It has been announced that Mr Justice Warby will take charge of a new list within the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, to be known as the “Media and Communications List”.
Mr Justice Warby will take primary responsibility for cases involving one or more of the main media torts (defamation, misuse of private information and breach of duty under the Data Protection Act) and related or similar claims including malicious falsehood and harassment arising from publication or threatened publication by the print or broadcast media, online, on social media, or in speech.
Mr Justice Warby will exercise judicial responsibility for the listing of cases of the nature set out above and of applications within them and will be responsible for considering emerging procedural issues in this context
As from 1 March 2017 parties who consider that their case meets the foregoing parameters should entitle their claim appropriately upon issue or upon filing an Acknowledgement of Service. This should be done by inserting the words “Media and Communications List” below “Queen’s Bench Division”. Cases so designated will be assigned to the Media and Communications List by the court. The court will retain the power to move cases in and out of this list of its own motion or upon application.
It is said these modification will not change existing practice (including the handling of those matters currently dealt with by the Queen’s Bench Masters), but Mr Justice Warby is proposing to consult in due course with those who litigate in this area and the judiciary with relevant experience, with a view to establishing generally whether there are any improved practical arrangements that might be made for cases of the kind specified.
The post of “Judge in Charge of the Media and Communications List” is a partial revival of the former post of “Judge in Charge of the Jury List” – the holder of which was effectively the senior media judge. Mr Justice Tugendhat was appointed to that role in October 2010. Like his predecessor Mr Justice Eady, he was also the judge in charge of the non-jury list. The post remained vacant for some time after his retirement. In May 2015, Mr Justice Foskett was appointed as Judge in Charge of the Jury and Non-Jury Lists. His title was subsequently changed to “Judge in charge of the Queen’s Bench Civil List” – but the distinction between the two lists remained.
Defamation libel trials have, in practice, been abolished by the Defamation Act 2013 but defamation cases continue to appear in the “jury list” and all other cases in the “non jury list”. There are, from time to time, still civil jury false imprisonment and malicious prosecution cases. Nevertheless tt remains to be seen whether the ancient “jury list” – originally the only one in the Queen’s Bench – will now itself be abolished.