playing field exists between those who can afford access to justice and those who cannot”.
But Harris said there were two concerns which result from the decision. The first, he said, is that it is fundamental that costs follow the event to deter unwarranted litigation. “But this encourages unmeritorious claims,” he added.
Second, the ruling by the Appeal Court is also unfair to those less wealthy than Al Fayed. “What if Al Fayed was a poor man who was forced to defend himself against a claim and then had to pay his costs?” he said. “You have a defendant who didn’t choose to be sued, may win his case, but is forced to pay his costs. What sort of justice is that?”