Mediate defamation claims, says The Alternative Libel Project

Defamation cases should be mediated, and if they are not, they should be the subject of an early neutral evaluation by a High Court Judge, say Index on Censorship and English PEN in their report on defamation procedure, which is published today.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Alternative Libel Project’s first report also recommends that:

  • judges must use stricter case management;
  • litigants should be able to make a stand alone application to determine the meaning of the allegations in question; and
  • a costs regime must be introduced to redress the inequality of arms between the parties.

Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN said

Mediation has an extremely high success rate in libel actions. It allows both parties to get straight to the heart of their dispute and can result in a settlement which both parties are happy with, at a fraction of what the case might otherwise cost.

John Kampfner, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship said

Defamation procedure needs to change so the balance between freedom of expression and reputation is not affected by the relative resources of litigants but by the strength of their claims. The recommendations we have made will not only result in many more cases being resolved very early on, they will ensure that those cases that do go to trial in the High Court are dealt with more efficiently.

The preliminary report will be launched today at a reception held at the Nuffield Foundation. Lord McNally, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, and Sir Stephen Sedley, who chairs the Alternative Libel Project’s advisory committee, will both speak at the reception.

The report is a preliminary one and Index on Censorship and English PEN are inviting views on their proposals before the 18 November. To comment, please e-mail Helen Anthony at

Notes to editors

The Alternative Libel Project’s preliminary report will be launched today, 6th October, at 12 noon, at the Nuffield Foundation, 28 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3JS.

CONTACT DETAILS: To attend the launch, receive a copy of the report or for more information about the Alternative Libel Project please call Helen Anthony on 020 7324 2577 or 07817 743194, or e-mail

The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation. More information is available at

English PEN is a registered charity (number 1125610), with the object of promoting the human rights of writers, authors, editors, publishers and other persons similarly engaged throughout the world.

Index on Censorship promotes freedom of expression through the Writers and Scholars Educational Trust (registered charity, number 325003).

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