IPSO Blog: Can IPSO’s pilot arbitration scheme improve access to justice in media law?

Legal and Policy Analyst Alistair Henwood, on how IPSO's arbitration scheme can help people make legal claims against the press.

Making a legal claim can be stressful, costly and time consuming. People can pay up to £10,000 just to start a civil claim in court, and may be left waiting for 12 months before they even get a court date for defamation cases. 

In contrast, IPSO’s streamlined arbitration process aims to conclude disputes outside of court within 90 days. It’s cheaper than court too – charging people fees ranging from £50 to £100 (plus VAT). The scheme also supports the parties to reach early resolution – making sure fees are kept as low as possible. You can win damages of up to £60,000 and recover costs of up to £25,000. 

The IPSO scheme grants parties direct access to practising barristers who rule on claims – requiring publishers to remedy wrong doings if claims are upheld. These barristers have been selected from three of the leading media law chambers in the UK, and were chosen for their expertise and reputation.  

We have given our arbitrators specific powers to make sure individuals and publishers are on an equal footing during the arbitration process. 

Developing the scheme 

The scheme launched in July 2016. All the national papers signed up to IPSO, along with a number of well-known magazine and other titles have agreed to participate in the scheme. A full list is available here. 

It’s run in conjunction with the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), Europe’s largest independent Alternative Dispute Resolution service for both commercial and consumer disputes. Their expertise, experience and independence from the press ensure a robust and effective service. 

Now that it is up and running we will be working to improve accessibility to the service. We can do this by developing understanding of scheme through promotion and improving its functionality through monitoring. 


We have developed an infographic which explains the scheme in a simple way. 

We have structured this into the arbitration section of our website which showcases the scheme more effectively. 

We’re also talking to law firms to make sure members of the public can get advice from lawyers who know of and understand the scheme. Some now even provide specific consultation services. 


We aim to create a service that fulfils a specific function within the wider legal process that is acknowledged as having a role to play in improving access to justice. 

In order to do this we will be monitoring and improving the service so that it can provide a real alternative to costly and lengthy court proceedings. As an alternative, it should not sit apart from the legal process but work as a complimentary service within that system. We are therefore working with the legal and press industries, and other interested parties, looking at how arbitration may tie into and interact with the Court process. 

If you wish to inquire about the scheme please email arbitration@ipso.co.uk  

If you want to discuss the on-going development of the scheme please email Alistair.henwood@ipso.co.uk


Originally published 15 February 2017.