England & Wales

Our campaign has been successful in England and Wales. You can read more about the Defamation Act 2013 and what the law means to you.

You can read through our archives below:

London says goodbye to libel tourists

Government promises to bring new libel law into effect by end of the year

Libel website Reform Campaign marks most significant reform of English libel law since 1843

The Defamation Act is a victory for citizens’ groups and democratic pressure

Scientists, authors, human rights activists, consumer champions and citizens gathered last night to celebrate the passing of the Defamation Act 2013. The four-year libel reform campaign brought together hundreds of individuals and community organisations who wrote to MPs, came to Parliament and joined in scrutiny of drafts of the new law, while bloggers, publishers, scientists and authors put their arguments directly to politicians in what has been described as one of the most successful campaigns of the 21st century.

As a result, foreign nationals will no longer be able to pursue spurious libel cases through London’s High Court. Corporations will have to prove financial harm before they can sue. And for the first time, there will be a statutory public interest defence.

 

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Defamation Bill agreed by Parliament

The Defamation Bill was granted Royal Assent to become the Defamation Act 2013 on Thursday 25th April.

The Libel Reform Campaign has produced an initial analysis of the Bill (PDF)

Tracey Brown, Director, Sense About Science said: “A campaign of small organisations, thousands of individuals and good parliamentarians has achieved changes that were denied to citizens and publishers for a century. We didn’t have resources but we had the weight of mounting injustice and the pressure from citizens to talk freely about their society, evidence, culture and the behaviour of powerful people within it. There are many compromises in the Defamation Act. But restrictions on trivial claims, a stronger defence of fair comment, and a new public interest defence will help writers everywhere to decide what to publish based on ‘is it true?’ rather than ‘will they sue?’"

Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship said: “The Defamation Bill is a major advance for freedom of expression both here at home and abroad. For too long, free speech was chilled, restrained and threatened by our archaic libel laws, that were a laughing stock around the globe. Even President Obama passed laws to protect US citizens from its effects. We now have a Defamation Bill that will strengthen freedom of expression, end the global chill from libel tourism and prevent corporations from suing citizen critics. This is the first wholesale libel reform since 1843, so our 60,000 supporters can be pleased that their support has helped make a real change.”

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN said: “This has been a remarkable campaign that has united politicians and campaigners to reform a law that had become an international embarrassment. The chill has had an impact on anyone speaking out in the public interest - from scientists to bloggers - so this is good news for freedom of speech in the UK. However, as we heard in Parliament today, there is still unfinished business regarding internet  regulation and procedure that will be critical for delivering a fairer and more accessible law.”

Dr Evan Harris, Libel Reform Campaign parliamentary adviser said: “As someone involved the campaign from the start, and from inside and outside Parliament, I can see what an achievement it is to achieve this reform. Although not perfect or complete, it is a major step forward, although much will depend on the new proposed court rules and procedures which are awaited”.

Simon Singh, science writer and defendant in BCA v Singh said: “This is an extraordinary story of cross party collaboration, fired up by a grass roots campaign, backed by everyone from nerds to Mumsnet, which includes mums who are also nerds. Four years ago, libel reform was not an issue that anybody cared about, but I have witnessed first hand how charities, bloggers, MPs, Lords and a multitude of others pushed this issue up the agenda, into manifestos, into the Queen’s Speech and now, at last, we have a Defamation Bill that will change the landscape of free speech in Britain.”

Justine Roberts, CEO and co-founder of parenting forum Mumsnet said: “As a long-time member of the Libel Reform Campaign, Mumsnet warmly welcomes the passage of the Defamation Bill. It's not perfect, and of course we don't yet have the full detail on how the regulations will deal with publication on the internet. But we applaud the hard work of everyone involved, and are very happy to have been a part of this much-needed reform.”

Charmian Gooch, Director, Global Witness said: “The passage of the Defamation Bill is a long overdue victory in the campaign to reform the UK’s outdated and repressive libel laws. This new Bill significantly increases the ability of organisations to speak out in the public interest and take on vested interests which, until now, have been able to use the law to silence critics and crush freedom of speech.”

“Global Witness would like to congratulate members of the Libel Reform campaign - English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense about Science and everyone else involved for their relentless work to help create better protection for the work of campaigners, journalists and others who report in the public interest.”

