Interesting news out of the United Kingdom this week: The number of reported defamation court cases against media companies in the UK has reached its lowest point in five years, falling from 48 in 2008-2009 to just 20 in 2012-2013,* according to research by the Legal business of Thomson Reuters. In addition, there were a total of 70 defamation cases that got as far as a court hearing in the last year, down from 78 in 2008-2009.

Defamation court cases against media companies have fallen sharply, and they are expected to fall even further following the introduction of the new Defamation Act, which is aimed at reforming the law of defamation to ensure that a fair balance is struck between the right to freedom of expression and the protection of reputation. In particular, the new Act might reverse the growth in defamation claims launched by businesses that has occurred over the last five years.

Under the new law, companies that bring a defamation claim will now have to show that they are likely to suffer a serious financial loss as a result of the defamation – a far higher hurdle for businesses to jump.

The research also shows  a steady decline in defamation cases brought by celebrities over the last few years, with only seven reported cases of defamation this year versus 11 five years ago. Celebrities involved in defamation cases over the last year include Naomi Campbell, Elton John and Katie Price. However, the number of political figures bringing forward defamation claims has slightly increased in the last few years, with six cases this year, compared to just three, five years ago.

* Year ending May 31, 2013. Statistics drawn from Thomson Reuters’ Westlaw UK/Lawtel services.

Read the full press release on thomsonreuters.com