Memorandum submitted by Martyn Jones MP


I understand that your Committee is looking into the effect on the media of the Conditional Fee Arrangements and that you had evidence from Mr Paul Dacre, Editor of the Mail on Sunday, in which he prayed in aid my case against his newspaper. Firstly, the idea that giving people who have very little money the ability to defend themselves against libels is wrong and is a travesty of the actual situation. To describe the very real benefits of the Human Rights Act and CFAs as having a 'chilling effect on the media' nothing short of risible.


Firstly, this 'chilling effect' did not prevent them having many more cases against them before mine, but to refer to my case there are several inaccuracies in Mr Dacre's evidence to the Committee. They did not have witnesses to the facts of the article in question in the plural, as Mr Dacre said. They had one witness and several other hear-say witnesses to his position. I had two material witnesses, one concerning the actual incident itself where I was supposed to have gesticulated and shouted at the security guard in question, and I had a witness to the fact that this was not the case. Also other allegations were made in the article concerning the disciplinary measures taken against me which were also incorrect. So, far from being 'chilled' by the CFA in this case, the Mail on Sunday acted like the bullies they are and 'upped the ante' at every stage, clearly hoping to push me into submission. A major example was the use of a senior counsel rather than a junior at a late stage, which increased the risk of costs to me when they rightly considered that I probably did not have enough insurance to cover that situation. So the fact that they then picked up extra costs for this when they lost is a matter for them, and not the fault of the legislation.


All I wanted initially was a retraction and an apology to prevent this lie being used against me at election time, and it is clear that without the CFA I would not have been able to obtain redress.


Incidentally, with the same paper but on a different issue, the Press Complaints Commission were entirely useless in my opinion.


I would be more than happy to appear before your Committee and put right the false picture created by Mr Dacre's evidence to your Committee. I think it is also worth pointing out that there are other papers, for example The Sun, which are very rarely affected by the Conditional Fee Arrangement because they have no cases brought against them. This is probably due to their checking their facts and not relying on the inability of individuals without their access to resources being able to bring a case to protect their reputation.


April 2009