The Government has announced that the Defamation Act 2013 will come into force on 1 January 2014. The Act will reform the law of defamation. The key changes are as follows:

– The introduction of a requirement that a statement must have caused, or be likely to cause, serious harm to the claimant’s reputation for it to be defamatory.

– The introduction of new statutory defences of truth, honest opinion and publication on a matter of public interest. The statutory defences will replace the common law defences of justification, fair comment and the Reynolds (responsible journalism) defence.

– The introduction of a new defence for operators of websites. The provisions are aimed at providing protection to websites hosting user-generated content.

– The introduction of new provisions to protect scientists and academics from defamation claims where statements are published in peer-reviewed journals.

– The introduction of a more stringent test for when a claim can be brought by a party with little connection to England and Wales, to address the issue of libel tourism.

The law of defamation has been widely criticised in recent years for providing inadequate protection for those who have been genuinely defamed. It has also been criticised for having a chilling effect on freedom of expression and legitimate debate. The Defamation Act 2013 provides clearer protection for individuals, scientists and academics, website operators and the press. It also provides greater protection for parties who suffer serious harm to their reputation as a result of defamatory statements. If you would like more information on the Defamation Act 2013 and its implications please contact Rachel Brown, Solicitor, in Druces LLP’sCommercial Litigation team.

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