Defamation/ Libel: Defamation claims up by 40% in 2017
156 defamation claims were issued in London in 2017, compared with 112 in 2016. These figures debunk the theory that has been, somewhat lazily, it might be said, regurgitated on numerous occasions over the past two years, that the implementation of the Defamation Act 2013 and its ‘serious harm’ test have had a chilling effect on prospective libel claimants. The figures also show that reports in the press earlier this year that suggested the numbers of defamation claims were at an all time low were wrong (these reports were based on the number of reported decisions; a flawed methodology).
In our 2017 blog on the 2016 statistics, we suggested that although there has clearly been something of a downward trend, this dates back to the last decade and can be attributed to a parcel of factors, including the seminal cases of Jameel (Yousef) v Dow Jones & Co Inc  EWCA Civ 75 and Thornton v Telegraph Media Group Ltd  EWHC 1414 (QB) which were the common law forebears of serious harm.
What is undoubtedly true is that ‘defamation lawyers’ are increasingly engaged in privacy, data protection and harassment claims, rather than ‘pure’ reputation work, and that said work increasingly involves actors outside the print media (not least the tech giants). The absence of statistics for such claims makes it difficult to assess wider trends in the sector.
Insofar as the serious harm test may have caused uncertainty or paralysis for a small number of claimants, that is likely to have dissipated following the September 2017 Court of Appeal Judgement in Lachaux v Independent Print and others  EWCA Civ 1334 which ruled that the serious harm test is little more than a reinforcing of the principle in Thornton. That decision will be considered by the Supreme Court in November 2018, but most commentators do not expect a reversal.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.