Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Libel reform and the working group report

By now you may have had a chance to read the report of the working group on libel, and read some of the coverage of it and the response from Jack Straw.

There was a mass lobby of Parliament yesterday on this subject, and the minister, as well as opposition spokesmen attended.

There are a number of changes in the offing, some achievable by tinkering with regulations and therefore reasonably speedy, others requiring legislation and therefore the commitment of an incoming government, be it Labour, Tory or some combination involving the Lib Dems.

There will be those who say the changes proposed by the working party do not go far enough. The working party, being a broad cross-section of those representing media, NGOs, academia, claimant and defendants, was always going to reflect a multiplicity of opinions.

However, read the proposed changes being put forward and look at them in the context of a reduced costs regime as proposed by Jack Straw.

What you will get if the changes as proposed are all put into effect is, and this is a very broad brush description:

1. Less likelihood of being sued for libel due to changes to the multiple publication rule and restrictions on libel tourism.

2. If you are sued, a better chance of defending yourself if you are publishing in the public interest.

3. If you are sued and you lose, it will be less ruinously expensive due to the curtailment of the 'uplift' success fees charged by no-win, no-fee lawyers. The cuts in success fees will also, I would imagine, take some lawyers out of this market, again cutting the likelihood of getting sued.

So, a step in the right direction, a rebalancing of burdens. Not everything that those campaigning for reform might have wanted, but more then their opponents might have wanted to give.

What matters now is how much of this is put into effect, pre, and post-election.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Libel working group report published

The Ministry of Justice has published the report of the working group on libel, you can download it here

Libel working group report

The report of the Ministry of Justice working group on libel is due to be published this morning. Should be up on the MoJ website within the hour.

More later.