Mediation needed in defamation claims

06 October 2011

Defamation cases should be mediated, and if they are not, they should be the subject of an early neutral evaluation by a High Court Judge, say Index on Censorship and English PEN in their report on defamation procedure, which is published today.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Alternative Libel Project’s first report also recommends that:

  • judges must use stricter case management;

  • litigants should be able to make a stand alone application to determine the meaning of the allegations in question; and

  • a costs regime must be introduced to redress the inequality of arms between the parties

Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN said:

Mediation has an extremely high success rate in libel actions. It allows both parties to get straight to the heart of their dispute and can result in a settlement which both parties are happy with, at a fraction of what the case might otherwise cost.

John Kampfner, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship said:

Defamation procedure needs to change so the balance between freedom of expression and reputation is not affected by the relative resources of litigants but by the strength of their claims. The recommendations we have made will not only result in many more cases being resolved very early on, they will ensure that those cases that do go to trial in the High Court are dealt with more efficiently.

The preliminary report will be launched today at a reception held at the Nuffield Foundation. Lord McNally, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, and Sir Stephen Sedley, who chairs the Alternative Libel Project’s advisory committee, will both speak at the reception.

The report is a preliminary one and Index on Censorship and English PEN are inviting views on their proposals before the 18 November. To comment, please e-mail Helen Anthony at helen@englishpen.org

Notes to editors

The Alternative Libel Project’s preliminary report will be launched today, 6th October, at 12 noon, at the Nuffield Foundation, 28 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3JS.

The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. 

English PEN is a registered charity (number 1125610), with the object of promoting the human rights of writers, authors, editors, publishers and other persons similarly engaged throughout the world.

Index on Censorship promotes freedom of expression through the Writers and Scholars Educational Trust (registered charity, number 325003).