Friday, 18 November 2011

Access to Justice

We recently made a film for the Guardian about the victims of press smears.

This is the letter that I've written to Lord McNally ( the minister responsible for passing the law.

Dear Lord McNally

I’m not anyone remotely important so not expecting a response to this mail. I’m not a celebrity, politician, pollster or lobbyist so I’m probably the last person you’ll want to listen to. I’m just an ordinary person who cares about what happens to other ordinary people.

Under intense lobbying from the media, Parliament is about to severely restrict CFA/No Win No Fee arrangements. This self serving campaign was hatched by large media corporations, who want to avoid being troubled by people on normal incomes suing them when they’ve been libeled. People like Chris Jefferies, who was smeared by a dozen newspapers who decided that he was guilty of the murder of Jo Yaetes, despite the fact that he was completely innocent. Jefferies quickly realised that the PCC was simply a lobbying group for the press, masquerading as a regulator. The only way he could possibly restore his reputation was through the courts, and the only means he could afford the crippling legal costs was with a No Win No Fee agreement. Jefferies won, but were he unfortunate to go through the same experience after your law restricts CFAs, no lawyer would take him on, and his life would be demolished.

His story and others are in a film I’ve just made for the Guardian, so if you have 10 minutes to listen to the public, they make a compelling case.

I know none of them runs a large media corporation, so they obviously aren’t nearly as important as Paul Dacre or James Murdoch who can, by their own accounts, tilt elections. They are just the poor unfortunate people who vote and pay taxes, so don’t trouble the Westminster village very much. Though I would point out that what happened to them could happen to any one of your friends, maybe a member of your family – possibly even to you. If that tabloid cyclone strikes close to home in a years time, and CFAs are a distant memory, you won’t have anywhere to turn. And maybe then it might seem like a good idea to have remembered that Justice is a right, not a luxury.

It’s up to you

Chris Atkins

1 comment:

  1. No win No fee claims agreement was first introduced to the UK in 1995 under solicitors Conditional Fee Agreements' (CFAs) to help people make accident claims that did not qualify for legal aid. In 2000, legal aid was abolished for personal injury and now most personal injury claims work in this way.

    No win No fee Lawyer