Previous Next

Contents page 1-9 10-10 Last page

A

BILL

[AS AMENDED IN GRAND COMMITTEE]

TO

Amend the law of defamation.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and
consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present
Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

Requirement of serious harm

1 Serious harm

A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to
cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.

5Defences

2 Truth

(1) It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that the
imputation conveyed by the statement complained of is substantially true.

(2) Subsection (3) applies in an action for defamation if the statement complained
10of conveys two or more distinct imputations.

(3) If one or more of the imputations is not shown to be substantially true, the
defence under this section does not fail if, having regard to the imputations
which are shown to be substantially true, the imputations which are not shown
to be substantially true do not seriously harm the claimant’s reputation.

(4) 15The common law defence of justification is abolished and, accordingly, section
5 of the Defamation Act 1952 (justification) is repealed.

Defamation BillPage 2

3 Honest opinion

(1) It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that the
following conditions are met.

(2) The first condition is that the statement complained of was a statement of
5opinion.

(3) The second condition is that the statement complained of indicated, whether in
general or specific terms, the basis of the opinion.

(4) The third condition is that an honest person could have held the opinion on the
basis of—

(a) 10any fact which existed at the time the statement complained of was
published;

(b) anything asserted to be a fact in a privileged statement published
before the statement complained of.

(5) The defence is defeated if the claimant shows that the defendant did not hold
15the opinion.

(6) Subsection (5) does not apply in a case where the statement complained of was
published by the defendant but made by another person (“the author”); and in
such a case the defence is defeated if the claimant shows that the defendant
knew or ought to have known that the author did not hold the opinion.

(7) 20For the purposes of subsection (4)(b) a statement is a “privileged statement” if
the person responsible for its publication would have one or more of the
following defences if an action for defamation were brought in respect of it—

(a) a defence under section 4 (responsible publication on matter of public
interest);

(b) 25a defence under section 6 (peer-reviewed statement in scientific or
academic journal);

(c) a defence under section 14 of the Defamation Act 1996 (reports of court
proceedings protected by absolute privilege);

(d) a defence under section 15 of that Act (other reports protected by
30qualified privilege).

(8) The common law defence of fair comment is abolished and, accordingly,
section 6 of the Defamation Act 1952 (fair comment) is repealed.

4 Publication on matter of public interest

(1) It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that—

(a) 35the statement complained of was, or formed part of, a statement on a
matter of public interest; and

(b) the defendant reasonably believed that publishing the statement
complained of was in the public interest.

(2) If the statement complained of was, or formed part of, an accurate and
40impartial account of a dispute to which the claimant was a party, the court
must in determining whether it was reasonable for the defendant to believe
that publishing the statement was in the public interest disregard any omission
of the defendant to take steps to verify the truth of the imputation conveyed by
it.

Defamation BillPage 3

(3) In determining whether it was reasonable for the defendant to believe that
publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest, the court
must make such allowance for editorial judgement as it considers appropriate.

(4) For the avoidance of doubt, the defence under this section may be relied upon
5irrespective of whether the statement complained of is a statement of fact or a
statement of opinion.

(5) The common law defence known as the Reynolds defence is abolished.

5 Operators of websites

(1) This section applies where an action for defamation is brought against the
10operator of a website in respect of a statement posted on the website.

(2) It is a defence for the operator to show that it was not the operator who posted
the statement on the website.

(3) The defence is defeated if the claimant shows that—

(a) it was not possible for the claimant to identify the person who posted
15the statement,

(b) the claimant gave the operator a notice of complaint in relation to the
statement, and

(c) the operator failed to respond to the notice of complaint in accordance
with any provision contained in regulations.

(4) 20For the purposes of subsection (3)(a), it is possible for a claimant to “identify”
a person only if the claimant has sufficient information to bring proceedings
against the person.

(5) Regulations may—

(a) make provision as to the action required to be taken by an operator of
25a website in response to a notice of complaint (which may in particular
include action relating to the identity or contact details of the person
who posted the statement and action relating to its removal);

(b) make provision specifying a time limit for the taking of any such action;

(c) make provision conferring on the court a discretion to treat action taken
30after the expiry of a time limit as having been taken before the expiry;

(d) make any other provision for the purposes of this section.

(6) A notice of complaint is a notice which—

(a) specifies the complainant’s name,

(b) sets out the statement concerned and explains why it is defamatory of
35the complainant,

(c) specifies where on the website the statement was posted, and

(d) contains such other information as may be specified in regulations.

(7) Regulations under this section—

(a) may make different provision for different circumstances;

(b) 40are to be made by statutory instrument.

(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be
made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a
resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(9) In this section “regulations” means regulations made by the Secretary of State.

Defamation BillPage 4

(10) The defence under this section is not defeated by reason only of the fact that the
operator of the website moderates the statements posted on it by others.

