IMPRESS and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) have launched an arbitration service to resolve media law disputes involving journalists.
This represents a significant milestone for press regulation in the United Kingdom. An arbitration service offering affordable access to justice was one of Sir Brian Leveson's central recommendations for press regulators in his November 2012 report.
The IMPRESS Arbitration Scheme provides a much-needed alternative to adversarial media law litigation and removes the problem of astronomical legal costs which can be used by bullying litigants to block investigative journalism.
Launching the scheme, Anthony Abrahams, Director General of the CIArb, said:
Providing certainty in dispute resolution is an efficient, cost effective way of resolving disputes and is at the core of our overall objectives.
Providing such a service in bringing a resolution for problems arising from media disputes is an initiative we are pleased and proud to be part of.
Financial Times editor, Lionel Barber, told the Leveson Inquiry that "threatening, bullying" litigation "can have a chilling effect because you are aware of the cost of a libel action."
Similarly, individuals with media law claims against newspapers can only take action if they are extremely wealthy or they can find a solicitor prepared to take on a 'no win, no fee' case. Milly Dowler's family have been vocal about the financial risks of taking a newspaper to court for media law breaches, but Government proposals for costs protection, promised two years ago, are currently stalled.
Jonathan Heawood, Founding Director of the IMPRESS Project, said:
An arbitration scheme was one of Lord Justice Leveson's core recommendations. Any regulator must be able to offer a service that can deal with legal claims against the press quickly, fairly and cheaply.
This agreement makes IMPRESS the first press regulator to offer an arbitration service.
It is the next step towards establishing IMPRESS: the Independent Monitor for the Press as a credible press regulator that meets Leveson's recommendations on independence from politicians and the newspaper industry.
IMPRESS is supported by Sir Harold Evans, the crusading former Sunday Times Editor, and has received funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and public donations, including a crowdfunding campaign match-funded by bestselling author J.K. Rowling.
A copy of the schemes rules can be found in the 'Resources' section to the right.