Libel reform at risk… again

In case you’re not aware, the Defamation Bill is at Ping Pong, due to be debated again next Tuesday, 16th.

However, despite the recent good news of the agreement to remove the ‘Leveson’ amendment to the Defamation Bill, it seems that there are still some who seek to derail the Bill.

The Conservative MP, Sir Edward Garnier, a former(?) libel lawyer, has moved to scupper the Bill through an amendment to remove a central plank – that which protects individuals from corporate bullying litigation.

The timing of this disgraceful attempt to curtail freedom of speech in this country is interesting. If this charmer‘s amendment succeeds, the Bill is rendered virtually useless. What chance, then, individuals such as Lesley Kemp, who is currently facing the kind of situation that the Bill was intended to protect against?

Please see here for further info…. and do write to your MP soonest.

6 responses to “Libel reform at risk… again

  1. Thank you for highlighting my circumstances. It seems that my case may be the tip of the iceberg with countless others going through what I am. I cannot even begin to describe the stress I have suffered but worse, what my kind, loyal, supportive husband has had to endure. Thanks to the generosity of spirit and donations from good folk for which I shall always be grateful, I now have a chance to stand up for myself and with clear conscience say, NO I will not be bullied.

  2. This is happening so often nowadays. The majority of libel cases (and I mean the majority) end up being dismissed by the courts. In 2010 out of 20 cases which were reported 18 were won by defendants. That gives hope to defendants even when the libel law has not been changed yet. The judges in preparation for the changes are interpreting the present outdated law more favourably to defendants – presumably because like everybody else they are sick and tired of the sheer number of hopeless and vexatious cases they see.

    It is right to campaign for the change in law but we also need a campaign to stop these fools being let loose on the general public in the first place.

  3. Interesting that the lawyer and politician behind this is the one is who representing Lord McAlpine. In terms of the demand for reparations, that claim is unreasonable – along with a number of others which have been dismissed before. You cannot demand large sums of compensation as if one person’s tweet was the sole or main cause of any reputational damage. Besides, the £310K odd he received previously has to also be considered as well as overall vindication. Weigh all that up, consider the context and this does not translate into a viable claim.

    I do really wonder how lawyers can go on the TV and radio and talk as if a preliminary hearing was a ‘win’. These lawyers refuse to engage in a ‘media circus’ when justified questions are being asked of their behaviour but have no qualms about then making innacurate assumptions to the media about what the judge may or may not be thinking. Like similar litigation before, the course of the first hearing should not be taken as an indicator that McAlpine has won the case. After all to make such an assumption and then go on to win, a very senior judge would have to completely ignore previous precedants and case law. To me, that seems unlikely to happen – as has been observed elsewhere time and time again. The fact that a judge is going through the motions and conducting the case in a way seen to be fair, does not mean that an increasing number of people cannot see this litigation for what it is and the likely eventual outcome. It represents an abuse of the process – just like the majority of all libel cases that end up in court.

    It is time to address this and speak out against libel abuse no matter whether it is Sally Bercow, Simon Singh or ‘kitchen table bloggers’. The law needs changing but Libel Reform also needs to tackle the compensation culture which is now completely out of control.

    • Thanks for your interesting comment.

      It seems to me there is a ‘game’ going on. Despite the (whipped Tory) vote the other day, some early reports still claimed this as a ‘victory’ for free speech… based on the expectation that the Lords will alter it back again next week. And even then, the ‘… or is likely to cause…’ still bothers me as an invitation for abuse. But the Government will still bray at having got a Bill through as part of its/their manifesto commitment(s) regardless.

      As a ‘kitchen table (science) blogger’, the Singh-BCA thing has been the motivating interest for me. But even his understanding of this is aggressively challenged. And I fear there will be little improvement, whatever the final wording of this Bill.

      Free speech, or expensive speech? Are accusatory statements as to motivating interest here technically libelous? I’ll just opinionate with the label ‘odious fascist.’

  4. Lee

    Going back to what you said about this costing Lesley, that of course is correct. I have always said that the law needs changing. However, the most crucial thing is that attitudes to the whole subject have to completely change. At present most defendants win their cases (often after a long battle) which speaks volumes for the lack of merit in the majority of libel complaints. I wonder if the new law will change things much if attitudes stay as they are. The judges have improved dealing more quickly with nonsense cases but many others still take too long.

    For example, last week’s hearing of McAlpine V Bercow was no surprise. I accept there is a process to enable a fair hearing for all. However, libel law is over complicated and over analysed to the ridiculous. The overiding factors should be to decide whether damage has been caused and whether pursuing a case will result in worthwhile vindication taking everything into account. You need judges who can cut through the nonsense.

    One day I would like to see a system where in all cases the facts are presented to a judge, he considers the case as a whole in one hearing and he can strike it out there and then. What is the point of having two or more hearings when a case is clearly ill conceived and hopeless?

    I know of one case involving multiple defendants where there were at least 15 hearings over 5 years before it was disposed of. It cost the taxpayer a huge sum in fee exemption. The descriptions used by various judges during the proceedings about the merits included ‘totally without merit’, ‘wholly without merit’ and ‘simply nonsense’.

    Historically, libel cases have really been all about generating money for lawyers and allowing judges to ponder obscure and pointless legal issues of law and then bouncing the case off to a different judge or a different hearing to consider another point. If it is so obvious from the start that a case will lose it should be booted out straight away. We simply cannot afford the continued extravagant nonsense which is such a regular feature nowadays.

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