Tag Archives: libel

Opinion: Privacy and investigative journalism – a balancing act

The recent phone hacking scandal has thrown into sharp relief a corrupt nexus: between media organisations (I use the plural advisedly) that consider themselves above the law; a craven police culture that makes it effectively so; and a body politic so in thrall to that same media power it’s unable to distance itself from those responsible for illegal activity, much less hold the press to account. As enquiry after enquiry ensues, we seek the reform of the press, of the police and of politics, the need for which has rarely been clearer; we must also seek to strike a balance …

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Opinion: ‘l’iberalism and ‘L’iberalism

Rumours in the Telegraph this weekend of a rebrand, a name change, a leadership challenge? Notwithstanding the dubious origins of a story attempting to rub salt on wounds open since 1988 I mulled over the possibilities. Having debunked 2 assertions in the article I didn’t even bother to consider the prospect of a leadership challenge.

Would we ditch the freedom bird for scales of justice? Considering the People’s Justice Party and more recently the Jury Team used scales, I should hope not.

And renaming the party to include the word “social”? Some members in my local party born after …

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Evan Harris writes… The Draft Libel Bill – A good start, but much still to play for

Yesterday the Government published its draft Defamation Bill. This consisted not only of draft clauses but also a formal consultation on some key issues not included (yet).

The Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of the campaign to reform our libel laws as Nick Clegg points out in his Guardian piece yesterday. I convened the parliamentary wing of the Libel Reform Campaign in 2008/9, working with Sense About Science, Index on Censorship and English PEN. We achieved our aims of getting manifesto commitments from all three main parties before the 2010 Election. This campaign …

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – We will end the libel farce

Over on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free site, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has penned a piece to coincide with the government’s publication of a draft Defamation Bill, which proposes significant changes to Britain’s libel laws.

Here’s some of what he has to say:

London is the number one destination for libel tourism, where foreign claimants bring cases against foreign defendants to our courts – even when the connection with England is tenuous at best. It is a farce that has prompted Barack Obama to legislate to protect his citizens from rulings in our courts.

These laws

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Libel Reform Bill published

Earlier today, the government published its draft Libel Reform Bill. It’s an issue that Liberal Democrats, along with many others, have been campaigning on for a few years now and one on which Lib Dem minister at the Ministry of Justice Tom McNally has said his reputation should be judged on.

So it is good news for both our freedoms and Tom’s reputation that the Bill published today proposes major reforms and has met with a warm response, including:

Major changes to Britain’s antiquated defamation laws will be outlined by ministers today with the publication of a bill to provide greater

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats in government are protecting free speech and other cherished civil liberties

The Institute for Government was the setting for Deputy Prime Minister’s keynote address on the Coalition Government’s plans for protecting civil liberties – and for those of us keen to see Britain’s tarnished international reputation on personal freedoms restored, Nick Clegg’s speech was enough to brighten even the most dismal of days.

Nick began with a nice touch, telling us why his belief in civil liberties sprang from an upbringing that “made sure that my brothers and sister and I grew up certain of one thing: you must never take your freedom for granted.” This personal insight helped set …

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Lib Dems push forward on freedom of speech, freedom of information

Two snippets of news today about freedoms – a reminder of the importance of libel law reform and good news on extending freedom of information.

In the Independent, John Kampfner (Chief Executive of Index on Censorship) writes:

“There’s nothing like a boob job cream to get readers going on an important issue. The case of Dr Dalia Nield, one of the country’s leading plastic surgery consultants, goes to the heart of the problem with English libel law. Dr Nield took issue with the company producing the cream, which claimed to increase a woman’s cup size. Her remarks, in a national newspaper,

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Good news on libel law reform as McNally stakes his reputation on reform

Liberal Democrat minister Lord Tom McNally not only repeated his support for libel law reform over the weekend, but also said it was an issue on which his ministerial career should be judged.

Speaking at an event to mark the first anniversary of the Libel Reform Campaign, Lord McNally declared the current state of libel law as “not fit for purpose” and went on to say,

We agree the law needs reforming and have been working on a draft Defamation Bill, which we hope to publish and put out for consultation in March.

See the Press Gazette for more on this story.

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Opinion: The pressing need for libel reform

Our libel law is complex, costly and out of date. It lacks certainty and sweeps too broadly in ways that threaten freedom of speech. That is why I have prepared a Defamation Bill to act as a catalyst enabling the coalition Government to give effect to their commitment to review libel laws, and to give Parliament the opportunity to make better law.

Recent calls for libel law reform have come from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Report Press Standards, Privacy and Libel, the Ministry of Justice Working Group on Libel, and the Libel Reform Campaign led by a coalition …

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Libel reform bill set for spring publication

The Press Gazette reports:

A newly published Ministry of Justice Structural Reform Plan shows that developing options for reform is expected to take from June this year until March next year.

The plan gives as a milestone the publication next March of a “draft Defamation Bill for the reform of libel laws published for pre-legislative scrutiny”.

