Libel reform debate media round-up [updated x 3]

1 June 2010 by

We posted on Friday that the libel reform debate is hotting up now that the Coalition Government has pledged to reform the law of libel. We are following the debate because of the wide-ranging implications any significant reform will have for the law of freedom of expression, as a number of articles published over the weekend demonstrate.

Lord Lester, who has recently produced a draft libel reform bill, writes in the Times:

The chilling effect of our current libel law needs urgently to be tackled by the government and parliament. I hope that my bill will be the catalyst for much-needed legislative reform.

John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship, an organisation which aims to promote freedom of expression, writes in the Guardian:

Lord Lester’s private member’s bill represents the first concerted attempt to codify the balance between free expression and the right to reputation. It seeks to introduce a statutory defence of responsible publication on a matter of public interest; clarify the defences of justification and fair comment; require claimants to show substantial harm, and corporate bodies to show financial loss; encourage quick and cost-effective settlement of disputes through arbitration without recourse to costly litigation. And, in a nod to the 21st century, it addresses the problems of the internet age, including multiple publications and the responsibility of internet service providers and hosts

Matthew Sinclair, a research director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, responds in the Guardian to Zoe Margolis’ defence of conditional fee agreements (that is, no win no fee):

The reality, though, is that those arrangements are a critical part of a system that is seriously undermining free speech and are simply unjust, affecting many cases that are far more contentious than hers. Despite the undoubted and dreadful harm she has suffered, the “girl with a one track mind” needs to look at the bigger picture.

Conditional fee agreements allow libel lawyers to offer what is essentially a no-win, no-fee deal to their clients. As Margolis notes, hefty success fees when they win are designed to compensate firms for the money they lose when a case doesn’t go their way.

Update 02/06/10 – Paul Tweed, a media lawyer and a senior partner at Johnsons Solicitors‘ senior partner refutes Lord Lester’s assertion that libel law is “notoriously costly, complicated and stifling of free speech”:

Watching the intense media frenzy on both sides of the Atlantic over so-called ‘libel tourism’ and reform of our libel laws, it is easy to forget the interests of the ordinary man in the street. It is not so much the international litigant who is likely to be affected by the draconian reforms being advocated in the press, but rather the rights of the individual UK citizen.

The Inforrm Blog posts Lord Lester and the Libel Reform Campaign: we need mature debate:

We suggest that the time has come for some mature debate – without name calling. The Libel Reform Campaign began the debate by seeking to identify some problems and proposing some solutions. A number of issues have arisen in relation to both “problems” and “solutions”. It seems to us that it would be helpful to clarify, point by point, where the debate presently stands.

Update 03/06/10 – Lord Pannick quoted by the Law Society Gazette: “‘Lord Lester’s bill will remedy many of the legal deficiencies that have made London the libel capital of the world and severely damaged freedom of expression.”

Updated 04/06/10 – William Bennett, a barrister specialising in libel and defamation law, says on Inforrm: “Defamation law ought to be subject to scrutiny and it is by no means perfect; however, the criticisms made of it do not appear to be based on a careful evaluation. For instance, the quote above has no basis. It is nigh on impossible to obtain an interim injunction preventing a publisher from publishing defamatory material if the publisher asserts (not proves) that it has a defence. There are no super injunctions (injunctions which forbid the publication of the fact of an injunction) in defamation because there are no injunctions in defamation to attach them to.”

Read more:

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Facial Recognition Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance Obituary parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecutions Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence shamima begum Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance sweatshops Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: