On 1 October 2019, changes are coming into force relating to media and communications claims. 

For the first time, a specialist Court is being created to deal with the following types of matters:

  • Claims for misuse of private information;
  • Data protection claims;
  • Harassment by publication claims; and
  • Defamation and reputation claims.

The new rules mean that any of the above types of claims must be issued in the High Court of Justice and will be dealt with by Judges who have specialist knowledge of these types of issues. 

In addition, a new Pre-Action Protocol for media and communications claims will come into force.  This will include specific requirements for letters before action which are required to be sent before Court proceedings are issued for the above type of claims.  The aim of the new Protocol is to allow the parties to:

  • Understand and properly identify the issues in dispute and to share information and relevant documents;
  • Make informed decisions as to whether and how to proceed;
  • Try and settle disputes without court proceedings having to be issued or reduce the issues in dispute;
  • Avoid unnecessary expense and control the costs of resolving disputes; and
  • Support the efficient management of court proceedings where proceedings cannot be avoided.

Specifically, in regards to new defamation claims, the new Protocol requires the complaining party to state in pre-action correspondence what words have been used to describe them and why they are unhappy with the words used.  If court proceedings for defamation are ultimately issued, the Court will have to decide the meaning of the words complained of and it is therefore helpful if the parties set out their positions on this as soon as possible in pre-action correspondence. 

The new Protocol also adds another significant requirement in relation to defamation claims in that the complaining party is required to set out how or why serious harm has been caused or is likely to be caused.  Claimants who are trading for profit are required by the new Protocol to set out, where possible, the nature and value of the serious financial loss that has been caused or is likely to be caused by the defamatory words complained of.  This puts the onus on corporate claimants to act quickly and collate relevant financial data at an early stage. 

In terms of breach of confidence and privacy claims, the new Protocol states that pre-action correspondence will have to be drafted so that the legal duties which apply to the matter are clear.  It is also important that legal advice is taken quickly where there is a risk that private or confidential information may be leaked quickly because there could be many different options available to prevent publication of private or confidential information such as obtaining an injunction from the Court. 

Our dispute resolution team has a significant amount of experience in dealing with media and communications claims such as defamation, misuse of confidential information, data protection breaches and harassment.

Please contact a member of our expert team today if you need advice on these types of claim.