UK Libel Laws gag Scientology Exposé


Steve Rose points out that there is a book that you cannot buy if you live in the UK …

…Going Clear is a veritable book of revelations on L Ron Hubbard’s sci-fireligion, exhaustively detailing its history, its methods and the depth of its weirdness.

Or so we’re told. While Going Clear goes on sale in the US and the rest of Europe this week, you can’t buy it in Britain. Not because it threatens national security, or features royal breasts, but because of our uniquely obliging libel laws.

Yep, our plaintiff friendly regime kicks in once again. Here within the UK the law dictates that the burden of proof in defamation cases rests exclusively on the defendant, which means that if someone sues you for something you say or write, then it is up to you to prove that it is true. It is also horrendously expensive, so the potential threat of some con-artist, crank or loon with sufficiently deep pockets is enough to cause most publishers to baulk at the thought of being sued. Sadly, the Scientologists have their lawyers in the UK on speed dial,  and with sufficiently deep pockets, they can and do censor anything negative.

OK, so what is in this book that you cannot read? Well, here are a couple of extracts …

Will things ever change in the UK? Actually yes, there is a new UK Defamation bill that goes to the Committee Stage in the House of Lords today

Screenshot from 2013-01-15 05:49:11

If you want to see the draft bill, you can download it here, but if simply curious, things will be a lot better.

  • Claimants will have to show they have suffered serious harm before suing for defamation, under the Defamation Bill.
  • It will ensure a “fair balance” between freedom of expression and protection of reputation.

It is not yet a done deal, but we are close.

You can also find all the latest news on the UK Libel Reform campaign site here.

In the meantime, my opinion of the Church of Scientology is that they are a bunch of … [Comment redacted for legal reasons]. Then again, if you would like to know what I really think of them, you could always read this or this or even this. And if anybody from the Church of Scientology is actually reading this, then may I refer them to the defendant’s response to the plaintiff in the well-known case of Arkell v. Pressdram (1971).

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