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Libel Reform: Good News on the way?

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Libel Reform: Good News on the way?

Post by Tony Bennett on 12.07.10 21:50

You called for a Libel Reform Bill and the Government has listened

Monday, 12 July, 2010 20:18
From: "news@libelreform.org" <news@libelreform.org
To: ajsbennett@btinternet.com

Dear Friends

You called for a Libel Reform Bill – and the Government has listened.

On Friday, Justice Minister Lord McNally said the Government has listened to the 52,000 supporters of the Libel Reform Campaign and has made a “firm commitment to action” to protect freedom of speech and the public interest with a bill to be published in the New Year. The Bill will be the first attempt from a Government in more than a century to undertake fundamental reform of our libel laws.

It’s an incredible success for our campaign – and it’s thanks to your support.

The announcement was made during the second reading debate of Lord Lester’s Private Members Defamation Bill. You can watch the debate as it happened here:

www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=6412

and there is a round up of coverage and reaction to the news here:

www.libelreform.org/news/465-9th-july-2010-government-announces-libel-reform-bill

But we don’t know how radical the Government’s bill will be, and we don’t know whether it will ensure that writers like Simon Singh, NGOs like Global Witness, or medical professionals like Dr Peter Wilmshurst won’t face libel actions in the future. That’s why we need your continued support.

Many of you have been emailing and Tweeting about this already – please do continue to spread the word. Over the next three months we need to double the signatories to our petition so new MPs know how important this issue is. We have a lot of work to do together to make sure the Government brings forward a bill that really will make the law fairer and give greater protection to free speech. Bloggers, science writers, NGOs and small publications still face threats and bankruptcy under the current laws, as illustrated by two bloggers, Alex Hilton and John Gray, who are at the High Court in London today fighting to have a libel case against them thrown out. You can follow the case here

www.jackofkent.blogspot.com.


Best

Sile and Mike

www.libelreform.org

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Re: Libel Reform: Good News on the way?

Post by Laffin Assasin on 12.07.10 22:31

medical professionals like Dr Peter Wilmshurst


He used to be head medic for the Diving fraternity, IIRC.

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Sensible caps on costs awarded against libel defendants

Post by Tony Bennett on 12.07.10 22:42

In Germany, there is a maximum cap on costs for defendants in libel actions that they lose.

It's 10,000 euros, or about £8,750.

Now that would have made contesting the McCanns' threat of a High Court libel writ over '60 Reasons' a very different proposition.

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Re: Libel Reform: Good News on the way?

Post by Guest on 20.07.10 13:53

This from Jailhouse Lawyer

http://jailhouselawyersblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/libel-law-to-be-reformed.html






Saturday, July 17, 2010
Libel law to be reformed
Libel law to be reformed

We no longer live in a gentlemen’s club, so let’s reform libel law

David Pannick, QC
Last updated July 15 2010 12:01AM

Last Friday’s debate in the House of Lords on the Defamation Bill ended with a very welcome commitment from Lord McNally on behalf of the Ministry of Justice. The Government will bring forward its own draft Bill on the reform of libel law early next year for pre-legislative scrutiny, with a strong expectation that a Bill will be included in the 2011-12 legislative programme.

Libel lawyers often begin their submissions to a jury by quoting from Ecclesiastes: “A good name smells sweeter than the finest ointment.” But the current state of the law has odorous consequences. The rich and the powerful can prevent or dilute critical comment about their activities by bringing, or threatening, proceedings that would impose a crippling cost on the author or newspaper concerned.

In 1963, Lord Devlin said in a speech in the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords that “a man who wants to talk at large about smoke may have to pick his words very carefully if he wants to exclude the suggestion that there is also a fire; but it can be done”. The problem is that it can only be done by walking a legal tightrope that imposes a substantial costs bill, even on those who manage to get across without falling off.

The Defamation Bill was introduced by Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC, who had help in drafting its contents from Sir Brian Neill (a retired Court of Appeal judge), Heather Rogers, QC, and others. It seeks to secure a fairer balance between freedom of expression and the right to protect reputation. It addresses a number of libel rules that are in need of urgent reform.

Clause 1 would codify the defence of responsible publication on matters of public interest. The courts have recognised such a defence but the criteria are confusingly stated in a number of conflicting judgments.

Clause 2 seeks to strengthen the defence of honest opinion (currently known as fair comment). In the Court of Appeal in April, Lord Judge, the Chief Justice, emphasised the importance of such a defence when allowing the appeal of Dr Simon Singh in libel proceedings brought by the British Chiropractic Association: an opinion “may be mistaken, but to allow the party that has been denounced on the basis of it to compel its author to prove in court what he has asserted by way of argument is to invite the court to become an Orwellian ministry of truth”.

Clause 10 would remove the rule derived from the Duke of Brunswick’s case in 1849 — no question of Parliament rushing into reform here — that established that each fresh publication of the same material gives rise to a new cause of action with its own limitation period. The rule is a substantial impediment to free speech because newspapers and others who make archive information available on websites are at risk of being sued when material is downloaded, however many years have passed since the original publication.

Clause 11 would require a corporation suing for libel to prove that the publication has caused, or is likely to cause, it substantial financial loss. A corporation has no feelings and it should not be able to sue to recover general damages.

