Beckhams kidnap case shows the difficulties of ‘no-win no-fee’ litigation

June 2005

Artists, Newspapers, Television, Internet

Mr Justice Eady has thrown out a claim by Mr Bogdan Maris, a 24 year old Romanian (who initially sued under a false name) against the News of the World who ‘caught’ Mr Maris in a sting designed to uncover a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham. The story was published in 2003 and Mr Maris obtained counsel on a no-win no-fee basis (a conditional fee arrangement or CFA). Mr Maris was arrested and charged but the trial collapsed when the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence. Whilst during the trial Eady J found that there were a number of inaccuracies in the News of The World’s story, he found the case all the more unusual as Mr Maris was not presently in the UK and had not even produced a witness statement outlining his side of the story. His counsel had continued proceedings based on past instructions. This of course meant that the newspaper could not cross examine Mr Maris or see any evidence from him. The judge pointed out that a ‘ransom factor underpin CFAs as costs build up for the defending newspaper with no likelihood of recovery if the newspaper wins but significant costs (including the enhanced fee for counsel operating under the CFA) if the newspaper loses. The Department of Constitutional Affairs has initiated a review of CFAs.

The Guardian 10 May 2005 (article “As absurd as you can get” pp16-17 Law by Alex Wade) See Law Updates July 2004: Lawyers Costs Capped in Contingency Fee Cases, Musa King v Telegraph Group Limited (2004)

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