In relation to defamation claims, under the Pre-Action Protocol for Media and Communications Claims that was brought into force in October 2019, parties are encouraged to exchange information at any early stage in proceedings to try and assist in resolving the issues without court intervention. The first stage in the process is for the claimant to issue a letter of claim (also known as a letter before action and previously known as a cease and desist). There is a one-year time limit for serving a letter of claim in defamation cases.
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The letter of claim is the first stage in the pre-action protocol. The purpose of the protocol is to assist the parties with a clear framework for claims that allows for an early and suitable resolution of the issues. Parties should ensure that they are following this process to demonstrate their willingness to resolve the issues without the need for court intervention. Parties that refuse to cooperate with this protocol risk being ordered by the court to pay extra costs for not attempting to resolve or reduce the issues without the need for litigation. The parties are expected to make sure that they are acting reasonably in relation to costs at all time to ensure they are kept proportionate to the seriousness and level of the complaint.
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:
There is an expectation that the parties will try to resolve their issues via negotiation or alternative dispute resolution methods. The courts should be viewed as a last resort.
If the claimant is successful with their claim, then there are various remedies including:
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