Monday, 17 November 2008

Something Dacre and The Guardian can agree on: massive legal costs are bad news

According to the latest Private Eye, law firm Carter-Ruck has sent The Guardian a bill for £800,000 for the costs of representing Tesco in its libel claim against the paper, which was settled out of court. The Guardian published an apology to Tesco and paid modest damages, said by the Eye to be around £5,000. Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in his Society of Editors' speech highlighted a case in which the Mail on Sunday was last year ordered to pay Labour MP Martyn Jones damages of £5,000 after alleging he had sworn at a Commons official. The MoS faced a legal bill of £388,000 from the MP's lawyers plus its own costs of £136,000. In his SoE speech, Dacre said: "Today newspapers, even wealthy ones like the Mail, think long and hard before contesting actions even if they know they are in the right for fear of the ruinous financial implications. For the local press such actions are now, almost certainly, out of the question. Instead they stump up some cash to settle as quickly as possible to avoid court actions which if they were to lose could, in some cases, close them. Some justice."

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