The most recent annual Judicial Statistics – those for 2021 – appear to show a very substantial increase in the number of issued defamation claims. According to the Ministry of Justice Royal Courts of Justice Tables for 2021 there were 545 issued defamation claims.
The MoJ tables were published on 7 June 2022 (the defamation figures are in Table 4.2). The figure of 545 represents a spectacular increase on the 2020 figure of 152 issued defamation claims.
But these figures are very difficult to believe. Inforrm’s analysis of issued claims in the Media and Communications list (where all defamation claims must be brought) suggests that the true figure is very much lower. We counted 168 issued defamation claims in 2021. This was based on an analysis of the cases available on a public search on the HM Courts and Tribunals E-Filing Service. So where do the additional 377 defamation claims in the MoJ tables come from?
There appear to be two possible explanations. First, a large number of defamation claims are being issued without finding their way onto the E-Filing system. Second, the MoJ statistics have misclassified cases as “defamation”.
The second seems to be the most likely explanation. This is supported by the fact that the MoJ total of 545 is close to the 564 figure for the total number of cases which the E-Filing system shows as being issued in the Media and Communications List in 2021. Of these 564 cases, 293 were data protection claims and it seems likely that these have been wrongly classified as “defamation” by the MoJ.
It is interested to note that the 2020 MoJ figure for issued defamation claims (152) is close to that produced by the analysis of the E-Filing system for 2020 (147).
More details of libel claims as recorded by the MoJ can be found in this table of defamation (and other) claims since 1992 – adapted from a table which was originally provided to us by media solicitors RPC.
|Claims issued in London (QB)||Defamation Claims Issued in London||% of all (QB) Claims||£15-50k||£>50k||No Value Stated|