A modern landscape for media litigation

Welcome to the new CPR Part 53 and to the specialist Media and Communications List.

Diarise 1 October 2019. Significant changes to the media litigation world will then be in force.

Historically, media litigation mostly involved libel claims. On the modern judicial scene, defamation, data protection, privacy, breach of confidence and harassment claims go hand in hand.

The Media and Communications List of the Queen’s Bench Division was born in March 2017 with the intention of bringing new focus to the management of media and communications claims.

The Media & Communications List Consultation Report (June 2017) stated that the changes to be implemented arose as “the time has come to modernise, and create a post with responsibility for oversight of the wider ranges of the causes of action that feature in modern media litigation.” 

Now, following consultation designed to identify issues that will affect the work of the List, the relevant sections of the Civil Procedure Rules and the associated Practice Directions have undergone a major overhaul with the following changes being brought into force from 1 October 2019.

The existing Part 53 of the CPR, which relates solely to defamation claims, will be replaced with a new Part 53 covering the wider remit of all media and communications claims.

Under the new Part 53:

  • The Media and Communications List will be designated as a specialist list of the Queen’s Bench Division.
  • A High Court claim that includes a claim for defamation or for misuse of private information, data protection law or harassment by publication must be issued in the Media and Communications List (with claims issued in a district registry being transferred to the Royal Courts of Justice or a County Court as appropriate).

The List will be managed by a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division. Individual claims in the List will be dealt with by Masters of the Queen’s Bench for the most part. However, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division will have powers to authorise Chancery Division judges to also hear such claims.

Two new Practice Directions will come into force, replacing the existing Practice Direction 53 and expanding the Directions to encompass the wider spectrum of claims in the List.

  • New Practice Direction 53A will provide for the transfer of claims into and out of the Media and Communications List, while the provisions of new Practice Direction 53B will govern the content of statements of case in disputes relating to privacy, data protection, misuse of confidential information and harassment by publication.
  • In claims for harassment arising from publication or threatened via the media, online or in speech the claim should be commenced under the Part 7 procedure. CPR 65.28(1)(2) relating to anti-social behaviour and harassment shall not apply.

​The existing Pre-Action Protocol, which relates only to defamation claims, will be replaced with an extended protocol to cover the full remit of claims in the List and will provide guidance and highlight requirements for drafting letters of claim in matters relating to defamation, data protection, misuse of confidential information, privacy and harassment.

In addition, the Alternate Dispute Resolution provisions of the Protocol have been amended with reference to the now redundant Press Complaints Commission being removed and replaced with: “a press regulator established to deal with complaints from members of the public about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines or an arbitrator scheme operated by such regulator.”

Watch this space for further news about the new regime in practice. Details about the changes can be found on the Judiciary’s website.

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