On August 1st 2018 IPSO announced a new “compulsory” element to its arbitration scheme.
This is the third version of the scheme which still fails to meet the Leveson Report’s requirements on arbitration and has not been used by a single claimant.
Commenting, Hacked Off Director Dr Evan Harris said,
“IPSO claims this is a compulsory arbitration service, but the small-print shows it to be a fraud. Newspapers can choose whether or not to sign up, and IPSO, or the newspapers which control it, can pull the plug at any time.
“The reality is that this is a biased scheme from a biased organisation. Newspaper publishers will never allow an arbitration service which is genuinely compulsory and fair for as long as they control IPSO.
“As a result, members of the public without deep pockets but with legitimate legal claims on libel or privacy will continue to be deprived of access to justice.”
IPSO describes the scheme as “compulsory”, but the rules show:
- Newspapers continue to choose whether to “opt in” for the scheme – depriving anyone affected by illegality at certain titles from access to justice;
- The scheme excludes the Mail Online, which is among the worst offenders for libel and privacy offences;
- Any newspapers opting in only do so for the term of their agreement with IPSO, while that agreement states that “No PGRE shall be obliged to participate in the Arbitration Service;”[i]
- IPSO can terminate the scheme any time;[ii]
- IPSO can change the rules any time;[iii]
- It is specified that the compulsory element is not capable of extending IPSO’s powers in respect of its existing agreements and other rules; meaning that IPSO will be incapable of enforcing any element of compulsion at all;
- Claimants are not allowed to use the scheme while progressing a normal code complaint;[iv]
- There are a list of reasons for ruling a claim unsuitable[v], including:
- It is in the interests of the parties or public interest for the claim to be determined in court;
- It is unlikely to complete within a reasonable timeframe;
- Relief available to the claimant would not be an effective remedy were the claim to be successful.
Existing deficiencies and biases with the scheme have not been addressed:
- The scheme is managed by a biased organisation and the Regulatory Funding Company, a committee of newspaper publishers, can pull the plug any time;
- Appeals are barred on points of law;
- No limit on what newspapers can spend on legal representation, while most claimants are strictly limited on what they will be reimbursed. This will inevitably cause inequality of arms, which renders the process unfair;
- Newspapers can deny the claimant an oral hearing, and even if the arbitrator thinks one is necessary the newspaper can still refuse and as a result the claim will collapse;
- Arbitrary damages cap of £60k, which is far less than the maximum that can be obtained in court.
- Hacked Off is the campaign for a free and accountable press, and we work with the victims of press abuse to achieve those aims.
- The new scheme rules have been published here:
Other relevant documents from IPSO, including the Scheme Membership Agreement, are published here:
PRESS ENQUIRIES AND INTERVIEWS: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Nathan Sparkes on 07554 665 940
[i] Scheme Membership Agreement, p5.4
[ii] Arbitration Scheme Rules p3.3
[iii] Arbitration Scheme Rules p3.4
[iv] Arbitration Scheme Rules p5.4
[v] Arbitration Scheme Rules p12.6