The new Queen’s Bench Division Guide [pdf] was published this week.  Media law practitioners should note that Chapter 17 of the Guide provides comprehensive guidance to claims brought in the Media and Communications List (“MAC List”).

In addition to the claims which must be issued in the MAC List (defamation, misuse of private information, breach of data protection rights and harassment by publication), the following claims may be issue in the list

  • claims raising from publication or threatened publication, in the media, online or in speech
  • claims arising from other  activities of the media
  • claims in breach of confidence or malicious falsehood which arise from publication or threatened publication (see paras 17.5 and 17.6)

The Guide contains a new provision in relation to MAC List PTRs (in para 17.8)

  • Claims in the MAC list are case managed by Masters in the same way as other QBD cases save that a PTR will be listed before trial in every claim (para 17.8) (it should be noted that other applications, such as for permission to make a statement in open court or summary judgment on serious harm should also be made to a judge, rather than a Master, see below).
  • The PTR will be usually be listed 8 weeks before trial before a MAC list judge with a time estimate of one hour.
  • Parties may apply to Nicklin J to vacate the PTR on confirmation that there are no outstanding issues requiring resolution
  • A PTR   will not be listed before the trial of the preliminary issue of meaning.

Attention is drawn to other procedural points which are sometimes overlooked

  • An application for permission to make a statement before a Judge in open court may be made before or after acceptance of a Part 36 offer, or other offer to settle. The application should made by part 23 application in existing proceedings and Part 8 proceedings where there are no existing proceedings. The application should be made to a judge in the MAC List (para  17.28)
  • Applications for a trial of preliminary issues on meaning, whether a statement is defamatory or fact/opinion should be made promptly and (if  not made) should be considered at the CMC (para 17.32).  If the parties consent the Court may order the issues to be determined without a hearing.
  • The Court will be slow to direct trials of preliminary issues on serious harm which involve substantial evidence (para 17.34).  If a defendant contends there was no serious harm then ordinarily they should apply for summary judgment or Jameel strike out to a judge of the MAC List (para 17.37)

The Guide provides guidance on lodging anonymity orders and confidential documents (para 3.37) and reminds practitioners of the requirement that anonymity orders or orders that hearings are in private must be published on the judiciary website (see the Practice Guidance [pdf]).

The Guide also references the “Media and Communications List User Group” (MACLUG) which meets regularly to discuss issues relating to the operation of the list.

The Guide does not provide a list of the MAC List Judges but, in addition to the Judge in Charge of the List (Mr Justice Nicklin), the judges who have heard MAC List cases in the past twelve months include Mr Justice Jay, Mr Justice Soole, Mr Justice Julian Knowles, Mr Justice Murray, Mr Justice Saini, Mr Justice Griffiths, Mr Justice Johnson, Mr Justice Chamberlain, Mrs Justice Steyn, Mrs Justice Tipples, Mrs Justice Collins Rice,  Sir Andrew Nicol, HHJ Parkes QC, HHJ Lewis and Mr Richard Spearman QC