Arbitrators examine libel scheme proposals

SENIOR lawyers are to examine ways of settling libel actions against newspapers and magazines by arbitration.

The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators has set up a working party to look at the proposal and will produce a report by the end of October.

Marcus Rutherford, partner at law firm DJ Freeman, will chair the arbitration (defamation) scheme working party.

Other members include Ruth Collard of Peter Carter-Ruck, judges Sir Maurice Drake and Sir Oliver Popplewell, and representatives from The Observer, The Guardian, The Times and Express newspapers.

Rutherford says: “I believe there will be advantages for both newspapers and potential claimants in having a flexible and cost-effective alternative to the straight-jacket of litigation.

“Preliminary soundings indicate newspapers may even be prepared to allow the arbitrator the power to order the publication of an apology or of a concise summary of his findings.”

He says the arbitration scheme would work alongside the Press Complaints Commission to produce a quick, cheap solution to defamation disputes.