Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Telegraph welcomes draft Defamation Bill and urges that it be guaranteed parliamentary time

The Daily Telegraph in a leader today welcomes the draft Defamation Bill and the recognition by the Government of the need to reform the libel laws.

It says: "There is now general acceptance that these antiquated, unbalanced and illiberal laws are damaging this country's reputation for free speech. Frivolous actions are brought in order to shut down responsible journalism or stifle legitimate academic opinion."

The leader also gets in a reference to the type of super-injunction granted to Sir Fred Goodwin. "Our libel laws work against the interests of justice and a free press, a trend compounded by the alarming expansion of judge-made privacy law through the imposition of blanket reporting bans known as super-injunctions."

It says of the proposals in the draft Bill: "A new requirement that any allegedly defamatory statement must have caused 'substantial harm' to a client's reputation before an action can proceed is particularly welcome. So, too, are the public interest safeguards to protect academics and others from being sued simply for expressing views – even if they are defamatory.

"The Government is to be congratulated for recognising the need for what would be the first wholesale reform of our libel laws since 1843. It now needs to make good these fine ambitions by guaranteeing parliamentary time for the legislation."

The leader also makes the point that it is "the small publications, local newspapers and individuals who are hardest hit by the excessive costs of defending themselves in the courts, and are often forced to settle rather than contest cases they might otherwise win".

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