6 Peer-reviewed statement in scientific or academic journal etc

(1) The publication of a statement in a scientific or academic journal is privileged
5if the following conditions are met.

(2) The first condition is that the statement relates to a scientific or academic
matter.

(3) The second condition is that before the statement was published in the journal
an independent review of the statement’s scientific or academic merit was
10carried out by—

(a) the editor of the journal, and

(b) one or more persons with expertise in the scientific or academic matter
concerned.

(4) Where the publication of a statement in a scientific or academic journal is
15privileged by virtue of subsection (1), the publication in the same journal of any
assessment of the statement’s scientific or academic merit is also privileged if—

(a) the assessment was written by one or more of the persons who carried
out the independent review of the statement; and

(b) the assessment was written in the course of that review.

(5) 20Where the publication of a statement or assessment is privileged by virtue of
this section, the publication of a fair and accurate copy of, extract from or
summary of the statement or assessment is also privileged.

(6) A publication is not privileged by virtue of this section if it is shown to be made
with malice.

(7) 25Nothing in this section is to be construed—

(a) as protecting the publication of matter the publication of which is
prohibited by law;

(b) as limiting any privilege subsisting apart from this section.

(8) The reference in subsection (3)(a) to “the editor of the journal” is to be read, in
30the case of a journal with more than one editor, as a reference to the editor or
editors who were responsible for deciding to publish the statement concerned.

7 Reports etc protected by privilege

(1) For subsection (3) of section 14 of the Defamation Act 1996 (reports of court
proceedings absolutely privileged) substitute—

(3) 35This section applies to—

(a) any court in the United Kingdom;

(b) any court established under the law of a country or territory
outside the United Kingdom;

(c) any international court or tribunal established by the Security
40Council of the United Nations or by an international agreement;

and in paragraphs (a) and (b) “court” includes any tribunal or body
exercising the judicial power of the State.

Defamation BillPage 5

(2) In subsection (3) of section 15 of that Act (qualified privilege) for “public
concern” substitute “public interest”.

(3) Schedule 1 to that Act (qualified privilege) is amended as follows.

(4) For paragraphs 9 and 10 substitute—

9 (1) 5A fair and accurate copy of, extract from or summary of a notice or
other matter issued for the information of the public by or on behalf
of—

(a) a legislature or government anywhere in the world;

(b) an authority anywhere in the world performing
10governmental functions;

(c) an international organisation or international conference.

(2) In this paragraph “governmental functions” includes police
functions.

10 A fair and accurate copy of, extract from or summary of a document
15made available by a court anywhere in the world, or by a judge or
officer of such a court.

(5) After paragraph 11 insert—

11A A fair and accurate report of proceedings at a press conference held
anywhere in the world for the discussion of a matter of public
20interest.

(6) In paragraph 12 (report of proceedings at public meetings)—

(a) in sub-paragraph (1) for “in a member State” substitute “anywhere in
the world”;

(b) in sub-paragraph (2) for “public concern” substitute “public interest”.

(7) 25In paragraph 13 (report of proceedings at meetings of public company)—

(a) in sub-paragraph (1), for “UK public company” substitute “listed
company”;

(b) for sub-paragraphs (2) to (5) substitute—

(2) A fair and accurate copy of, extract from or summary of any
30document circulated to members of a listed company—

(a) by or with the authority of the board of directors of
the company,

(b) by the auditors of the company, or

(c) by any member of the company in pursuance of a
35right conferred by any statutory provision.

(3) A fair and accurate copy of, extract from or summary of any
document circulated to members of a listed company which
relates to the appointment, resignation, retirement or
dismissal of directors of the company.

(4) 40In this paragraph “listed company” has the same meaning as
in Part 12 of the Corporation Tax Act 2009 (see section 1005 of
that Act).

(8) In paragraph 14 (report of finding or decision of certain kinds of associations)
in the words before paragraph (a), for “in the United Kingdom or another
45member State” substitute “anywhere in the world”.

Defamation BillPage 6

(9) After paragraph 14 insert—

14A A fair and accurate—

(a) report of proceedings of a scientific or academic conference
held anywhere in the world, or

(b) 5copy of, extract from or summary of matter published by
such a conference.

(10) For paragraph 15 (report of statements etc by a person designated by the Lord
Chancellor for the purposes of the paragraph) substitute—

15 (1) A fair and accurate report or summary of, copy of or extract from,
10any adjudication, report, statement or notice issued by a body, officer
or other person designated for the purposes of this paragraph by
order of the Lord Chancellor.

(2) An order under this paragraph shall be made by statutory
instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a
15resolution of either House of Parliament.

(11) For paragraphs 16 and 17 (general provision) substitute—

16 In this Schedule—

Single publication rule

8 Single publication rule

(1) This section applies if a person—

(a) publishes a statement to the public (“the first publication”), and

(b) 40subsequently publishes (whether or not to the public) that statement or
a statement which is substantially the same.

