Libel Law

Reform of English Libel Law

English Libel law is unacceptable in its effect of stifling of free speech, and brings the UK into disrepute. It helps powerful corporations and individuals to censor publication of accounts of their misdeeds. Especially worrying is the increasing tendency of English courts granting "super injunctions", which not only prevent prior publication but also publication of their existence. Even more outrageous were attacks on parliamentary privilege.

We would reform English libel law, so that, where there is a public interest in disclosure, a plaintiff would have to demonstrate Malicious Falsehood for the action to succeed. In this case, the defendant will be granted power to write simple letter claiming no merit in the accusation, thus avoiding legal costs.

More detailed proposals from The Libel Reform Campaign:

  1. Capping libel damages at £10,000 and making an apology the chief remedy;
  2. Shifting the burden of proof so claimants have to demonstrate damage;
  3. Preventing cases from being heard in London unless 10% of copies of the offending publication are circulated in England;
  4. Stopping large and medium-sized companies from being able to launch libel actions unless they can prove malicious falsehood;
  5. Making some internet comments exempt as part of efforts to reflect the arrival of the world wide web;
  6. Establishing a libel tribunal, along the lines of employment tribunals, as an alternative to expensive full court trials;
  7. Reducing the prohibitive cost of defending libel actions by capping base costs and making success fees non-recoverable;
  8. Strengthening the public interest defence and expanding the definition of fair comment.


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