Reform of the UK’s libel laws could have interesting consequences for Irish law. A cartoon from a story in this week’s Economist sets the scene:
A few extracts from the article accompanying the above cartoon:
England’s strict libel laws face a shake-up
Selling legal services to people in other countries is a lucrative business for Britain, but where the libel industry is concerned the trade is increasingly unwelcome. Foreigners can sue each other in English courts, even when publication has been almost wholly elsewhere. .. For foreigners and locals alike, mounting a defence is costly and tricky. …
The fear of libel suits may chill academic debate (big medical companies have sued several scientists for criticising their products). Outfits campaigning against beastly regimes abroad say they have had to defang their reports because of the threat of litigation.
Many want the law to be fairer, simpler, quicker and cheaper. … Anthony Lester QC … submitted a private member’s bill which would make most of the important changes that reformers have been seeking. One would replace the flimsy “fair comment” defence (which easily gets tied up in questions of fact) with a new one of “honest opinion”. … A second change would replace the “responsible publication” defence, which puts more weight on procedure than substance, with one of “public interest”.