New libel costs scheme introduced

One-year pilot scheme to run from October

A pilot scheme designed to control costs in libel, slander and malicious falsehood claims will be introduced in the autumn.

Details of the scheme, which will run for one year at the Royal Courts of Justice and the District Registry in Manchester, are set out in Practice Direction 51D. Under the new rules, which come into force on 1 October 2009, parties will have to exchange detailed information on costs and submit to the court detailed estimates of future base costs.

The court will manage the costs of the litigation as well as the case itself in a manner which is proportionate to the value of the claim and the reputational issues at stake.  For this purpose, the court may order attendance at regular hearings (“costs management conferences”) by telephone wherever possible, in order to monitor expenditure.

The pilot scheme will only apply to claims issued on or after 1 October 2009.

In a separate move, changes to the information a claimant is required to give a defendant in relation to ATE insurance will be introduced.  In publication proceedings, if defendants admit liability and offer to settle within 42 days of receiving ATE information, they will not have to pay the premium if the matter settles before issue.