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.