Britain’s libel laws are set for a shake-up with increased powers to identify online commentators expected to be introduced, while aiming to maintain free speech online.
The publication of the Defamation Bill follows claims that the current law stifles investigative journalism or academic debate through the threat of legal proceedings.
Extensive reforms to Britain's outdated defamation laws have begun today with the publication of the Defamation Bill, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced.
Also covered by the Bill is the introduction of a new procedure to help claimants identify the authors of defamatory online statements, a single publication rule to prevent repeated claims being brought against a publisher of the same or similar material, the replacement of the ‘fair comment’ defence with ‘honest opinion’, the introduction of jury trials at the discretion of a judge, and additional protection against libel-claims through peer-reviewed material published in scientific and academic journals.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said: “Freedom of speech is essential in a democratic society. The Defamation Bill will rebalance the law to ensure those who have genuinely been defamed can still take action and seek redress, but without the threat of such action unjustifiably hindering freedom of expression.
“The current system is complex, unwieldy and expensive. These reforms will provide clarity, ease the threat of long and costly libel proceedings, and make it easier for trivial cases to be dismissed without undermining individuals ability to protect their reputation.”
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