Number of libel claims last year highest in a decade, claims law firm

More defamation claims were issued in the high court last year than in any year since 1998, according to London law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.

Figures released yesterday by the firm reveal that 298 claims were issued in 2009, a 15 per cent rise on the 259 in 2008.

The figure for 2009 is also the highest since the introduction of civil prodedure rules in 1999, known as the Woolf reforms, which were designed to reduce the risk of costly disputes and aid pre-court settlements.

Jaron Lewis, media partner at RPC says: “This is the third year in a row where the number of claims has increased, firmly putting to bed the notion that libel law is not a serious challenge for the media. There are now nearly 50 per cent more libel claims each year than there were three years ago.

“Despite efforts to reduce the likelihood of expensive defamation litigation, the number of claims has been creeping up consistently as claimants continue to rely on favourable laws to bring expensive and often unnecessary litigation through the courts.”

RPC points to the increasing number of defamation cases being brought by new law firms, amount of material published on a daily basis, particularly online, and a rise in the number of claims brought relating to allegations of involvement with extremist groups and terrorism.

According to Lewis, the number of claims reaching trial has remained constant, suggesting that more claims are being settled or withdrawn before trial.

Libel reform coverage on Editors’ Blog

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