Britain’s libel laws have made them an “international laughing stock” and need to be updated urgently to enf the “effective bullying” of journalists, says Nick Clegg.
The deputy prime minister has said that a parliamentary bill this spring will crack down on “libel tourism”, protect people that speak out in the public interest, and outline laws on online defamation.
Clegg said that current libel laws have a “chilling effect on scientific debate and investigative journalism”.
“It is simply not right when academics and journalists are effectively bullied into silence by the prospect of costly legal battles with wealthy individuals and big businesses.
“Nor should foreign claimants be able to exploit these laws, bringing cases against foreign defendants here to our courts – even if the connection with England is tenuous.
“It is a farce – and an international embarrassment – that the American government has felt it necessary to legislate to protect their citizens from our libel laws.
“We will be publishing a draft defamation bill in the spring. We intend to provide a new statutory defence for those speaking out in the public interest and to clarify the law around the existing defences of fair comment and justification.
“We believe claimants should not be able to threaten claims on what are essentially trivial grounds. We are going to tackle libel tourism.
“And we’re going to look at how the law can be updated to better reflect the realities of the internet.”
Clegg also vowed to “address the high costs of defamation proceedings”, with proposals to restrict controversial “no-win no-fee” arrangements.
“Our aim is to turn English libel laws from an international laughing stock to an international blueprint,” he said.
(Source: Press Gazette)