LA News Release: Two Cheers for the New Defamation Act (April 2013)
Contact Details: Dr Sean Gabb
07956 472 199, email@example.com
Thursday the 25th April 2013
For immediate use
Libertarian Alliance Statement on the New Defamation Act
Note: The Defamation Act 2013, signed into law on the 25th April 2013, reforms English libel law in the following ways:
- Claimants will need to show actual or probable serious harm to their reputation from a published statement;
- Corporate bodies will need to prove serious financial loss from a published statement;
- The public interest defence is strengthened;
- Website operators will not be held responsible for statements they did not themselves post;
- There will be qualified privilege for academic claims;
- The limitation period will now run for one year from first publication of a statement;
- It will be harder for foreigners to bring libel actions in this country for statements only incidentally published here;
Speaking today in London, Dr Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, welcomed the new law. He said:
"Anything is to be welcomed that makes it harder to bring and win a libel action. Many of the new law’s provisions – ie the serious harm test – may codify recent decisions of the courts. Even so, it is nice to see these set in stone, rather than subject to judicial drift. Also, it does seem as if Parliament has taken these decisions on their most liberal interpretation. Certainly, the single publication rule makes life easier for anyone who runs a blog or a website, as does the widening of the innocent dissemination rule. I’m glad to see that corporate bodies will be effectively barred from bringing libel actions, and that scientific and academic journals can no longer be scared by threats from wealthy interest groups.
"I don’t like the abolition of trial by jury in libel actions. On the other hand, trial by jury is plainly being abolished in this country. Since all cases soon will by tried by judges sitting alone, or by panels of judges, we might as well have laws for them to apply that are not grossly oppressive.
"Our Blogmaster and I will need to keep an eye on the meaning of the changed innocent dissemination rule. This will probably allow us to host more outspoken comments than we have so far welcomed. However, we might also have to require all members of our community to identify themselves to us. We shan’t welcome this, if it does become a requirement, and our compliance will be the absolute legal minimum. But we shall comply with what is required.
"On balance – no, probably very much so – the new Defamation Act is an oddly liberalising law for the country and age in which we live. Of course, freedom of speech on public issues is more constrained than ever by the laws against “hate” speech; and we need to see what scheme of censorship will emerge from debates over the Levenson Report. But the Defamation Act is the first law I can remember for many years that does not merit our usual denunciation."