Draft Defamation Bill : House of Lords Paper 203 Session 2010-12
The Joint Committee on the Draft Defamation Bill welcomes many of the reforms proposed in the draft Bill. However, the report proposes many detailed amendments to the defences available against libel claims, mainly designed to strike a fairer balance between the protection of reputation and freedom of speech. For example, greater protection is proposed for scientists and academics writing in peer-reviewed articles. The Government's proposals do not do enough to address the key problems in defamation law - the unacceptably high costs which make access to justice difficult for many. The Committee proposes a series of reforms aimed at ensuring that disputes are generally resolved rapidly by mediation or arbitration, rather than via the courts. An essential step in encouraging early resolution of disputes is the abolition of jury trials in defamation actions, in all but exceptional cases. Judges will then be required to take key decisions affecting the outcome of the case at an early stage, before massive legal costs are incurred. Trivial cases should be weeded out at an early stage. A new notice and take-down procedure for the internet is proposed.Internet hosts gain the protection of the law provided they act responsibly by following the new procedure. Any anonymous postings must be taken down upon complaint, unless authors are prepared to identify themselves or there is an overriding public interest in publication. Furthermore, is should be made more difficult for companies to use their financial muscle and the threat of court action to silence critics.