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Jack Straw pledges libel law overhaul

The justice secretary today promised an overhaul of libel laws including a new public interest defence if the Labour Party retains power at the general election.

Jack Straw said that ministers were now “convinced” reform of the law for England and Wales was necessary, amid concerns existing legislation was having a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.

In a Commons written statement, he said the government intended to set out its proposals for change in the draft Libel Reform Bill to be published early in the new parliament.

Among the measures that it is looking at is the possible creation of a new public interest defence in relation to “responsible journalism”.

At the same time, Mr Straw said ministers were considering procedural changes to curb so-called libel tourism which has seen foreign claimants using English courts in the hope of winning big payouts.

Other measures could include the introduction of a single publication rule which would mean libel claims would have to be launched within a year of the original publication.

Mr Straw said: “On the basis of all the views that have been submitted, the government is convinced that reform of the law on libel is needed, and that action should be taken on a number of aspects and procedures.

“The government believes that the programme of work which it intends to take forward represents an effective and practical way to ensure that our libel laws achieve a fair and just balance which enables people to protect their reputations against defamatory allegations without having a harmful effect on freedom of expression.”


Onlooker (23/03/2010 14:39:50)
More desperate spin from this morally bankrupt Government. Translation:’Ooh, after 13 disastrous years in power, be nice to us in the run-up to the Election and we might throw you the odd sweetie in return.’ Pathetic.

Rob (24/03/2010 16:46:57)
It gets my vote!!!!!!