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The Defamation Act is a welcome but imperfect reform

Irish Times clock, image originally hosted on Irish Times websiteIn today’s Irish Times (with added links):

Defamation Act a welcome but imperfect reform for libel cases

The Defamation Act [2009] which came into effect this month, is a significant improvement on the old law, but serious problems remain … [It] modernises the law. It provides statutory support for the Press Council and it makes it easier both to take and to defend libel cases. For these reasons, as the Act came into effect earlier this month, Andrew O’Rorke quite rightly afforded it a very warm welcome … However, it ducks some important reforms and bungles others, while some of its most significant provisions raise constitutional problems.

For example, it fails to account for internet service providers (ISPs) or to rebalance the burden of proof from the defendant to the plaintiff. The centrepiece defence of fair and reasonable publication is unworkably narrow. Those issues, along with the ease with which companies can take defamation actions under the Act, might even prove unconstitutional. …

The is a hugely significant piece of legislation, which has gone a very long way towards restoring fairness and stability to a notorious area of the law. However, in some important respects, the Act raises as many questions as it has answered and its deserved welcome must therefore be a qualified one.

Bonus links: (i) a long-running high-profile defamation case in New Zealand has just settled; (ii) in honour of the recent snow falls, a cartoon about defaming a snowman.

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7 Responses to “The Defamation Act is a welcome but imperfect reform”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bosca and Rossa McMahon, Eoin O'Dell. Eoin O'Dell said: http://tinyurl.com/ydhyc9p My new blogpost: The Defamation Act is a welcome but imperfect reform […]

  2. Yvonne says:

    You mention that section 26 is “unworkably narrow”. I agree. In a previous post you mentioned how it may be overpowered by the development of the new species of qualified privilege. While evolution at common law is essential, there ie a problem however. Section 15 abolishes all pre existing common law defences. Does this not run the risk that all common law changes yet to come will be excluded?

  3. […] Act is a welcome, but incomplete, reform – incomplete not least because it takes little account of the increasing trend […]

  4. […] Defamation Act, 2009 eventually reformed Ireland’s outdated libel laws (though, of course, more could have been done). English law is likely soon to follow […]

  5. […] in section 26 of the Act. But clause 2 is a far less mealy mouthed version of the defence than the unworkably narrow section 26 is: there are fewer hurdles to be jumped by a defendant seeking to rely upon […]

  6. […] introducing a privacy law or reforming defamation law. What about this jurisdiction? Reforms have recently been made to our defamation law and while they were to be accompanied by a “deeply flawed” […]

  7. […] The excellent Cearta.ie blog has a post on the new act, with a self-explanatory title, “The Defamation Act is a welcome but imperfect reform for libel cases”. The blog has a number of other interesting posts on the Act – including this. The excellent […]

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Welcome

Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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