McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Coventry v Lawrence: The Supreme Court Declare the CFA Scheme in line with Human Rights.

After 5 months deliberation, yesterday the Supreme Court handed down the long awaited decision in the case of Coventry v Lawrence.


The claimants brought a nuisance action against the defendant in respect of the noise generated by motor sports conducted on their land. However how the case was funded and its implications were considered by the Supreme Court. The decision to this part of the appeal is of significance for media law practitioners because the Court addressed the question of the compatibility of the Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) regime which existed prior to the changes introduced by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) on 1 April 2013, with the European Convention of Human Rights.


The panel of 7 Supreme Court Judges looked at whether the costs regime, put in place by the Access to Justice Act 1999, complied with Human Rights.  The question which fell at the heart of the review was whether a system of funding costs referred to as a Conditional Fee Agreements (CFA) was compatible with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, right to a fair trial.


It was decided in a majority judgment given by Lords Neuberger and Dyson, that the CFA regime was compatible, allowing people fair access to a court.   It was accepted by the Courts that it was not a perfect solution and recognised that uplifts and ATE premium would often mean that overall the costs would be disproportionate. 


Overall it was a question to consider how best to fund litigation which had been a broader question contemplated by Parliament, and was also viewed in the recent light of the removal of legal aid.  In light of this the CFA scheme was deemed justifiable and as such compatible with the Convention.


The Judgment provided by the Supreme Court was lengthy, in excess of 50 pages and contained detailed analysis by the Judges.  This decision has at least provided a conclusive answer to this issue and has removed a cloud of uncertainty which had hung over litigants and their legal representatives for some time. 


Categories: Civil Litigation

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