Celebrity libel actions double in a year

Celebrity libel actions have more than doubled during the last year as the English courts have witnessed a dramatic increase in the total number of defamation cases.

There were 20 celebrity libel cases in the courts in the 2005-06 financial year, compared to just nine the previous year, according to legal information providers Sweet & Maxwell. The total number of reported defamation cases rose from 66 to 74 in the same period.

Over a third (38 per cent) of the reported cases involved an offer of amends or a statement in open court, an increase from 21 per cent in 2005.

Celebrities fighting claims included the Prince of Wales, who was partially successful in the preliminary hearing of his case against Associated Newspapers.

But some media lawyers say that the figures belie a changing climate in defamation law. Finers Stephens Innocent partner Mark Stephens said more cases are now being brought by businessmen than celebrities.