The Master of the Rolls has sought to reassure MPs and peers that the courts will use their powers to resolve defamation cases quicker than previously, saying that the end of jury trials will help judges.
Lord Dyson issued a statement in response to concerns expressed by some parliamentarians that changes to the CPR made by the Civil Procedure Rule Committee to implement the Defamation Act 2013 do not go far enough in promoting early resolution.
Highlighting the “formidable array” powers courts already have, particularly under rule 3, to intervene in cases, Lord Dyson said the change to rule 26.11 to reflect the removal by the Act of the presumption to trial by jury in defamation cases “will have the effect of giving judges greater scope to achieve early resolution”.
He explained: “Previously some issues could not have been decided until a decision on whether there would be trial by jury had been taken.”
Lord Dyson said he was “confident” that the courts have the powers they need to ensure early resolution of defamation cases, “and are fully aware of the importance of using these powers. The exercise of these powers will not be appropriate in every case, but it should be the aim wherever possible”.
Acknowledging that early resolution is “particularly important” in defamation cases because of the very high costs that can arise, he said: “All of us – Parliament, government, the judiciary, the CPRC and everyone with an interest in this area of law – will want to see the effects of the Act and the new procedural framework on cases, and will expect to see earlier resolution of disputes than before.”