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London libel cases

London has long been considered the ‘libel capital of the world’. Due to a perception that English libel law favours the claimant, it has been argued that a disproportionate number of libel claims are commenced in the High Court in London when compared with other jurisdictions.

The coalition government unveiled plans in July 2010 to conduct a libel law review, with the aim of protecting free speech by addressing the balance between libel claimants and defendants and also looking into the phenomenon of ‘libel tourism’, where foreign claimants start a libel claim in London rather than their local court in an attempt to benefit from favourable legal rules.

In figures reported in the London Evening Standard recently, the number of defamation cases started in London has increased year on year since September 2007 – September 2010. The increase was attributed to factors such as closer working relationships between celebrities and law firms specialising in libel litigation; the wider use of media monitoring services (to identify potentially defamatory material) by celebrities; and the increase of ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements being agreed between law firms and claimants pursuing libel claims that could not otherwise be afforded.

Certainly, there seems to be regular reporting of celebrity libel claims in the media, such as the action being commenced in London this month by the singer Peter Andre against the model Katie Price.