Written evidence submitted by Alan Dee
Evidence was given to the Select Committee on
Tuesday, 24 February 2008 to the effect that my son, Robert Dee,
employed a firm of solicitors to sue the Reuters News Agency on
a "no win no fee" basis. This information is incorrect.
The straight meaning of this comment is that there was no financial
risk to Robert Dee, or his family, if he lost. That too is incorrect.
We instructed our lawyers, Addleshaw Goddard, to
instigate proceedings against three news organisations at the
same time. They were The Independent Newspaper, Associated Newspapers,
(consisting of the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail and
the Evening Standard) and Reuters Limited. All the articles
had a similar thrust, appeared within a few days of each other
and contained similar claims in respect of our son's tennis results
and status as a tennis professional. Once the actions had been
commenced we were notified that Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC)
had been appointed to represent all three organisations.
Once the three actions had been commenced, The
Independent immediately agreed to publish an apology and did
so on 6 August 2008. As a result of this very quick resolution
the costs they paid to our lawyers were negligible. Very soon
afterwards, Associated Newspapers made an "Offer of Amends"
in respect of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and
the Evening Standard, effectively bringing that action
to an end also. And after some negotiation on the wording, Associated
published apologies in the Daily Mail and the Evening
Standard and online in the Mail on Sunday on 22 December
2008. Associated also made a contribution to our costs.
Our actions were only partially funded with
a 50% conditional fee arrangement, which meant that had we lost
we would have been liable for at least 50% of our costs. At that
time, we were given a very conservative indication as to our likely
costs exposure in the event of losing these actions of somewhere
in the region of £200,000 per case; potentially £600,000
in total had all three cases proceeded to trial and we lost. That
did not of course include our additional liability for the media's
costs if we had lost.
We are very surprised that a representative
from Reynolds, Porter Chamberlain (RPC), Mr Keith Mathieson, gave
evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to the
effect that Robert Dee was the beneficiary of a "no win no
fee" CFA, as this is plainly wrong. Particularly as we are
aware that RPC had been informed by Addleshaw Goddard some time
before the Select Committee hearing that they do not operate on
a "no win no fee" basis. It was never the case that
we had nothing to lose by bringing the case.
Mr Mathieson also said that Reuters apologised
only because of the level of costs, not because they felt the
story was wrong. It is a matter of fact that a number of newspapers
had already published apologies for printing very similar stories,
including four titles represented by RPC. We are very surprised
also that this was not mentioned to the Select Committee.
In our case, we are quite certain that without
access to the facility of a 50% CFA and an ATE insurance policy
to cover our potential liability for Reuters' legal costs if we
had lost at trial we would have found it almost impossible to
fund our action against Reuters. An action that was regrettable
but, we felt, unavoidable; an action which did eventually generate
Finally, it is worth comparing the stance taken
by Reuters with that of the majority of newspapers which we complained
to, many of which quickly recognised that their story was incorrect
and damaging and agreed to apologise and pay our legal costs,
which in those cases were generally around £2,000 to £3,000,
without the need to start legal proceedings at all. Had Reuters
been similarly reasonable at the outset, then they would not have
faced the very much more substantial bill which they now face.
To that extent, media organisations which complain
about having to pay the substantial legal costs of a successful
claimant are the authors of their own misfortune.
If you wish to have more information on the
media apologies published so far about Robert Dee they appear
on his website at www.robertdee.co.uk. We shall be happy to provide
you with any additional information you require and to appear
before members of the committee to answer questions in person
if you wish.
We would be grateful if all the members of the
Select Committee have sight of this e-mail and that the record
is set straight accordingly.