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The new Bill on defamation cases would see abolishing of costly jury trials and is aimed at tightening other loose ends

Date: (10 May 2012)    |    

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A draft defamation bill which was subject to close scrutiny in the last parliamentary session is now become a fully developed proposals before this years legislative agenda.
The Bill was aiming to abolish costly jury trials, curb online defamation, reduce 'libel tourism' and to protect responsible journalism.
The bill is to introduce a new notice and takedown procedure, reduce so-called "libel tourism" and make it more difficult for large corporations to sue newspapers.
Lord Mawhinney, chairman of the joint Commons and Lords committee on the draft defamation bill, said that current libel laws were "far too expensive, which was acting as a barrier to all but the richest.
In its response to the committee's report, the government agreed to replace the test of substantial harm to reputation with a stricter test of "serious harm" that would have to be established in defamation cases.
The bill is expected to bring changes to law and ensure that people who have been defamed were able to protect their reputation, but free speech and freedom of expression were not unjustifiably hampered by actual or threatened libel proceedings, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.
It would also ensure that the threat of libel proceedings was not used to frustrate robust scientific and academic debate, or to hold back responsible investigative journalism.
A new statutory defence of responsible publication on matters of public interest, would be created refining the earlier Reynolds defence in libel cases.
According to the MoJ the bill would tighten the tests to be applied by the courts in relation to actions brought against people who were not domiciled in the UK or an EU member state.
Judges will be free to decide when it is in the interests of justice to hold a jury trial in defamation cases.
The circumstances in which defenses of absolute and qualified privilege were available would be extended to protect peer-reviewed material in scientific and academic journals.