Libel Act to commence “before end of year”
The Justice Minister has said defamation reform will be fully in place within six months. Padraig Reidy reports
13 Jun 13

The Justice Minister has said defamation reform will be fully in place within six months. Padraig Reidy reports

Justice Minister Lord McNally

Lord McNally

Justice Minister Lord McNally has said that reforms to libel law under the Defamation Act 2013 will be in place “before the end of this year”.

In a letter to the Libel Reform Campaign, Liberal Democrat peer McNally congratulated campaigners on the enactment of the law, but said that there were still steps to be taken to ensure a fairer libel system.

“Whilst enactment is a very significant step down the road it is of course not the end of the process,” McNally wrote. He went on:

“My determination to ensure that the new legislation is effective extends to a desire to see that the section 5 regulation are passed through Parliament successfully; and that the new costs protection regime for defamation and privacy cases and other necessary changes to the Civil Procedure Rules are introduced to ensure that people with limited resources are not put at a disadvantage and that cases can be resolved as quickly and cheaply as possible. Work is being taken forward on these aspects to ensure that we can commence the Defamation Act 2013 before the end of the year.”

McNally was made responsible for steering libel reform through parliament after over 60,000 people lobbied the main political parties to change English defamation law. Libel reform was part of all three main parties’ manifestos in the 2010 election, and formed part of the Coalition Agreement that led to the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government. Index on Censorship, along with Sense About Science and English PEN, is a member of the Libel Reform Campaign, which has co-ordinated advocacy for change to the defamation laws over the past three-and-a-half years.

Index Chief Executive Kirsty Hughes commented today:

“The Defamation Act is a step forward for free speech in the UK, but we need the law to be enacted as soon as possible to stop trivial and vexatious cases. The government also needs to publish its proposals to stop people suing online intermediaries for content they didn’t publish, cut the disproportionate costs of libel actions and rules to strike out bullying cases early on.”

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.