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Defamation Bill 2012-13

Royal Assent

(This Bill is from a previous session)

Summary

  • Bill status:

    Bill is now an Act

  • Type of Bill:

    Government Bill

Sponsors:

Last event

Summary

The draft Bill was announced by the Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke, and published on 15 March 2011. It will apply to England and Wales only. The final Bill was confirmed in the Queen's speech of 9 May 2012 and introduced to the House of Commons the following day.

The Bill aims to enable people who have been defamed to take appropriate action to defend their reputation, whilst ensuring that freedom of expression is protected.

The Bill allows for:

  • the requirement that a statement must have caused substantial harm in order for it to be interpreted as 'defamatory';
  • the establishment of statutory defences of both truth and honest opinion (replacing existing common law measures);
  • libel tourism to be prevented by allowing only cases which involve significant harm to an individual's reputation in England and Wales to be tried in those countries;
  • the introduction of a single publication rule which prevents repeat claims of libel being made after a one year limitation period has passed.

Labour supports the Bill but expressed a desire that it be fully scrutinised in draft form through a wide ranging consultation. Shadow Justice Minister Rob Flello emphasised that "the devil will be in the detail of this Bill and how it will bring libel laws up to date and in line with a growing online media."

The Libel Reform Campaign welcomed the Bill, but argued that additional protection for web-hosts and internet service providers was required, as well as a stronger public interest defence.