Defamation Claims in 2020: A Libel Thaw?

Royal Courts of Justice in 1909

Just published on the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm) Blogan article by yrstrly on what we can learn from the High Court defamation claims issued in 2020.

I scraped data from the HM Courts & Tribunal Service e-filing system and was able to extract some insights on how the Defamation Act 2013 and recent Court judgments have affected the kinds of claims made.

Employment Tribunals: The New Free Speech Front Line

Back in February I wrote a post on the judgment of the Employment Tribunal in Seyi Omooba v Michael Garret Associates Ltd. The main conclusion: Employment Tribunals have become the free speech front line.

Last week I went to look for the post in order to tweet it at Sean Jones QC (see above), only to discover I had never actually published it!

I have now made it live and it appears further down this blog’s timeline. You can read it here.

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Libel Justice for Nowy Czas

Nowy Czas is a newspaper that serves the Polish community of London. It is edited by Grzegorz and Teresa Malkiewicz.

Back in 2015 they published an article about a businessman. They discussed his historic business dealings and bankruptcy, and expressed concern at his involvement with two charitable organisations: The POSK cultural centre in Hammersmith, and the Kolbe House Care home in Ealing.

The gentleman in question sued the newspaper for libel, and the case was heard in 2017. Nowy Czas successfully defended the article, using the defences of ‘substantial truth’ (Defamation Act 2013, section 2) and ‘public interest’ (section 4).

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Notes on #Batley

Protest at Batley Grammar School

Last week, a controversy erupted in Batley, Yorkshire, after a teacher showed his class a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed, during a discussion about the Charlie Hebdo massacre of 2015.

The school has many Muslim students and some of their parents were angry at the teacher for having done this. As we are all probably aware by now, some branches of Islam (not all) consider any depiction of the Prophet to be undesirable and blasphemous.

Where there is an alleged blasphemy, free speech rights are engaged, and people like me become motivated to opine. In this particular case, I was not so much motivated as mobilised: TalkRADIO called me at short notice to chat to Kevin O’Sullivan about it. Here’s our conversation, the first draft of my thoughts on the matter.

There is more to say, however. As I have come to realise whenever such controversies kick-off, there are usually several issues rolled up in the debate. I think it’s more intellectually honest to post ‘notes’ on what those issues are, rather than posting a piece of unequivocal click-bait that condemns one side or the other.

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