Daily Mail accuses lawyers of frivolous use of no-win, no-fee agreements

 

Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) are a tool used by lawyers to represent claimants who may not have the money to afford legal representation. Essentially, the effect of such agreements is that a solicitor and/or barrister will only get paid if the case is successful and the claimant is awarded damages.
 
The Daily Mail, in its submissions to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, has accused the legal team of actor Neil Morrissey of exploiting the terms of no-win, no-fee agreements. This comes after The Daily Mail was accused, in 2010, of having published a libellous article with untrue information about Morrissey. A deal was subsequently made out of court as The Daily Mail admitted wrongdoing.
 

Are lawyers abusing the terms of conditional fee agreements?

According to Associated Newspapers, the publisher of The Daily Mail, lawyers systematically abuse the terms of no-win, no-fee agreements in order to charge a high fee for their work. In the case of Morrissey, the actor was awarded damages of £15,000 and the legal team claimed that their work in the case amounted to £130,000.
 
Peter Crawford, of Stitt & Co, was the solicitor who acted for Morrissey. He disputes the allegations and has said that their expenses were legitimate. Crawford said that the paper should have taken responsibility at an earlier stage, rather than trying to abuse the system: "It's The Mail abusing the system by relying on the offer of amends procedure as a way of halving the damages that would otherwise have been payable to an individual who was seriously defamed."
 
The use of CFAs has been questioned by the current Government. The Coalition Government wants to limit the use of no-win, no-fee agreements as they consider that they contribute to a litigious culture. In the past months several newspapers have also criticised the use of no-win, no-fee agreements. However, legal professionals have strongly opposed such moves. Lawyers have stressed that any form of limitation imposed on the use of such agreements will entail that those lacking the necessary financial means will not be able to uphold their rights, and defend their reputation in court.
 
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