Libel fee changes

New measures aimed at tackling excessive legal fees in “no-win no-fee” defamation proceedings came into effect from 1 October.
The government has introduced three major changes following its consultation paper earlier this year, “Controlling Costs in Defamation Proceedings”. The new provisions are early notice if “after the event” (“ATE”) insurance has been taken out; a 40-day cooling-off period where, if the defendant admits liability and settlement is reached, the ATE premium will not be payable by the defendant; and a mandatory costs budgeting pilot for defamation proceedings, with close judicial supervision.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: “The government is taking action to ensure that, where ATE insurance is taken out, defendants are notified as early as possible, and given the opportunity to reach a settlement without being liable for the insurance premiums.”