Letter: Ashby's expensive libel action

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The Independent Online
Sir: The tragic case of David Ashby's lost libel action (report, 20 December) highlights the need for alternative solutions to disputes concerning allegations made about people.

There is nothing that a libel action can do which could not be achieved by a statutory right of reply. Even if Mr. Ashby had won, the "no smoke without fire" syndrome would have ensured that, with certain people, he would always remain "guilty". A statutory right of reply, on the other hand, allows the injured party to state his/her case in full and in a prominent position in the newspaper concerned, is less expensive and less emotionally draining for all those concerned.

Also, in any confrontation between the might of a national newspaper and an individual, the latter - however prominent in public life - is invariably cast as an underdog and therefore is more inclined to receive the readers' sympathy.

Yours sincerely,

Walter Cairns


20 December