The Queen's Bench Division's Media and Communications List becomes a specialist list from 1 October 2019
Following consultation on the role of the newly formed Media and Communications List of the Queen’s Bench Division (the M&C List), amendments to the CPR will establish a designated specialist list of the High Court to deal with claims arising from media and communications work.
These changes, which come into force on 1 October 2019, include:
– A new Part 53, designating the M&C List as a specialist list of the High Court, within which any High Court claim which includes a claim for defamation, misuse of private information, data protection or harassment by publication must be brought.
– Two new practice directions, replacing PD 53, which reflect the full breadth of claims to be brought in the M&C List and provide for rules about statements of case and transfers into and out of that list.
– A new pre-action protocol for media and communications claims, which makes provision for letters of claim in defamation, privacy and confidence, data protection, and harassment.
Status of the Media & Communications list
New Rule 53.2 makes the M&C List a designated specialist list of the High Court, for the first time. However, of greatest interest to practitioners in this field will be the new Rule 53.1(3), which provides that:
A High Court claim must be issued in the Media and Communications List if it is or includes a claim for defamation, or is or includes—
(a) a claim for misuse of private information;
(b) a claim in data protection law; or
(c) a claim for harassment by publication.
Such claims must be issued in the Queen’s Bench Division at the Royal Courts of Justice. Any claim issued in a district registry will be transferred to the Royal Courts of Justice, or County Court if appropriate (Rule 53.4(1)-(2)).
The Judge in Charge of the list will be a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division, and claims within the list will be dealt with by QB Masters. However, it is anticipated that Judges of the Chancery Division may be designated as Media and Communications Judge under Rule 52.3(c) which provides that:
A Media and Communications List Judge is a judge authorised by the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, in consultation with the Chancellor of the High Court, to hear claims in the Media and Communications List
New Practice Directions
Two new practice directions will replace the existing Practice Direction 53. The new PD 53 reflects the existing practice direction, but has been expanded to deal with the broad remit of the List, and contains specific requirements for the contents of statements of case in claims for privacy, data protection and harassment by publication.
In relation to harassment claims, paragraph 10 of the Practice Direction provides that in “claims for harassment arising from publication or threatened publication via the media, online, or in speech” CPR r 65.28(1)(a) shall not apply, and the claim should be commenced under the Part 7 procedure.
In addition, a new PD 53A makes provision for transferring claims into and out of the Media and Communications List.
An extended pre-action protocol
As a result of these changes, the existing pre-action protocol for defamation claims will be replaced with a protocol to deal with the full remit of media and communications work.
As with the practice direction, this now includes specific requirements for letters before action in claims for defamation, privacy and confidence, data protection and harassment by publication.
The section on ADR has been revised, and reference to the old PCC has been removed and replaced with the neutral formulation “a press regulator established to deal with complaints from members of the public about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines or an arbitration scheme operated by such a regulator”.
All these changes, as well as a new Practice Direction 40F dealing with statistics on non-disclosure injunctions, can be found in the Civil Procedure (Amendment No.3) Rules 2019, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2019/1118/pdfs/uksi_20191118_en.pdf and the published updates to practice directions and protocols on the Judiciary’s website at https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil.