English courts see celebrity libel cases double in past year

Celebrity libel actions have more than doubled during the past year as the English courts 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 with just nine in 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.

More than a third (38 per cent) of the reported cases involved offers of amendments or statements 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.

Some media lawyers, though, 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.