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Offer of Amends.
The Offer of Amends Procedure is contained within sections 1-3 of the Defamation Act 1996. It enables a defendant who has made an honest mistake or for whatever other reason is unable or unwilling to defend your claim, to put his hands up at an early stage and admit liability. This does not entitle him to walk away he must if he is following this procedure, agree to apologise and agree to pay you damages and costs.
If an Offer of Amends is not accepted it will be a complete defence at the trial of your claim unless the claimant can show that the defendant published maliciously, in other words knowing that the allegation were false. which is very difficult to establish.
If the offer is accepted in principle then the precise terms of the apology and the amount of the costs and damages are negotiated. If an agreement cannot be reached, the defendant may publish a unilateral apology and the Court can be asked to decide the financial issues.
The claimant will have to issue an application to have the damages decided by the court.
This will still involve orders for disclosure and witness evidence. and a hearing
A discount will be given by the judge to the defendant for using the procedure by reducing the amount of damages by at the most 50% depending on the speed of the offer and the promptness of the apology.
The Offer of Amends Procedure is useful for both parties. It can avoid a protracted dispute and ensures it settles at an early stage. A recent case showing how an offer of amends can influence the amount of damages awarded is KC v MGN Ltd  EWHC 483 (QB) (05 March 2012)