From the Lawyer – Libel Reform – Defamation Act 2013

Can new Act clean up libel law?

David Allen Green, head of media, Preiskel & Co

New Defamation Act’s demand that claimants prove serious damage first could end the gravy train of McLibels

The Defamation Act 2013 will not rid the libel law of England and Wales of all of its many abuses. For example, the big problem of costs is only indirectly addressed. However, the new statute will make it harder for bad claims to be threatened. This is welcome and it is in the interest of not only potential defendants but also the public. Read on…….

David Allen Green tweets as Jack of Kent, and blogs also as Jack of Kent.

3 thoughts on “From the Lawyer – Libel Reform – Defamation Act 2013

  1. Although I would agree with much of the article I do not think it will make it harder for bad claims to be threatened. Some bad claims will not proceed longer than they should which is good but lawyers will always threaten people with litigation which has no merit. Some law firms will continue to send deliberately misleading and intimidating letters about the chances of success or to bluff when they have no intention of proceeding. Also you only need to pick out a few recent libel cases to know that the many lawyers (even libel specialists) have a poor grasp on how libel law works in practice or appreciate how much the judiciary have improved in dismissing libel nonsense for reasons of common sense.(albeit not quickly enough)

    What needs to accompany the new act is better case management by the judiciary. As the author quite rightly says, libel has become disconnected from the tort’s proper purpose of vindicating reputation. The majority of libel cases nowadays are very poor and judges need to get a grip of the issues early on and dismiss the clear nonsense. If like me, you have watched a completely hopeless libel case being indulged in no less than 15 High Court hearings over nearly five years only to be finally dismissed on all counts, you would know what I mean.

    Secondly law firms need to chuck out the 1855 edition of Libel and Slander and brush up on defamation law and spend some time researching current thinking and practice. Also, stiffer sanctions need to be in place against solicitors who bring nonsense claims, breach the pre- action protocol and try to gain an unfair advantage by bullying potential defendants. These poor practices are extremely common and I do not think I have yet come across one letter of claim or ‘libel threat’ which is compliant in spirit and letter with the Civil Procedure Rules, SRA Code of Practice or the Defamation Protocol.

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  2. It won’t make UK libel law clean, however it will be cleaner, but we’ll still the the libel capital of the world.

    As David Allen Green says – there will be no more McLibel, but what about the Simon Singh case, and more recently the Amanda Knox book and the book on Scientology by Lawrence Wright?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/26/amanda-knox-book-uk-libel-laws.

    We are hardly the US when it comes to the right to Freedom of Speech – and the europhobes can’t blame that on the European Court of Human Rights.

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  3. If you think London is the libel capital of the world, why don’t you take a trip across the Irish Sea. Over there 5 year old kids successfully sue for libel and hilarious awards running into millions of Euros are awarded. Also try to post a comment on any Irish or Northern Ireland blog site vaguely supporting free speech and see if you get one published.

    When Irish Media Lawyers describe their ‘career high’ in such terms you know you got stiff competition.

    http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/lawyer-in-the-news/damages-win-louis-walsh-libel-case

    Paul Tweed – Irish Media Lawyer

    Career high: ‘In 1987, I acted for two QCs accused of fighting over the last remaining chocolate eclair in a cake shop. The paper that printed the false story was ordered to pay them £50,000 each, which in 1987 was a very great deal of money.’

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