The figures for new claims issued in the Media and Communications List of the Queen’s Bench Division (“the M&C List”) continue to show substantial annual variations.  According to HM Courts and Tribunals E-Filing Service a total of 202 new claims were issued in 2022, a 64% decrease on  2022 when a total of 564 new claims were issued.  That was, itself, a 50% increase on the number of claims issued in 2020 (373).

The number of new defamation claims has remained relatively stable over the past 3 years.  In 2021 there were 130 new defamation claims issued, the 2021 figure was 168 and that for 2020 was 147.  It should however be noted that these figures represent a very substantial reduction from 2019’s high of 323 issued claims.

The number of “privacy” claims remains extremely low.  There were only 22 claims issued in 2022, less than one a fortnight.  This was a similar number to 2021 (20) – with both years representing a significant reduction from 2020’s total of 41 new issued claims.

The main reason for the substantial decrease in the overall number of issued claims is the dramatic decline in the number of data protection cases.  In 2022 there were a total of 21 cases classified in this category – in contrast to 293 in 2021 and 126 in 2020.   There are two obvious reasons for this.  First the decision in Warren v DSG Retail ([2021] EWHC 2168 (QB)) meant that data breach cases could no longer be brought as misuse of private information claims  (with the result that ATE premiums were no longer recoverable).  Such claims, typically in both misuse of private information and data protection, were classified as “data protection claims”.  Second, the decision of the Supreme Court in Lloyd v Google ([2021] UKSC 50) meant the end of data protection “representative actions”.

A vivid illustration of the change in circumstances concerns the claims brought by data breach specialist solicitors, Pure Legal Limited.  In 2021 they were the claimant’s solicitors in 51 data protection claims issued  in the M&C List.  The last of these was issued in July 2021.

The position in relation to issued claims in other categories is as follows

  • Harassment –  8 claims (2021, 12 claims, 2020, 16 claims)
  • Norwich Pharmacal – 21 claims (2021, 27 claims, 2020, 14 claims)
  • Malicious falsehood – 2 claims (2021, 2 claims 2020, 5 claims).

In 2021 there were 9 claims described as “Injunctions” (in contrast to 17 in 2021 and 8 in 2020).  Finally, there were 13 claims classified as “Miscellaneous” and 4 applications for permission to read statements in open court.

We analysed claims in 2021 here and in 2020 here.  Robert Sharp carried out a fuller analysis for 2020 here).

As in 2021 , a striking feature of the 2022 claims in the M&C List is that a very small number of defamation claims were brought against national newspapers and broadcasters.  There were only 9 defamation claims against newspapers in 2022 (2021, 5; 2020, 21): 6 against Associated Newspapers Limited, the publishers of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday and 1 each against Times Newspapers Limited, Telegraph Media Group Ltd and Reach plc . There were also 3 defamation claims against the BBC and one against Channel 4.

In addition, there were 3 privacy claims issued against Channel 5. It should be noted that phone hacking claims are not included in this list as they continue to be issued in the Chancery Division.

These figures must be viewed with a degree of caution.  The classification of cases is an administrative act and is not always accurate.  Many cases include claims for several causes of action and their categorisation may not always reflect the substantive nature of the case.  Nevertheless, the 2021 trend is fairly clear – a substantial decline in data protection claims and a small decrease in defamation claims.

One interesting footnote.  The figures for the first 3 months of 2023 appear to show that the pattern for 2022 is continuing.   In the first 3 months of the year there were  57 new claims issued in the M&C List (the comparable figure for 2022 was 50, whereas for 2021 the figure was 126).