THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights has ruled that a newspaper’s “freedom of expression” was breached by having to pay the “success fees” of supermodel Naomi Campbell following a previous court case.
The Daily Mirror had been ordered to pay Campbell £3,500 in damages after it published “offensive and distressing” pictures relating to her treatment for drug addiction almost a decade ago – but was also told to cover Campbell’s legal costs, which exceeded £1m.
Among those costs was a £365,000 “success fee” – a charge only levied by law firms who take on a case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis – which the UK government sanctions as a disincentive to publishers.
But today, PA says, the ECHR found that those costs were “disproportionate” – and breached its freedom of speech as enshrined by the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The UK law that provided for the charging of a “success fee” was designed to ensure the widest possible access to legal services, but that did not apply to Campbell, who could easily afford her own legal defence – leading the court to find that the balance had “swung too far in favour of claimants”.
The court also found, however, that there was no breach in the Daily Mirror’s freedom of expression by the original court rulings that the newspaper had invaded Campbell’s privacy.
The Guardian explains that Campbell had been taken on by London law firm Schillings on the basis of a conditional fee arrangement (CFA), which entitled it to receive a 95% success fee.
A spokesman for the UK’s ministry of justice said a review of the case had already begun.