Claims for defamation will no longer be exempt from a provision of the Jackson civil litigation reforms, the government announced today, hoping to draw a line under a long-running controversy arising from the Leveson phone-hacking inquiry.  

In a statement to parliament, David Gauke, the lord chancellor, said the government would commence section 44 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) in relation to defamation and privacy cases. That section, abolishing the recovery of success fees from the losing party, came into force for most cases in April 2013 but was delayed for defamation and privacy cases pending the outcome of the Leveson inquiry.

Today’s announcement is a government response to a consultation in autumn 2013, which heard concerns that abolishing success fee recovery could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism. It states that commencing s.44 in relation to defamation cases will help to control the cost of cases and give effect to obligations under the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in MGN v UK7, which found that costs recovery posed a threat to free speech. 

However the government said it would maintain, ’at least for the time being’, the regime of recoverable after the event (ATE) insurance premiums.  

Meanwhile the High Court today threw out a High Court action against the government over its decision to cancel the second part of the Leveson inquiry. Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Ouseley said the case failed ’at almost every level’. The judicial review was brought by four victims of intrusive journalism.