Libel reform: urgent chance to reform defamation law in Scotland

Please contact the Scottish Law Commission by this Thursday, 31 August.

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We have an urgent opportunity to make a real difference to libel laws in Scotland by contacting the Scottish Law Commission (SLC) by this Thursday, 31st August.

The SLC has published a working draft of a bill to reform defamation law in Scotland. This comes after hundreds of you joined us in writing to the SLC in June last year urging them to recommend substantive reform.

And they have. The draft bill contains many of the things we fought hard for with the Defamation Act 2013. But there are some crucial weaknesses: the public interest defence is weaker than in the Defamation Act 2013 and corporations would still have the right to sue.

The SLC is asking for comments on its draft bill by this Thursday, 31st August. “Comments would be welcomed by email, in whichever format you would wish to submit them” and should be sent to info@scotlawcom.gsi.gov.uk.

We’ll be telling them:

It is fantastic to see:

– The inclusion of the serious harm test (section 1(2)(b)).

– A single publication rule (section 30(3)) – meaning that the time limit for bringing defamation claims is not reset every time a publication is shared, for instance by retweeting.

– The reduction of the time limit for bringing proceedings to one year (section 30(2)(b)).

– The Derbyshire principle (section 2), which prevents public bodies from bringing actions for defamation, gain statutory footing.

– The introduction of a public interest defence (section 6).

However, as the draft stands:

– The public interest defence is weaker than in the Defamation Act 2013. The public interest defence is new to Scots law, so it’s fantastic to see its introduction, but it must be robust.

– Corporations would still have the right to sue. Defamation law was designed to protect the rights of individuals: corporate bodies do not have a private life, personal identity or psychological integrity. Corporations also have other means to defend themselves, such as malicious falsehood and laws governing advertising, competition and business practices – they do not need protection under defamation law.

Defamation law in Scotland needs to be as strong – or stronger – than the Defamation Act 2013. We cannot support a law for Scotland that doesn’t meet at least that standard.

Please take a few moments to write to the SLC with your views. A short note like the above is all it takes to help make a real difference.

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