In a previous post I discussed defamation law in Northern Ireland.   I have now obtained the figures concerning the numbers of defamation cases issued in Northern Ireland in 2010.   There were 43 libel claims, of which 25 were brought against broadcast or print media defendants.  

The population of Northern Ireland is about 1.8 million.  This means that, in 2010, there was one libel claim for each 42,000 people in the province.   Although the number of actions was small it was, proportionately, much greater than in England and Wales where, in 2009 (the latest year for which figures are available), 298 libel claims were issued.  The population of England and Wales is about 54,800,000 so this means that, in 2009, there was about one libel claim for each 184,000 people.  In other words, there were more than four times as many libel actions per head of the population in Northern Ireland than in England and Wales.

In 2010, there were 118 libel cases disposed of in Northern Ireland by judgment, settlement or withdrawal.  This high rate of disposal can perhaps be explained by the more proactive attitude of the courts in recent times.

Only four libel claims came before the courts in 2010 as follows:

  • O’Rawe v William Trimble Ltd [2010] NIQB 124 (interim application) and [2010] NIQB 135 (final judgment).  I discussed the interim judgment in my earlier post and I will discuss the final judgment in detail in a forthcoming post.
  • Lavery Ltd v Morton Newspapers Ltd [2010] NIQB 61 (20 May 2010)(strike out application)
  • Allister v Paisley Junior & Ors [2010] NIQB 48 (14 April 2010)(application for an interim injunction)
  • Ewing v Times Newspapers Ltd[2010] NIQB 7 (21 January 2010)(application to strike out vexatious claim).

Olivia O’Kane is specialist media lawyer at Belfast solicitors Carson McDowell