The last year was a relatively quiet one in the media law courts. Our Table of Media Law cases records only 53 decisions of all kinds in defamation cases in 2013. There were none in the Supreme Court, 12 in the Court of Appeal and 41 at first instance.
There were no jury trials in the year and only 4 full trials by judge alone. Two of these involved mainstream media defendants – in both cases the Sunday Times. The trials were as follows:
- Thompson v James  EWHC 515 (QB) – claim dismissed, damages of £25,000 on the counterclaim
- Hunt v Times Newspapers  EWHC 1868 (QB) – claim dismissed.
- Cruddas v Calvert, Blake and Times Newspapers  EWHC 2298 (QB) – damages of £180,000 awarded
- Frost v Kemp – damages of £2,500 were awarded. There were news stories about the case in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.
In addition, there were four hearings at which damages for libel were assessed after judgment had been entered. Only one of these involved the mainstream media (again the Times):
- Cruddas v Adams  EWHC 145 (QB)) – damages assessed at £45,000
- Al-Amoudi v Kifle  EWHC 293 (QB) damages assessed at £180,000
- ZAM v CFW  EWHC 662 (QB) -damages assessed at £120,000
- Flood v Times Newspapers  EWHC 4075 (QB) – damages of £60,000 awarded
Two notable first instance decisions should be metioned. The first, and most widely publicised, was Simon J’s decision in Karpov v Browder ( EWHC 3071 (QB)). The judge struck out a claim by a retired Russian police officer against the hedge fund manager Bill Browder arising out of his campaign for justice in the case of the brutal death of Russian lawyer Serge Magnitsky. Secondly, there was the decision of Dingemans J in Subotic v Knezevic ( EWHC 3011 (QB)) striking out a claim by a “libel tourist” living in Geneva against a Montenegrin living in Zagreb.
There was even less activity in the privacy field. The official statistics showed only 6 privacy injunctions in the first half of the year. The only one against the mainstream media appears to have been the case of Rocknroll v News Group ( EWHC 24 (Ch)). There were only a handful of “non-media” injunction cases in the second six months of the year. We had an analysis of the injunction statistics – suggesting that the “privacy injunction” was on its last legs.
There were no privacy trials in 2013. There was one assessment of damages, in the case of WXY v Gewanter & Ors ( EWHC 589). Damages were assessed in the sum of £24,950.
On 25 April 2103 The Defamation Bill received Royal Assent and is now the Defamation Act 2013, three years after the publication of Lord Lester’s original Defamation Bill. It came into force on 1 January 2014. We reported the news and context at the time (and we will have a series of posts marking its coming into force). It remains to be seen how much practical difference the new Act will make to the practical workings of defamation law.
The Government consulted on proposals for costs protection in defamation and privacy claims. The Consultation closed on 8 November 2013. A number of commentators suggested serious practical difficulties with the proposals. The result of the consultation is awaited but, at present, it seems likely that recoverable success fees and after the event insurance will be abolished in defamation and privacy cases in the spring of 2014.
Finally, we noted the retirement, on 24 March 2013, Mr Justice Eady – who had been the judge in charge of the jury list for 10 years and had decided many of the important defamation and privacy cases over that period. We had a post dealing with some of his important judgments. We are pleased to see that Sir David Eady has been persuaded to return as a deputy and gave the last defamation judgment of the year in that capacity (Vaughan v London Borough of Lewisham  EWHC 4118 (QB)).