The Alternative Libel Project has published a report calling for a series of steps to be taken to reduce, what they call, “eye-popping costs” in libel cases.

The report which was published on March 15th 2012, the same day Lord McNally addressed a seminar to reaffirm the commitment to reforming libel law, is the result of a project which is run by English PEN and Index on Censorship, two of the bodies involved in the Libel Reform Campaign.

For the last twelve months, the two bodies have looked into “alternatives to resolving libel claims through the High Court” and they suggest that a wider use of quicker and cheaper methods, such as mediation, arbitration and early neutral evaluation should be used to help cut costs and time involved in libel cases.

The report concludes that courts should encourage parties to use alternative forms of dispute resolution and penalise those who unreasonably refuse to do so, adding: “Alongside this, the government should give courts the mandate to manage the evidence and argument allowed in defamation cases in a robust manner.

“It should also introduce rules enabling a hearing to determine the meaning of the alleged defamatory words to be determined independent of a full claim for libel.”

Other methods of reducing libel costs including arbitration and early neutral evaluation, which the report suggests “allows judges to give an opinion on the merits of a case on the basis of a short and straightforward hearing, and could help with reaching settlements.”