Court rules for newspaper in Naomi Campbell costs case

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The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled in favour of Britain's Mirror newspaper after it was ordered to pay "disproportionate" legal fees when it lost a case brought by model Naomi Campbell.

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights found that the more than £1 million (1.19 million euros) that British courts ordered the newspaper's publishers to pay for the supermodel's lawyers was a violation of its right to freedom of expression.

The publishers, MGN Limited, were ordered to pay the fees after a British court found that the newspaper had violated Campbell's right to privacy by publishing photographs of her outside a drug rehabilitation clinic. One of the newspaper's articles was headlined: "Naomi: I am a drug addict."

The publishers were ordered to pay £3,500 in damages and also Campbell's legal fees, including a so-called "success fee" which forces the losing side of a case to pay the other side's legal costs.

The European court ruled that the newspaper had indeed violated her privacy but that the "success fee" system should not apply to Campbell because she could afford to pay legal costs herself.

"Campbell had been wealthy and therefore not someone who risked not having access to court on financial grounds and for whom the 'success fees' scheme had been initially set up," the court said.

The requirement for the newspaper to pay the fee was therefore "disproportionate to the aim sought to be achieved by the introduction of the 'success fee' system," the court said.

The court will later consider how much to award in damages to MGN Limited.

© 2011 AFP

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