But it gives no indication of a timetable for the introduction or passage of the actual legislation…

The Government announced on 9 July, towards the end of the second reading debate on the Defamation Bill introduced into the House of Lords by Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC,

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More details of Lord Lester’s libel reform bill released

Yesterday I covered the news that Liberal Democrat Lord Lester is going to table a bill to reform libel law. He’s now released details of what approach the bill will take:

  • Introduce a statutory defence of responsible publication on a matter of public interest;
  • Clarify the defences of justification and fair comment, renamed as ‘truth’ and ‘honest opinion’;
  • Respond to the problems of the internet age, including multiple publications and the responsibility of Internet Service Providers and hosters;
  • Protect those reporting on proceedings in Parliament and other issues of public concern;
  • Require claimants to show substantial harm, and corporate bodies to show financial loss;
  • Encourage the speedy settlement of disputes without

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Lib Dem peer to table libel reform bill

The Times Higher Education Supplement reports the promising news:

A Liberal Democrat peer is to launch a libel reform bill in the House of Lords that would offer greater protection for scientific debate against defamation claims.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill said he was introducing the private member’s bill in order to encourage the government to act quickly on libel reform. He said his aim was to trigger the formation of a committee to take detailed evidence on the topic. He added that he hoped the government would adopt the final version of the bill.

Both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems made

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Nick Clegg calls for reform of UK libel law

Nick Clegg has taken the opportunity of a speech today to the Royal Society – on the relationship between science and politics – to press for reform to the UK’s “stifling” libel laws. Here’s how the Press Gazette reports it:

There appears to be a growing political consensus that Britain’s libel laws are too waited in favour of rich claimants and money-grubbing lawyers. Today Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is set to use a speech to the Royal Society to call for libel laws to be reformed, The Independent reports.

“Libel tourism is making a mockery of British justice,” Clegg

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Libel law needs major reform

The clamour for a change to our pernicious libel laws grows louder every day.  In November, Index on Censorship and English PEN published Free Speech is Not For Sale, a report into the state of libel in England & Wales, and the bizarre phenomenon of libel tourism.  Impressed by this report, Jack Straw announced the creation of a working group to deliver reform.  Lib Dem peer Lord Lester announced on the BBC Radio 4 PM programme he will begin drafting a libel bill, and MPs have begun to sign EDM 423 (tabled by Dr …

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Libel law reform proposed by Lib Dem Lord Lester

The Press Gazette reports:

Human rights barrister Lord Lester has drawn up a defamation reform bill which he says has cross-party support and would be available to whoever wins next year’s general election.

According to the Sunday Times, the Lib Dem peer’s “moderate” bill would tackle the issues of libel tourism and the huge costs to publishers of cases brought under no win, no fee rules…

Lord Lester’s bill would:

  • Reform the no-win no-fee which makes the costs so high for publishers that they often settle just to minimise their risks.
  • End the rule whereby every time a web story is downloaded it counts

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Evan secures Parliamentary debate on Trafigura and libel laws

Lib Dem MP Evan Harris has secured a debate on libel law and the reporting of Parliamentary proceedings following Carter Ruck’s attempts last week to gag The Guardian from reporting details of a Parliamentary Question concerning Trafigura’s activities. (You can catch-up on LDV’s reporting of the issue here.)

The debate will take place today in Parliament’s Westminster Hall today, 21st October, from 2.30-4pm.

Explaining the purpose behind the debate, Evan says:

There is a lot of concern in Parliament and in the media over the impact of English law on freedom of expression, but the people who should be

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Let’s all say “Thank you” to #Trafigura with a postcard

As Helen Duffett already blogged earlier today on Lib Dem Voice, a combination of the Guardian’s legal team and Twitter users worldwide combined today to restore some element of common-sense to the law – allowing the media to report a Parliamentary question tabled by Paul Farrelly asking about the publication of the Minton Report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

LDV trafigura TYIn one sense, Trafigura and its lawyers Carter Ruck behaved shamefully in attempting to gag newspapers from reporting on Parliamentary proceedings. But in another, more profound, sense we should be grateful. As a result of their cack-handed attempts to silence The Guardian, hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of people now know about the serious allegations against Trafigura. Quite simply, this would not have been possible without the active role played by Trafigura and Carter Ruck.

It seems entirely appropriate, therefore, to say thank you to Trafigura for its role in exposing the company to far greater reputational risk than could have ever been achieved by one article published in a single newspaper.

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Conference fringe: Defending free speech – keep libel laws out of science

With a harsh economic recession continuing to bite, with Westminster politics remaining in the doldrums and with a global climate change summit fast approaching, legal action taken against a science writer may be far down your priority list as party conference season approaches. And yet, the British Chiropractic Association’s attempts to silence Simon Singh’s critical comments reveal fundamental flaws in Britain’s libel law, and threaten to undermine the freedom of expression that insulates us from the very worst consequences of public and private sector failures.

It is in this context that I invite all Lib Dem Voice readers to attend a fringe event I’ve organised at this year’s conference. The event is entitled Defending free speech – keep libel laws out of science, and will take place in the Marriott Highcliff Hotel’s Blandford Syndicate room 3 at 13.00.

We will hear an illustrious panel of speakers discussing how legal threats are being used to suppress scientific debate, and how Britain’s libel laws must be reformed:

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Opinion: Some legal aspects of the McBride Affair

Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire, is threatening to sue for libel over what was written about her in the McBride-Draper emails. I expect she may struggle because to succeed in court she will have to prove that damage has been actually caused (rather than a mere intent to cause damage) to her reputation. Politically, her threats to sue seem naive. Threatening to sue but then not doing so invites speculation as to why not.

The criminal law is, however, likely to be relevant. There is a statutory offence of defamatory libel …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 14 Comments
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