Just published on the International Forum for Responsible Media (Inforrm) Blog – an 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.
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 Czassuccessfully defended the article, using the defences of ‘substantial truth’ (Defamation Act 2013, section 2) and ‘public interest’ (section 4).
Jim Waterson of the Guardianreports a bizarre story of legal reputation managers at Schillings sending threatening letters to booksellers and independent book shops, in an effort to stop them stocking a book about an (allegedly) corrupt banker. I’m quoted near the end of the story, expressing my dismay:
Robert Sharp of English PEN, the free speech campaign group that co-founded the Libel Reform Campaign, said the decision by Low’s lawyers to target booksellerswas deeply worrying. “This is surprising, concerning and sets a terrible precedent,” he said. He argued that by focussing on the synopses, “the effect of these legal letters is to short-circuit the legal process, by putting booksellers in an impossible position”.
Earlier this week I spoke to journalist Kapil Summan on behalf of English PEN and the Libel Reform Campaign, on the issue of reforming the UK defamation laws. The Defamation Act 2013, you will recall, reformed the law in England & Wales. But MSPs at Holyrood and MLAs at Stormont have yet to legislate for their jurisdictions. I extemporised on why reform in required in both places! Kapil wrote up two versions of the interview, for Scottish Legal News and Irish Legal News. Key message:
The fact the Defamation Act seems to be working as Parliament intended is precisely what we were after so we’re going into this … with confidence that the Defamation Act is a very strong blueprint for reform in other jurisdictions.
English PEN is working with Scottish PEN on a campaign to reform the law of defamation in Scotland. I wrote an opinion piece for the Herald’s ‘Agenda’ slot, which was published in the paper yesterday. There was also a news report about it, giving more information about corporations that sue.
The law of defamation in Scotland is woefully out of date. It has not been reviewed since 1996, before the Scottish Parliament was re-established. During this time, the internet has evolved from a hobbyist’s plaything into the centre of public discourse, and yet defamation law has failed to adapt to digital communication. Continue reading “Let's ban corporations from using law to silence their critics”