You can read more media coverage on the new law, what it means and how it came about here:

Project Syndicate, "Less of an ass", by Aryeh Neier

Index on Censorship, "Keep libel laws out of science", by Tracey Brown

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The Defamation Bill returns to the House of Lords today

The Defamation Bill returns to the House of Lords today for consideration of amendments made in the House of Commons.  This is the final opportunity for parliamentarians to influence the contents of the legislation and deliver essential free speech reforms.  The Libel Reform Campaign has urged peers to back the inclusion of two crucial provisions in the Bill:

  • to ensure citizens are able to criticise taxpayer funded services whoever provides them without receiving libel threats; and
  • to end corporate libel bullying and minimise the costs risk to defendants, by making corporations get a court’s permission before dragging someone to the libel court.

The Libel Reform Campaign strongly supports all the motions and amendments tabled for consideration today.  You can watch the debate live at this page on the House of Parliament website, or follow #LibelReform on Twitter.

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Government chooses business interests over citizens

How can it be right that companies delivering public services can’t be criticised acheter cialis france by citizens?

At a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 16 April 2013 the Government rejected attempts to reform the libel laws to limit companies' ability to use sue individuals. The reform would have asked companies to show they had been harmed before they would be allowed to take it case. It would also have put the Derbyshire principle, which prevents public bodies from suing individuals for libel into law, and would have extended this principle to private companies performing public functions. Labour pushed the Government on this clause and forced a vote which the Government won 298 to 230.

But Minister for Justice Helen Grant MP said the Government would “actively consider” amendments to the Defamation Bill that would require corporations to show financial loss before they can sue for libel, following pressure from Shadow Minister for Justice Sadiq Khan MP. The Defamation Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday 23 April.

Tracey Brown, Sense About Science: “We are pleased that so many MPs recognise the need for corporations to show actual financial harm and grateful to the MPs who worked for this. While it is deeply disappointing that the corporations’ clause has been removed, their efforts have at least led the Government to concede that this should be revisited in the Lords. It cannot be right that the court is not asked to consider whether companies have faced loss, or are likely to, before a case can go ahead. It cannot be right that citizens can’t criticise delivery of public services whether by private companies or by the Government.”

Kirsty Hughes, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship: "It is a very unwelcome blot on an important bill that the Government voted to allow corporations to continue to pressurise and sue in ways that chill free speech"

Jo Glanville, Director, English PEN: “The Government needs to do more than "actively consider" amendments.  Ministers in the House of Lords should now table an early amendment, requiring corporations to show financial loss before they sue.  We're depending on the Lords now to deliver the reform that all the parties signed up to. It's essential that companies are no longer allowed to exploit libel law to bully whistleblowers into silence. This has always been a key demand for the campaign.”

Simon Singh, defendant in British Chiropractic Association v Singh: “The majority of the cases that galvanized public support for libel reform involved corporations, so the final Defamation Bill must include a clause that limits the powers for corporations to bully their critics into silence. The proposal on the table is reasonable, modest and fair. Ignoring this proposal on corporations would leave the door open to further abuses of libel law by those who want to block the public’s access to information concerning everything from consumer issues to medical treatments.”

Media coverage

The Guardian: Why libel reform is needed to stop companies bullying their critics

The Independent: Ministers make U-turn on Defamation Bill

The Guardian: Key libel reforms thwarted as Conservatives block Defamation Bill

Daily Mail: 'Climbdown' on libel reform amid claims new laws are strangling free speech

City A.M: Libel law reforms watered down after Commons vote

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It's not too late to write to your MP

It’s not too late to write to your MP to make sure vital new additions to the Defamation Bill are agreed today.

If your MP is a back bencher please urge them to vote against any amendment removing the new clause placing restrictions on companies. This new clause does not prevent companies from suing for defamation. It simply requires companies to show that they have experienced financial loss before a case can proceed.

How can it be right that a company can claim libel damage – pursue it through expensive court proceedings and even take someone’s house to pay for it - and yet not be required to show that it actually happened?

If your MP is on the front bench please urge them to support Sir Peter Bottomley’s amendment to the public interest defence that would ensure it doesn't revert back to the current complicated and costly law.

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