ministry-of-justiceThe Government has announced a consultation on proposals to extend “qualified one way costs shifting” (QOCS) to defamation and privacy claims, This follows the Government’s acceptance of a recommendation of Lord Justice Leveson that costs protection should be extended to media related litigation (Recommendation 74, Executive Summary, page 44 [pdf]).

In a Ministerial Statement released on 13 September 2013 [pdf], the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mrs Helen Grant) said that the proposals were “designed to help people and organisations of modest means to be able to bring and defend defamation and privacy claims with out the fear of having to pay unaffordable legal costs to the other side if they lose“. She drew attention to the fact that it is also proposed that that those of substantial means would be excluded from the costs protection regime, while those of less modest means might have to pay something towards the legal costs of the other side if they lose”.

The proposed new rules would apply to proceedings for defamation, malicious falsehood, breach of confidence involving publication to the general public, misuse of private information or harassment where the defendant is a person who publishes a newspaper, magazine or website containing news or information about or comment on current affairs.

It is proposed that a party to such proceedings (whether a claimant or defendant) would have to make an application for a “costs protection” order and that such an order could be made where the court is satisfied that

(a) the party applying for such an order would suffer severe financial hardship if an order containing that provision were not made and that party were ordered to pay another party’s costs of the proceedings; and
(b) it is in the interests of justice to make such an order”.

The costs protection order could limit costs liability to any damages awarded to the party applying or to a specified sum. The Government has published “Draft rules” [pdf].

The Consultation is available online Costs protection in defamation and privacy claims: the Government’s proposals consultation document, [PDF document]. All the relevant documents can be found on this webpage.

The consultation runs until 8 November 2013. The Government has said that it hopes to introduce the new costs protection regime in April 2014, at the same time as implementing the relevant provisions in Part 2 of LASPO Act for defamation and privacy cases.

There is an Online Survey which can be completed.