According to last Sunday’s Observer Jack Straw, the lord chancellor, is to order a comprehensive review of our idiotic libel laws.
Straw had previously promised to act against libel tourism but the justice ministry said the review, to be conducted by academics, lawyers and newspaper editors, will go much further. The formal terms of reference will be to "consider whether the law of libel, including the law relating to libel tourism, in England and Wales needs reform, and if so to make recommendations as to solutions".
The review will look at whether a specialist libel tribunal should be established to resolve defamation cases out of court. The issue of whether academics and scientists can defend their remarks on the basis of fair comment or in the public interest will also be examined. The wide terms of reference will also allow the working party to look into whether the burden of proof should be shifted from defendant to plaintiff, as is the case in countries such as the US.
Other issues for examination include whether large and medium-sized corporations would have to prove malicious falsehood for a libel claim to succeed. It may also look at the implications of the internet for libel. The only issue that will be excluded are the costs of defamation proceedings which are already the subject of a separate justice ministry consultation.
Despite the scale of the review, Straw said he hopes the working party will report by mid-March in time for any reforms to be implemented before the general election.
It is about bloody time that our libel laws were overhauled. especially the disgraceful situation with regard to libel tourism. The very worst example in my mind related to Child rapist Roman Polanski. Despite being too shit scared to come to the UK for fear of being arrested and extradited to the US, he still was able to successfully win damages here. He was able to give evidence by video link! This sort of stupidity must end
It would be nice also to think that frivolous lawsuits like the one pursued by the idiot Johanna Kaschke this year will become a thing of the past. In addition I would hope that the obscene profits made by parasitic bastards like Carter Ruck and Schillings are slashed.
On the other hand I doubt that there is enough time to put things into place before the election so all of this may just be an empty gesture.