Time is running out to make the case for libel reform – with the deadline looming for legislation to be included in the Queen’s Speech.
As Press Gazette has previously reported, this is a once in a generation opportunity to reform the libel system and tackle abuses such as: libel tourism, the CFA ransom factor, the huge costs generally of defending libel actions and the lack of legal protection for serious investigative journalism in the public interest.
The draft Defamation Bill also proposed measures to stop scientists who speak out on matters of public health spending years, and hundreds of thousands of their own money, being dragged through the libel courts.
According to the Libel Reform Campaign, publication of the Government report on the draft Defamation Bill is now expected “any day”.
In an email to supporters it said:
This report is the Government’s response to scrutiny of the draft Bill by MPs and Peers and its response to the public consultation many of you took part in last Summer. The Government will publish a new Defamation Bill if libel reform is in the Queen’s Speech in May; this report is important because it will set out the Government’s thinking on what should be in a Bill.
As you know, we urged the Government to strengthen the draft Bill to protect NGOs, scientists, bloggers and authors writing in the public interest; to introduce a strict test to ensure that bullying libel claims get thrown out early; to tackle the problem of corporations using the laws to silence criticism and to bring the law up to date for the internet age. If the Government’s report doesn’t go far enough on these issues, we will have to take action.
UPDATE: I’m told that the Ministry of Justice report on the Defamation Bill could now be a few weeks away.