New Bill will reform libel laws

 

A Bill to protect freedom of speech and reform the libel laws is to be introduced into Parliament, it was announced in the Queen's Speech.

It is understood that the Bill is likely to be published on Friday.

The reform, announced in a brief mention in the Queen's Speech, was welcomed by campaigners.

The Libel Reform Campaign - made up of Index on Censorship, English Pen and Sense About Science - which has been calling for legislation to reform the libel law since November 2009, hailed the announcement as a victory.

A spokesman for the campaign said: "The Bill will open the way to ending libel tourism and protecting free expression for journalists, writers, bloggers and scientists around the world.

"However, there is still work to be done and we will carry on campaigning to make sure that the detail in the final Bill will truly deliver reform."

It is understood that the Bill will aim to re-balance the law to ensure that while people who have been defamed are able to protect their reputation, free speech and freedom of expression are not unjustifiably impeded by actual or threatened libel proceedings.

It will also aim to ensure that the threat of a libel action is not used to frustrate robust scientific and academic debate, or to impede responsible investigative journalism, reduce the potential for trivial claims, and address the perception that the English courts are an attractive forum for so-called "libel tourists" who had little connection to this country.

Index on censorship chief executive Kirsty Hughes said: "Finally, the Government is to stop libel tourism so wealthy foreign claimants can no longer use our High Court to silence their critics abroad.

"The 60,000 people who signed the Libel Reform Campaign will be delighted that the Government has announced this reform, though we'll be awaiting the detail."

Sense About Science managing director Tracey Brown said: "We and thousands of others have campaigned to stop the libel laws' bullying and chilling effects on discussions about health, scientific research, consumer safety, history and human rights.

"We are really pleased to see the Government has moved closer to honouring its promise of a fairer law and protection of free speech in today's Queen's Speech. This opens the way to developing a law guided by public interest not powerful interests."

Simon Singh, who became embroiled in a bitter libel battle with the British Chiropractic Association, said he was still being contacted by journalists, scientists and others who were being silenced by libel threats or libel claims.

He added: "The reform promised in the Queen's Speech today is a welcome response to the intolerable effects of the current laws."

Index on Censorship editor Jo Glanville said: "We have now have a chance for libel legislation that's fit for the 21st century.

"The introduction of the single publication rule and greater protection for internet service providers will help to put an end to the chilling effect online."

Justine Roberts, co-founder and chief executive of the Mumsnet website, said: "While the draft Defamation Bill was a very good start, it didn't go far enough to protect freedom of expression, particularly in the online environment.

"Websites and hosts of user-generated comment risk becoming tactical targets for those who wish to clamp down on criticism or investigation of their activities."

Cardiologist Dr Peter Wilmshurst, who was sued by an American medical device company, said: "Patients have suffered because the draconian defamation laws were used to silence doctors with legitimate concerns about medical safety."

Reforms expected to feature in the Defamation Bill will include moves to address concerns about the detrimental effects that current libel law has on freedom of expression, particularly in relation to academic and scientific debate, the work of non-governmental organisations and investigative journalism, and libel tourism.

The Bill is also expected to introduce greater protection for secondary publishers such as booksellers and for website operators in relation to material posted by users of sites which they host - at present, website operators have to remove material when they are told it is defamatory or face the risk of a libel action even though they are not in a position to know whether or not it is defamatory.

The Bill is also expected to end the presumption in favour of jury trial in defamation cases, which currently adds significantly to the cost of cases and the time taken to resolve claims, and stops early resolution of issues such as the actual meaning of words about which the claimant is complaining.

It is also expected to introduce a requirement for a claimant to demonstrate that the published material has caused serious harm - an attempt to stop or discourage trivial claims - and to put the Reynolds defence of responsible journalism on a matter of public interest on to a statutory footing.

PA

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn