The cost of libel reform Making newspapers pay every time someone makes a false libel claim against them would be a nasty blow to the freedom of the press

Last week, Helen Grant, the justice minister, announced that the Government will back Lord Justice Leveson’s proposal for “costs protection” in defamation cases, making it easier for individuals to sue media companies. Under the current rules, if someone brings a case for libel and loses, they have to pay the defendant’s legal costs as well as their own. If the justice minister’s proposals go through, a judge will be able to impose a “one-way” costs order. That means the poorest claimants will not have to cover the defendant’s bill if they lose their case, and those on average incomes may only have to pay part of it.
The idea of costs protection may sound nice in principle, but its practical effect upon the free press could be terrible. It would open the floodgates as individuals, aided by no-win, no-fee lawyers and freed from the risk of having to pick up the tab for losing a weak case, sue media organisations on the flimsiest of pretexts. Meanwhile, journalists and editors might be dissuaded from reporting stories that they fear could trigger a legal battle. Even if they believe that they have right on their side – that they could easily win the libel suit – knowing that they would have to cover the costs of a losing claimant would, understandably, make them think twice about reporting the story.
The Leveson inquiry was set up in response to real and serious abuses by a handful of journalists that are even now working their way through the criminal justice system, and this newspaper has argued strongly that our industry requires better, tougher self-regulation. But a free press is a critical part of our democracy and civil society, as our work on exposing the MPs’ expenses scandal proved. It would hardly be conducive to investigative journalism, or simply fair, if media organisations have to pay out every time a false charge of defamation is brought against them.

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About truelabour

Investigative Journalist/Researcher for major media. Exposing the truth and police corruption with in UK police service.Certain forces say their motto is Honesty & Integrity One must ask is it lip service or genuinely meant. CO-OP Labour Party member questioning is the party standing for working class of Britain. Trade Union Activist & promoting diversity,community cohesion within multicultural Britain. Anti fascist speaks out against all foams of discrimination.
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