Clause 12 would oblige the court to strike out an action for defamation unless the claimant shows that the publication has caused, or is likely to cause, substantial harm to his or her reputation. The law of libel should no longer be based on the assumption that we all live in a gentlemen’s club where a slight will cause people to be shunned and avoided.

If Clause 12 were enacted we would not see again cases like the claim in which Charlotte Cornwell, the actress, won £11,500 in damages for libel after the television critic of the Sunday People wrote in 1983: “She can’t sing, her bum is too big and she has the sort of stage presence that jams lavatories.” The statement was, as the court found, untrue and unfair.

I prefer the approach of Lord Justice Millett, dissenting in the Court of Appeal in 1996 from the decision of the majority refusing to strike out a libel claim brought by Steven Berkoff, the actor and director, after a Sunday Times journalist described him (unfairly) as “notoriously hideous-looking”. Lord Justice Millett rightly said that “people must be allowed to poke fun at one another without fear of litigation”.

Iago’s plea in Shakespeare’s Othello was that: “He that filches from me my good name/ Robs me of that which not enriches him/ And makes me poor indeed.” The problem is that the Iagos of the 21st century bring or threaten legal proceedings to deter newspapers, publishers and others from commenting on their behaviour. We do not assist the genuine victims of libel by maintaining a system which is slow, expensive and complex. Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill is paving the way to much needed reform.

The author is a practising barrister at Blackstone Chambers in the Temple, a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and a crossbench peer in the House of Lords

Comment: I predict that if this goes ahead, then it will have implications for Gerry and Kate McCann in that they will no longer be able to silence critics who legitimately question their version of events into the disappearance of Madeleine via Carter Ruck.
Posted by jailhouselawyer at 9:39 AM
1 comments:
Joana Morais said...
Thank you John, I'll read David Pannick, QC opinions on Libel Reform at the Times. If you haven't keep an eye at Inforrm's Blog - they have been doing a fantastic coverage of the legal side of the Lord Lester’s Defamation Bill. Facebook and Twitted your post;)

best regards, good weekend

Joana M.
11:07 AM
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Libel Reform

Post by T_Moore on 29.09.10 11:52

What difference does it make?

Well funded enthusiastic litigants can now use the Protection from Harassment Acthttp://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/40/contents. The previous government admitted harassment is not defined.

Any unwanted conduct can now be described as harassment, with civil and criminal penalties. Go to the High Court for injunctions. Because there is only one High Court, the case is not transfered to the Defendant's local court.

Any breech of the injunction is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

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Re: Libel Reform: Good News on the way?

Post by Judge Mental on 29.09.10 14:59

@Tom Moore wrote:What difference does it make?

Well funded enthusiastic litigants can now use the Protection from Harassment Acthttp://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/40/contents. The previous government admitted harassment is not defined.

Any unwanted conduct can now be described as harassment, with civil and criminal penalties. Go to the High Court for injunctions. Because there is only one High Court, the case is not transfered to the Defendant's local court.

Any breech of the injunction is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

@ Tom Moore

You sound quite resigned to this punishment, Tom Moore. Please join us in supporting libel reform groups and others who want to change the law in such a way that the wealthy do not end up sitting prettily above the law whilst committing crimes and indiscretions.

Have you managed to find a solution to your Israeli/Jewish/Masonic problem yet?

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Protection from Harassment Act 1997

Post by T_Moore on 30.09.10 15:49

@Judge Mental wrote:
@Tom Moore wrote:[ . . . ] Any breech of the injunction is an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

Please join us in supporting libel reform groups and others who want to change the law in such a way that the wealthy do not end up sitting prettily above the law whilst committing crimes and indiscretions.

We have a very long way to go, with current trends tending to affirm a rich litigant's right to harass in the courts, albeit the suspension of ASBOs seems to be an improvement. Presumably a young man who looks over the fence at his neighbour nude bathing will no longer be in breech of his ASBO and liable to prison.
@Judge Mental wrote:Have you managed to find a solution to your Israeli/Jewish/Masonic problem yet?
Thanks for asking.

I never had a Jewish or Israeli problem; it's something that was mentioned to me while I was in Finland. As far as I can tell, Finland tends to support Israel, while the UK F&CO supports Palestine to the extent that its US bosses will allow. I was told that when the balloon goes up in the Middle East, s/he (apparently a Free Mason) is expected to fight against Israel and s/he appeared unhappy at the prospect.

To find the UK embassy in Helsinki, go to the US embassy. A smaller building opposite houses the F&CO. On display was a photocopied sheet asking for help locating Maddie.

At the moment I have a home, which is more than the Free Masons have allowed me in the past. It has been suggested that they may - after well over a decade - have made their point and be leaving me alone. I am not looking for a battle. Having tried to defend myself, and by-and-large failed (with the odd victory), I am inclined to leave well alone.

Brother Rod Dadak of solicitors Lewis Silkin complains to Google about Tom Moore

I notice Cater-Ruck are representing the Church of Scientology as well as Brother Gerry McCann and Kate McCann. In fairness, both parties do need all the legal representation they can get.

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