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It has been said that libel reform comes around about as frequently as Halley’s Comet so when it does journalists have got to make sure they make the most of it.
The Defamation Act 2013 is now in force and provides sweeping changes to Britain’s much-criticised libel laws.
To ensure that media organisations use the legislation to cut their legal costs, and support probing journalism which holds the powerful to account, Press Gazette is hosting a unique conference – Defamation 2014 – in central London on 19 June.
On paper the new legislation goes some way towards providing more legal protection for journalism. But what does it all mean in practise?
So what are the new protections for discussions about life and death scientific matters (under the previous regime Dr Peter Wilmshurst faced possible bankruptcy after raising concerns about the efficacy of a US medical device)?
How does the new one-year limit on libel actions arising from website stories work?
What is exactly is meant by the new “serious harm test” which must be passed before libel claims can proceed?
How is business journalism protected by the “serious financial loss” test which companies must pass before they can sue?
What does the new public interest test mean for investigative journalists exposing corruption and wrongdoing?
How can digital publishers make sure they take advantage of the complex new protections for legal actions arising from website comments?
- What new sources of information are now covered by privilege (a rock solid defence against being sued) and how can journalists make use of this?
Defamation 2014 will bring together around a dozen of the leading legal brains in the UK to answer these questions and more.
For journalists and media lawyers it will provide a unique, intensive and entertaining briefing on where the law of defamation stands today through a series of keynotes and panel discussions.
Delegates will also receive in-depth briefing packs to take away and share with colleagues.
The emphasis throughout the day will be on providing the media with the tools they need to avoid libel actions and support hard-hitting journalism.
Prices to attend Defamation 2014 are from £199 (plus VAT) for lawyers and £125 (plus VAT) for journalists.
When the cost of defending a libel case at trial can run into the millions, and settling even minor complaints can run into the tens of thousands, hopefully delegates will see the cost of attending as a worthwhile investment.
The UK libel courts have been described as the most expensive casino in the world, so what better place to hold Defamation 2014 than at the UK’s biggest casino, The Hippodrome in Leicester Square.
The conference takes place in the casino’s theatre and cabaret venue – the Matcham Room – from 2-5.30pm. Refreshments throughout the afternoon and networking drinks from 5.30pm are included in the price.
Book your place at Defamation 2014 here. There are 120 delegate places available.
Final programme for Defamation 2014
2pm: Welcome from Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford
2.05 Overview on what the Defamation Act 2013 means for journalists from Andrew Caldecott QC.
According to Chambers and Partners he is "the go-to boffin for complex defamation or privacy work". Last year he successfully defended the Daily Mail against a libel claim brought by banker Nathaniel Rothschild over a story which he said portrayed him as a "puppet master" bringing Lord Mandelson together with a Russian oligarch. Rothschild was left with costs for both sides of £1.3m.
Presentations and round-table: The public interest, truth, business journalism and expressing an honest opinion
Gavin Millar (pictured) QC on the ‘serious financial loss test’ for business libel claims and the public interest
Pia Sarma, Times editorial legal director, talking in more detail about the new public interest defence
Amali de Silva on the new defences of truth and honest opinion
3.20pm – Tea and coffee
Keynote lecture: Lord Lester QC
Architect of the 2010 Defamation Bill who helped get the final 2013 Act through the House of Lords. One of the foremost campaigners for libel reform.
Presentations and round-table: Privilege, digital journalism and Government’s press regulation ‘stick’
Godwin Busuttil, barrister from 5RB on the extensions to journalistic privilege with particular reference to science matters and press conferences
Dan Tench, partner at Olswang, on how the new act effects digital journalism: the single publication rule and the one-year time limit and the new regime for website comments
Gill Phillips, director of editorial legal services for Guardian News and Media, on IPSO, regulation and the threat of exemplary damages
Fireside chat on closing remarks with practical tips for journalists and editors
Editor of PA Media Lawyer Mike Dodd on libel tourism, the Northern Ireland problem and practical tips for journalists
Media law trainer Cleland Thom on how journalists and editors can keep their legal costs to a minimum whilst retaining their journalistic bite
Networking drinks in the bar
Lord Lester QC: Architect of the 2010 Defamation Bill and helped get the final 2013 Act through the House of Lords. One of the foremost campaigners for libel reform.
Andrew Caldecott QC: According to Chambers and Partners he is 'the go-to boffin for complex defamation or privacy work'. Last year he successfully defended the Daily Mail against a libel claim brought by banker Nathaniel Rothschild over a story which he said portrayed him as a 'puppet master' bringing Lord Mandelson together with a Russian oligarch. Rothschild was left with costs for both sides of £1.3m.
Gavin Millar QC. He represented The Sunday Times in its successful three-week libel trial last year in defence of a claim brought by the gangster David Hunt. Millar has been advising The Guardian on the Edward Snowden story and he is acting for The Sun in its defence of the Plebgate libel action brought by Andrew Mitchell MP.
Godwin Busuttil, barrister, 5RB – acted for JK Rowling in her landmark privacy claim against Big Pictures and for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in their successful ‘false privacy’ claim against the News of the World. He is a senior contributing editor to Gatley on Libel and Slander
Gill Phillips, director of editorial legal services for Guardian News and Media.
Pia Sarma, Times Newspapers editorial legal director.
Dan Tench, partner at Olswang. Since 2011 he has been representing News Group Newspapers in handling claims stemming from allegations of voicemail interception at the News of the World. An expert on digital media law, he is currently representing a group of Safari internet browser users in a group action against Google over use of their private data.
Cleland Thom, media law trainer with 20 years experience offering practical help to working journalists
Mike Dodd, a qualified lawyer and journalist who combines editing Media Lawyer with work as the Press Association’s specialist legal adviser. He qualified as a barrister in 2004.