In advance of tomorrow’s eagerly awaited Supreme Court “serious harm” decision in Lachaux v Independent Print, the 2018 Judicial Statistics show, for the second year running, a substantial increase in the number of issued defamation claims. These are up by 70% on 2017. In 2018 there were 265 defamation claims issued in London (where the large majority of claims are brought) as opposed to 156 in 2017 (and 112 in 2016).
The Ministry of Justice no longer publishes a separate annual “Judicial Statistics” bulletin but the figures can be now be found in the Royal Courts of Justice tables [xls] which were published on 6 June 2019 (see Table 3.20).
The 2018 figure continues the upward trend which began in 2017. It suggests that the Defamation Act 2013 has not reduced the number of claims brought. The average number of claims per annum in the 3 years before the Act came into force was 164 and the average for the 5 years after it came into force was 179.
The 2018 figures came in the year after the Court of Appeal in Lachaux ( EWCA Civ 1334) took a “claimant friendly” approach to the “serious harm” requirement in section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013. That approach was challenged on the appeal to the Supreme Court. If tomorrow’s judgment overturns the Court of Appeal’s conclusions then the upward trend in claims may be reversed.
More details of libel claims 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|