Saracens Blog

Replacement of defamation act

There have been a number of calls to reform the Defamation Act 1996. One such example of this is Lord Lester’s private members bill. In its current form, the Defamation Act 1996 does not require any damage to be shown for a successful claim. This position would change under this proposal.

A further example of more recent reform of the Defamation Act 1996 is the proposed reform by the coalition government. This has come in light of the threat of action under the Defamation Act 1996 against doctors and scientists for their criticisms against untried products.

The reform will aim to reverse the negative effect of the Defamation Act 1996 on freedom of expression. The awards under the Defamation Act 1996 are also regarded as many as being unduly high. Therefore the reform of the Defamation Act 1996 will seek to provide a remedy which is proportionate to unfair damage to a person’s reputation. The reforms also seek to add to the defences in the Defamation Act 1996. For example, there is no defence in the Defamation Act 1996 for a person who is concerned with the transmission or storage and who therefore has no control over the content. In contrast, the reforms seek to introduce such a defence. There is also a reversal of the Defamation Act 1996 position that each publication gives rise to a cause of action. Instead the first publication will be regarded as giving rise to the cause of action.

The proposal to reform the Defamation Act 1996 is not, however, without criticism. One such criticism of the Defamation Act 1996 was the uncertainty created by the use of ambiguous words. This same criticism can be levelled at the reforms which include provisions such as ‘likely to cause substantial financial loss’.

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