The Annual Report of the Courts Service of Ireland [pdf] reveals that defamation claims are at an all time high, with 152 claims issued in the High Court and 135 claims issued in the Circuit Court, a total of 287.
High Court cases are heard by a Judge and jury and can award unlimited damages. Circuit court cases are heard by a Judge sitting alone but can award a maximum sum of €75,000 damages (this was increase from €38,000 in 2014).
This is nearly twice as many cases than in England and Wales (which has 12 times the population): in Ireland there was one case per 16,630 people whilst in England and Wales there was one case per 376,567 people.
The 2017 figure for Irish defamation claims is an increase of 81 cases over 2016 figure (206). The total of High Court and Circuit Court claims are only available for the last four years: 2017, 287; 2016, 206; 2015, 260; 2014, 207. However, there has been a gradual increase in the number of High Court claims over the past fifteen years: from 27 in 2002 to 153 in 2017. A table of issued High Court cases is set out below along with a chart showing the increasing number of defamation cases in Ireland over the past 15 years.
The reasons for the continuing increase in defamation cases is unclear. The Irish Times has suggested that the increase in the number of actions may be a result of the use of social media but there appears to be little objective evidence to support this suggestion.
|Year||No of High Court Defamation Claims|