Monday, May 24, 2010

Lord Lester's libel reform bill

Lord Lester is introducing a Private Member's Bill on libel reform to the House of Lords this Thursday.

He was interwiewed on Radio 4's Today programme this morning about the bill and you can listen to the it again here.

The Bill, he said, would 'assist' the government in looking at reform of the libel laws. He said it would include measures requiring claimants and corporate claimants to show actual damage - something they are not required to do at the moment, damage is 'presumed.'

He said the Bill would also require libel trials to be heard by a judge alone. It would also examine libel defences such as privilege. He pointed out that the last reform of the law was in 1996, with the Defamation Act of that year. This was, he said, before the spread of the internet, web hosts, bloggers and so on, all of whom are affected by libel laws.

Lord Lester has been active in this area for some time and has been planning his defamation reform bill last year, as reported in The Times.

It will be interesting to see the details of his Bill this week. All the major parties gave commitments to libel reform in their manifestoes. The Lib Dems' was the most specific. It will also be interesting then to see what reception Lord Lester's bill gets from Government, because to have any hope of proceeding the Government will have to agree to giving it time in Parliament.

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