Defamation Act receives Royal Assent

Bill completes its passage through Parliament

The Defamation Bill has completed all its Parliamentary stages, and having received Royal Assent has become the Defamation Act 2013.

The Act requires a Statutory Instrument to bring it into force. Justice Minister Lord McNally has said that this is expected to happen later this year.

The provisions of the Act will:

  • Introduce a “serious harm” threshold for libel actions. For bodies which trade for profit this will mean harm which has, or is likely to cause serious financial loss;
  • Put the defences of truth, honest opinion and publication on a matter of public interest into statutory form, abolishing the corresponding common law defences (commonly refererd to as justification, fair/honest comment and the Reynolds defence);
  • Provide a framework for a new process dealing with online posts, which will be put in place through regulations and will provide a defence to website operators if they are not the author of the post and comply with certain requirements;
  • Give the protection of privilege to peer reviewed scientific and academic journals; and make certain additions of the privilege provisions of the Defamation Act 1996;
  • Provide for a single publication rule;
  • Make provisions about jurisdiction and actions against those not domiciled in the UK or another EU member state;
  • Provide that trial of libel actions shall be without a jury unless the court orders otherwise;
  • Give the court power to order that a summary of its judgment be published, and to order that a defamatory statement be removed from a website or distribution of it ceased.

The text of the Act can be found here.

Materials relating to the passage of the Bill through Parliament can be found here.