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    Plans to reform defamation law announced

    Plans to review the law on defamation to protect free speech and freedom of expression were outlined today by Justice Minister Lord McNally.

    The Ministry of Justice will publish a draft Defamation Bill for consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny in the new year, with a view to introducing a Bill as soon after that as parliamentary time allows.

    Proposals for reform will be the subject of consultation with interested parties to ensure that a wide range of views are taken into account and that a fully informed assessment of reform is reached. The Government recognises the impact that the current law may be having on freedom of expression, particularly in relation to academic and scientific debate, the work of non-governmental organisations and investigative journalism and will be looking at options for addressing concerns around “libel tourism”.

    Lord McNally said:

    “Freedom of speech is the foundation of democracy. We need investigative journalism and scientific research to be able to flourish without the fear of unfounded, lengthy and costly defamation and libel cases being brought against them.

    “We are committed to reforming the law on defamation and want to focus on ensuring that a right and a fair balance is struck between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation.

    “The debate today in the House of Lords and Lord Lester’s Private Members Bill has greatly assisted our thinking on the matter. We will now move ahead with a draft Government Bill with all due urgency.”

    Ministry of Justice 09.07.2010