Lord Lester’s Private Member’s Bill to reform libel laws does not go far enough. It is a valiant effort to reform libel, which is badly needed. Valiant because it will get little hearing. But less than adequate.
The only real new point in the 15-page bill is that corporations should only be able to sue for defamation if they can prove the statements did or are likely to cause substantial finance damage. That is long needed.
Other points only try to pass through Parliament what the Courts already have established in Common law; to state in parliamentary/stature law what the courts already say.
Take the statutory defence of public interest Lester is proposing. It is already in the Common law and in some detail: it is called the Reynolds defence, the most used defence today. If we had had to wait for Parliament, we would not have had the Reynolds defence.
These items should be added:
- Corporations should not be able to sue individuals;
- All claimants should have to prove they were actually damaged, in their reputation or financially;
- All defendants should have the right to trial by jury; and
- All claimants should when told the statement is a matter of fact should have to prove it is false.