The co-chairs of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition welcome today’s announcement that the Government intends to introduce a package of legislative measures aimed at putting an end to strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) in the UK.
Noting that many of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s recommendations are reflected in the proposals, the co-chairs commend the Government for clearly stating its intention to introduce primary legislation to address this issue. They are pleased to see it is a recognised priority to filter SLAPPs out of the court process as quickly as possible, regardless of the law weaponised by the SLAPP litigant.
At the same time, the co-chairs urge the Government to be bolder in the measures aimed at tackling SLAPPs. In particular they point to the need for a higher threshold to filter out SLAPPs, the need to reduce and compensate SLAPP targets for the harm caused by the litigation process, and the need for measures – such as punitive damages – to deter SLAPP litigants from targeting public watchdogs with abusive legal threats and actions.
Charlie Holt, UK Campaigns Manager at English PEN, said: “The Government’s proposals provide a solid foundation for tackling the problem of SLAPPs. With this framework in place, the Government must now ensure its proposed law is sufficiently ambitious to decisively tackle the problem of SLAPPs. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect public watchdogs from abusive lawsuits – it’s crucial the government’s measures do not fall short of what is needed.”
Susan Coughtrie, Project Director at the Foreign Policy Centre said: “Thankfully it is clearly no longer a question as to whether SLAPPs are a problem in the UK, but what measures will most effectively address them. We are highly encouraged to see the Government’s proposals, which reflect many of the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s recommendations. How quickly these reforms will be implemented and their effectiveness in remedying the UK’s SLAPPs problem will be a key part of our continued focus on this issue.”
Jessica Ní Mhainín, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Index on Censorship said: “We welcome the Government’s intention to take action against SLAPPs and we look forward to working with officials to ensure that the strongest possible measures are adopted to ensure that public watchdogs are no longer subject to legal intimidation.”
Notes to Editors:
- The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition is an informal working group, established in January 2021, made up of representatives from freedom of expression, press freedom, anti-corruption, and human rights organisations, as well as media lawyers, researchers and academics, who are monitoring and highlighting cases of legal intimidation and SLAPPs, as well as seeking to develop remedies for mitigation and redress.
- The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s submission to the Ministry of Justice’s SLAPPs consultation is available in full at: https://fpc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Joint-UK-anti-SLAPPs-Consultation-Submission.pdf