LA News Release: Two Cheers for the New Defamation Act (April 2013)

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Contact Details: Dr Sean Gabb
07956 472 199, sean@libertarian.co.uk
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."

Note(s) to Editors

Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. He is the author of ten novels and ten other books, plus about a million words of journalism. He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at sean@libertarian.co.uk

His latest novel, The Break, has been nominated for the 2015 Prometheus Award.

His recent book, Freedom of Speech in England: Its Present State and Likely Prospects, is a defence of freedom of speech without exceptions. 

Or his book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, explains how its current ruling class has turned England into a totalitarian police state, and how this ruling class can be overthrown and utterly destroyed.

Or another of his books, Smoking, Class and the Legitimation of Power, explains how the current "war" on smoking has nothing to do with making individuals healthy, but everything to do with enhancing the power of a totalitarian ruling class, and enriching its relevant client groups.

You can see other books by Sean Gabb here.

Extended Contact Details

The Libertarian Alliance is Britain's most radical free market and civil liberties policy institute. It has published over 800 articles, pamphlets and books in support of freedom and against statism in all its forms. These are freely available at http://www.libertarian.co.uk

Our postal address is

The Libertarian Alliance
Suite 35
2 Lansdowne Row
Mayfair
London
W1J 6HL
Tel: 07956 472 199