Libel cases at record high as the rich and famous use British courts to silence their critics
Lord Judge has backed the idea of new legislation to limit the spread of libel, as record numbers of cases reach the British courts
Record numbers of libel cases are
reaching the courts, fuelling concerns
over Britain’s reputation as
the ‘libel capital of the world’.
More than 250 were heard last year,
up by a fifth in two years, figures
The rich and famous from around the world have been flocking to London to use its courts to try to silence their critics, forcing U.S. states including New York and California to pass laws nullifying the rulings.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, the most senior judge in England and Wales, has backed the idea of new legislation to limit the spread of libel.
Jaron Lewis, of legal firm Reynolds
Porter Chamberlain, said: ‘Five years
ago commentators were saying that
libel was dying but such a conclusion
was clearly premature. In fact, these
figures show that the UK remains a
very attractive jurisdiction for libel
‘This is because our laws are very pro-claimant, making it difficult for the media to defend claims, even when [they have no merit].’
boom has been fuelled by the willingness
of British judges to listen to
claims from wealthy foreigners and
the availability of ‘no-win no-fee’
deals for claimants.
Judges have regularly allowed foreigners
to sue even when the material
they object to has not been published
in Britain, or has been seen by
only a handful on the internet.
There were 259 defamation writs
issued in the High Court in 2008, compared
to 233 in 2007 and 213 in 2006,
the judicial statistics showed.
more claims never reach court, with
publishers or authors paying out to
avoid the high costs of a trial.
Mr Lewis said: ‘For some publishers the cost of losing a libel trial – or even winning one – might actually put them at risk of closure. It is not the level of damages so much as the requirement to pay a claimant’s legal costs, which will often be a six-figure sum.’
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