Ministry of Justice
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Controlling costs in Defamation proceedings
New proposals to control costs in defamation proceedings were announced by Justice Minister Bridget Prentice today.
This follows widespread concerns about the high cost of legal fees in defamation cases.
Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said:
"Excessive costs and their threat may force defendants to settle unwarranted claims.
"The aim of these proposals is to bring more effective cost control to litigation in defamation proceedings and to ensure that costs in this area are more proportionate and reasonable.
"We need to ensure that people's right to freedom of expression is not infringed, and media organisations continue to report on matters of public concern.
I urge all those affected to comment on the proposals."
Measures under consideration are:
* Limiting recoverable hourly rates by setting either maximum or fixed recoverable rates
* Mandatory cost capping or mandatory consideration of cost capping in every case
* Requiring the proportionality of total costs to be considered on cost assessments conducted by the court.
The consultation is necessary in addition to the current arrangements to help achieve better costs control in this area of the law.
The consultation is aimed at, in particular, legal representatives who conduct litigation in the area of defamation, media organisations, insurers and those in England and Wales with an interest in, or views on, the proposals.
Notes to Editors
1. Link to Consultation Paper on Controlling Costs in Defamation Proceedings: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/controlling-costs-in-defamation-proceedings.htm
2. There are around 220 defamation cases issued in the High Court at the Royal Court of Justice each year. However, we have been unable to ascertain either the total number of proceedings issued or the number of defamation claims settled before court proceedings are issued. We estimate that there around 300 such claims a year.
3. The measures would be implemented by way of amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules Practice Directions and protocols. Legal representatives and clients, in particular those using CFAs in such cases should find the process more transparent and be able to make better informed decisions about the likely costs of the case early in the proceedings.
4. The Ministry of Justice Press Office can be contacted on 020 33 34 35 36.