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April 1997

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[The Guardian - 25 April 1997]

Letters to the editor - Hamilton: how to limit the damage

I must take issue with Geoffrey Robertson's dismissal of libel costs as an issue in cases such as Neil Hamilton's. Libel costs have a debilitating effect on anybody but the wealthy.

I, as one of the publishers of LM magazine, am one of the people named in ITN's writ against LM. From my experience, libel law is without doubt Rich Man's Law. Despite a Court of Appeal ruling over a year ago, which is likely to result in smaller amounts paid out in damages, legal costs are still astronomical. It has been estimated that McDonalds has spent an average of £6,500 a day on the McLibel case. Plus, legal aid is unavailable for defamation.

Robertson states that if "their cause is just, they will win back most of their costs". Libel law has far less to do with justice that with who can afford the best barristers.

Helene Guldberg.

Director, Informinc (LM) Ltd, 27 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3XX.

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