It is not always necessary for a defamation claim to be settled via the courts. In fact, parties are actively encouraged to consider alternative forms of dispute resolute to resolve the case rather than automatically using litigation. The law in this area was updated in October 2019 following:
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By following the pre-action protocol, the parties will:
All actions for defamation, whether they are for libel or slander, need to follow the pre-action protocol. The parties are expected to act reasonably so that costs are reflective of the nature and gravity of the case.
The claimant starts proceedings by issuing a letter of claim. This needs to include the following details:
The defendant needs to send a full response as soon as possible. If the defendant cannot do this within the timeframe set (usually 14 days) then they should state when they will respond.
The response needs to state:
The parties are encouraged that the courts are the last resort and where possible the matter should be dealt with by alternative dispute resolution (ADR). There are various options available and the parties should decide which one suits them best:
The parties do not have to use ADR but the courts expect the parties to have considered it before starting court proceedings. If a party refuses to engage in ADR then the courts can impose additional costs if this is regarded as unreasonable.
Claimants can agree to settle both before and after proceedings have been issued. With a defamation case, the parties can make an offer make amends under the Defamation act 2013, which would include a published apology or redaction statement and possibly the requirement to pay damaged and costs to the claimant.
Where the issues are not resolved, the parties should review the issues to see what matters are still outstanding. If the matter then needs to proceed to court, the above process should hopefully narrow the issues to make the management of the case more efficient.
Under the new Practice Direction 7A allows claims to be brought in the High Court or County Court (depending the facts and complexity of the individual case), except for libel or slander claims, which can only be issued in the County Courts if the parties agree.
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