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Defamation claims in 2018 up by 70%, the highest number for nine years, will Lachaux reverse the trend?

Related Practice Area(s):
Media and Information Law

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 ([2017] 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
2018 4,439 265 6.00 48 196 21
2017 4,319 156 4.00 37 113 6
2016 4,123 112 3.00 42 60 10
2015 4,869 135 3.00 40 71 54
2014 5,417 227 4.00 52 119 56
2013 5,186 142 3.00 37 56 49
2012 5,549 186 3.00 65 60 61
2011 4,726 165 3.49 28 61 76
2010 4,864 158 3.24 27 47 84
2009 5,694 298 5.23 52 62 184
2008 5,173 259 5.00 43 77 139
2007 4,794 233 4.86 43 45 145
2006 4,246 213 5.02 24 39 150
2005 3,841 252 6.56 43 70 139
2004 4,292 267 6.22 30 31 206
2003 3,514 190 5.41 22 15 153
2002 4,394 128 2.91 1 1 126
2001 5,122 220 4.30
2000 5,599 241 4.30
1999 10,317 236 2.29
1998 21,684 379 1.75
1997 23,411 452 1.93
1996 29,834 201 0.67
1995 31,737 560 1.76
1994 37,450 418 1.12
1993 56,567 336 0.59
1992 83,852 337 0.4