‘Laughing stock’ libel laws to be reformed, says Nick Clegg

Now this is good news .. really really good news. The article in todays Guardian says it all …

    Nick Clegg Nick Clegg pledged to turn ‘English libel laws from a laughing stock to an international blueprint.’ Photograph: Wpa /Getty Images

    Nick Clegg will tomorrow set out the most ambitious plans yet to relax Britain’s libel laws, saying he will back a raft of reforms including a statutory public interest defence.

    He will promise that a bill this spring, likely to reach the statute book in 2013 following hard-fought lobbying, will turn “English libel laws from an international laughing stock to an international blueprint”.

    He will say: “We intend to provide a new statutory defence for those speaking out in the public interest. And to clarify the law around the existing defences of fair comment and justification.”

    Britain will become the first country to ask parliament to set out its libel laws, and provide greater clarity, his officials said.

    He also wants large corporations to show they have suffered substantial damage before they sue individuals and non-governmental organisations.

    A new limited privilege will be given to newspapers when reporting the proceedings of foreign parliaments.

    The draft bill will also try to restrict libel tourism. The Commons select committee argued last year that it was humiliating that the US Congress was passing laws to prevent American citizens being sued in the UK courts. Anyone of any nationality can at present sue in the British courts as long as they can prove they have a reputation to defend in the UK.

    The bill will also update defamation laws on the internet so as to provide greater defence for internet service providers. Government sources said they were still working on details of how to handle libel on the internet.

    Libel law experts were impressed by both the rhetoric and the detail in Clegg’s remarks, saying Clegg has set himself a high bar.

You can read it all here.

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