We have, once again belatedly, caught up with the most recent annual Judicial Statistics – those for 2013. These show a substantial decrease in the number of issued defamation claims, down 24% from 2012. In 2013 there were 142 issued defamation claims in London (where the large majority of claims are made) – as opposed to 186 in 2012. This is the lowest annual figure since 2002 and appears to be the second lowest of all time.
The Ministry of Justice no longer publishes a separate annual “Judicial Statistics” bulletin but the figures can be found in the Court Statistics Quarterly: Jan-Mar – published each year in June. The detailed breakdown which shows the number of defamation claims appears in the Additional Tables – the 2013 tables are here [xls]
Examination of Lawtel (which notes most but not all cases in this area) suggests that during 2013 there were some 42 judgments in the Queen’s Bench Division or the Court of Appeal where one or more of the issues was an allegation of libel or slander. This is not, of course, directly related to the number of cases issued in the year – as the large proportion of judgments will be in claims issued in earlier years and some cases will lead to a number of interim judgments. This number can be compared with the 2012 figure of 53 and the figure for 2014, to date, of 33.
The widely reported recent claims of a “23% increase in defamation actions” based on Thomson Reuters research are difficult to assess without sight of the underlying data. The research appears to related to cases reported on Lawtel and Westlaw which, as already indicated, are not directly related to the number of cases actually issued. The 33 Lawtel libel cases this year equates to 41 in a full year – one less than 2013. In short, much as libel practitioners would welcome an increase in defamation actions, it seems likely that the underlying trend remains downwards.
There is no separate record of the number of privacy and other claims against the media – they are, presumably included in the 663 “miscellaneous” claims issued. The Ministry of Justice does now publish statistics on privacy injunctions – the most recent of which (January to June 2014 [pdf]) show that during that 6 month period the totals for privacy injunctions were as follows:
Applications for new interim privacy injunctions – 0
Applications for the continuation/variation of privacy injunctions – 0
Final privacy injunctions – 0
In short, no privacy injunctions of any kind in the first 6 months of 2014.
More details of libel claims can be found in this table of defamation (and other) claims since 1992 – adapted from a table which was provided to us by media solicitors RPC.
|Year||Claims issued in London (QB)||Defamation Claims Issued in London||% of all London (QB) Claims issued||£15-50k||£>50k||No value stated|