Northern Ireland: Defamation claims in 2016 – Olivia O’Kane

13 02 2017

Northern IrelandI have now obtained the figures concerning the numbers of defamation cases issued in Northern Ireland in 2016.  These figures are based on a search of the Court’s records for the period 1 January to 31 December 2016.

For this period, there were 23 cases issued against broadcast / print media defendants.  In total however, there were 42 libel cases received by the High Court and 1 Libel/Slander case received by the County Court during the period 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016, with 5 court disposals and 17 non-court disposals in the High Court and 2 court disposals and no non-court disposal in the County Court during this period.  There were 2 cases in which the judgment was known to be in favour of the defendant during the period.  The maximum amount of damages awarded by a Jury / Judge alone in a Libel case for the period was £500 in the County Court.

The highest award of libel damages in the last three years was £80,000 – this remains the largest award of recent years.  The most recent judicial libel damages were awarded in Elliott v Flanagan £48,750 after mitigation and Coulter v Sunday Newspapers Limited, £50,000.

The following tables provide a summary of the 2016 cases:-

Table 1: High Court Libel Proceedings:-

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 P
Cases Received1 85 46 98 55 46 54 31 31 27 21 24 42
Disposed of at Court1 6 10 6 11 22 64 17 6 10 7 13 5
Found for Plaintiff ND ND 1 ND 1 4 ND 3 2 1 1 ND
Found for Defendant 1 2 ND 1 ND ND ND ND ND 3 ND 2
Damages (£)2 ND ND 25,000 ND 75,000 57,001 31,001 112,505 68,000 20,000 ND ND
Source: Integrated Court Operations System (ICOS)

P Data are currently provisional and may be subject to change.

1 A case may not necessarily be dealt with in the same calendar year as it is received.

2 Relates to the total amount of damages, known to the court, that were awarded.

 

Table 2: County Court Libel/Slander Proceedings2:

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 P
Cases Received1 1 1 3 1 1 1 3 2 4 1
Disposed of at Court1 2 5 1 3 1 1 1 3 2 2
Found for Plaintiff 1 1 ND ND 1 1 2
Found for Defendant 2 ND 1 2 1 ND ND ND ND ND
Damages (£)2 3,000 ND 1,000 ND ND ND 1,000 1,500 550
Source: Integrated Court Operations System (ICOS)

P Data are currently provisional and may be subject to change.

1 A case may not necessarily be dealt with in the same calendar year as it is received.

2 In the County Court there is no distinction between libel and slander cases.

3 Relates to the total amount of damages, known to the court, that were awarded.

My gratitude to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service Central Management Team for their assistance.

Olivia O’Kane is specialist media lawyer at Belfast solicitors Carson McDowell

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2 responses

13 02 2017
daveyone1
13 02 2017
Northern Ireland Defamation claims in 2016 Olivia OKane - Real Media - The News You Don't See

[…] I have now obtained the figures concerning the numbers of defamation cases issued in Northern Ireland in 2016.  These figures are based on a search of the Court’s records for the period 1 January to 31 December 2016. For this period, there were 23 cases issued against broadcast / print media defendants.  In total however, there […] Inforrm’s Blog […]

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