A total of 373 new claims were issued in the Media and Communications List of the Queen’s Bench Division (“the M&C List”) in 2020. A public search on the HM Courts and Tribunals E-Filing Service reveals interesting information about the breakdown of these cases.
Under rules which came into force on 1 October 2019, all High Court claims which include
- a claim for defamation
- a claim for misuse of private private information;
- a claim in data protection law; or
- a claim for harassment by publication
have to be issued in the M&C List (see CPR 53.1(3)). Analysis of the claims issued in 2020 shows substantial differences in the number of issued claims in each category.
The largest category of claim issued in the M&C List is defamation: there were 147 new defamation claims issued in 2020 (39% of the total). However, there are almost as many data protection claims, with 126 being issued (33% of the total). Privacy claims were the third largest category, with 41 cases (11% of the total).
There other significant categories were as follows
- Harassment – 16 claims
- Norwich Pharmacal – 14 claims
- Malicious falsehood – 5 claims
- Breach of confidence – 5 claims.
In 2020 there were 5 claims described as “Injunctions” and, in addition, 3 pre-action injunction applications
Finally, there were 13 claims classified as “Miscellaneous” and two as “Other”. A total of 5 claims are noted as having been discontinued.
One striking feature of the the 2020 claims in the M&C List is that a very small proportion of defamation claims were brought against national newspapers. There were only 21 such claims in 2020 (14%). Of these claims, nearly half were brought against Associated Newspapers Limited, the publishers of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday. The full list of claims against national newspapers in 2020 is as follows.
- Associated Newspapers – 10 claims
- Times Newspapers – 4 claims
- Telegraph Media Group – 3 claims
- MGN – 1 claim
- News Group Newspapers – 1 claim (subsequently discontinued).
- Express Newspapers – 1 claim
- Financial Times – 1 claim
In addition, there were two privacy claims issued against News Group Newspapers and two against Associated Newspapers. It should be noted that phone hacking claims are not included in this list as they continue to be issued in the Chancery Division.
The data protection claims were brought against a wide variety of defendants. Many of these are public authorities, including 8 against various Chief Constables and 4 against the Ministry of Justice.