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Government backtracks on threat of unlimited libel liabilities for the press

Government backtracks over press libel costs threat

The government has reversed course over controversial plans to make newspapers liable for libel costs even if they won their case.

Publishers warned that the measures could force smaller publishers out of business and incur excessive costs for others to bear as it would have opened the door to anyone mounting a defamation case, safe in the knowledge that the paper would have to pay court costs even if they were cleared.

Citing sources the Times reports that these ‘punitive elements’ will now not go ahead within Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, signaling a change of tack on behalf of new prime minister Theresa May who is adopting a more conciliatory stance towards the press.

The timing of the decision is crucial coming on the eve of a decision by the Press Regulation panel to endorse Impress - a new regulatory body funded by former F1 owner Max Mosley. National titles which failed to register with this new body had faced the threat of Section 40 but this sanction is no longer on the table.

Titles such as the Times, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph have instead opted to sign up for Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), a voluntary independent body.

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