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Cases involving media torts get their own court

3rd Mar 2017


Cases which involve media torts are to have their own specialist list within the Queen’s Bench Division.

The Media and Communications List will be presided over by Mr Justice Warby, HM Judiciary announced, giving Warby the ability to exercise judicial responsibility for the listing of cases and of applications within them. He will also be responsible for considering emerging procedural issues in this context.

Warby now has primary responsibility for cases which involve one or more of the main media torts: defamation, misuse of private information, and breach of duty under the Data Protection Act and related or similar claims arising from publication or threatened publication by the print or broadcast media, online, on social media, or in speech. His responsibilities began on March 1st 2017.

The judiciary statement said that the new arrangement will not change the existing practice, but that “Mr Justice Warby is proposing to consult in due course with those who litigate in this area”. The statement went on to note that Warby has”a view to [establish] generally whether there are any improved practical arrangements that might be made for cases of the kind specified.”

The announcement was well received by media law solicitors. Magnus Boyd, partner at reputation management specialist Schillings, said that the list would provide sense and consistency, something which is “valuable to both claimant and defendant. A constancy off tone as well as approach enables one to advise clients better.”

Boyd went on to say that the idea of one judge taking charge of defamation cases was not new; he recalled that when offer of amends was introduced under the 1996 Defamation Act, High Court judge David Eady QC made a point of taking on such cases.

A specialist list could also ensure that only cases where the law needs to be clarified or moved on come to court, Boyd also noted. “That’s better for everybody.”