(2) In subsection (1) “publication to the public” includes publication to a section of
the public.

Defamation BillPage 7

(3) For the purposes of section 4A of the Limitation Act 1980 (time limit for actions
for defamation etc) any cause of action against the person for defamation in
respect of the subsequent publication is to be treated as having accrued on the
date of the first publication.

(4) 5This section does not apply in relation to the subsequent publication if the
manner of that publication is materially different from the manner of the first
publication.

(5) In determining whether the manner of a subsequent publication is materially
different from the manner of the first publication, the matters to which the
10court may have regard include (amongst other matters)—

(a) the level of prominence that a statement is given;

(b) the extent of the subsequent publication.

(6) Where this section applies—

(a) it does not affect the court’s discretion under section 32A of the
15Limitation Act 1980 (discretionary exclusion of time limit for actions for
defamation etc), and

(b) the reference in subsection (1)(a) of that section to the operation of
section 4A of that Act is a reference to the operation of section 4A
together with this section.

20Jurisdiction

9 Action against a person not domiciled in the UK or a Member State etc

(1) This section applies to an action for defamation against a person who is not
domiciled—

(a) in the United Kingdom;

(b) 25in another Member State; or

(c) in a state which is for the time being a contracting party to the Lugano
Convention.

(2) A court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine an action to which
this section applies unless the court is satisfied that, of all the places in which
30the statement complained of has been published, England and Wales is clearly
the most appropriate place in which to bring an action in respect of the
statement.

(3) The references in subsection (2) to the statement complained of include
references to any statement which conveys the same, or substantially the same,
35imputation as the statement complained of.

(4) For the purposes of this section—

(a) a person is domiciled in the United Kingdom or in another Member
State if the person is domiciled there for the purposes of the Brussels
Regulation;

(b) 40a person is domiciled in a state which is a contracting party to the
Lugano Convention if the person is domiciled in the state for the
purposes of that Convention.

(5) In this section—

10 Action against a person who was not the author, editor etc

(1) A court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine an action for
15defamation brought against a person who was not the author, editor or
publisher of the statement complained of unless the court is satisfied that it is
not reasonably practicable for an action to be brought against the author, editor
or publisher.

(2) In this section “author”, “editor” and “publisher” have the same meaning as in
20section 1 of the Defamation Act 1996.

Trial by jury

11 Trial to be without a jury unless the court orders otherwise

(1) In section 69(1) of the Senior Courts Act 1981 (certain actions in the Queen’s
Bench Division to be tried with a jury unless the trial requires prolonged
25examination of documents etc) in paragraph (b) omit “libel, slander,”.

(2) In section 66(3) of the County Courts Act 1984 (certain actions in the county
court to be tried with a jury unless the trial requires prolonged examination of
documents etc) in paragraph (b) omit “libel, slander,”.

Summary of court judgment

12 30Power of court to order a summary of its judgment to be published

(1) Where a court gives judgment for the claimant in an action for defamation the
court may order the defendant to publish a summary of the judgment.

(2) The wording of any summary and the time, manner, form and place of its
publication are to be for the parties to agree.

(3) 35If the parties cannot agree on the wording, the wording is to be settled by the
court.

(4) If the parties cannot agree on the time, manner, form or place of publication,
the court may give such directions as to those matters as it considers reasonable
and practicable in the circumstances.

(5) 40This section does not apply where the court gives judgment for the claimant
under section 8(3) of the Defamation Act 1996 (summary disposal of claims).

Defamation BillPage 9

Websites: removal of statements

13 Order for removal of defamatory statement from website

(1) Where a court gives judgment for the claimant in an action for defamation the
court may order the operator of a website on which the defamatory statement
5is posted to remove the statement.

(2) Subsection (1) does not affect the power of the court apart from that subsection.

Slander

14 Special damage

(1) The Slander of Women Act 1891 is repealed.

(2) 10The publication of a statement that conveys the imputation that a person has a
contagious or infectious disease does not give rise to a cause of action for
slander unless the publication causes the person special damage.

General provisions

15 Meaning of “publish” and “statement”

15In this Act—

16 20Consequential amendments and savings etc

(1) Section 8 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (defamation actions) is
amended in accordance with subsections (2) and (3).

(2) In subsection (3) for “of justification or fair comment or” substitute “under
section 2 or 3 of the Defamation Act 2012 which is available to him or any
25defence”.

(3) In subsection (5) for “the defence of justification” substitute “a defence under
section 2 of the Defamation Act 2012”.

(4) Nothing in section 1 or 14 affects any cause of action accrued before the
commencement of the section in question.

(5) 30Nothing in sections 2 to 7 or 10 has effect in relation to an action for defamation
if the cause of action accrued before the commencement of the section in
question.

(6) In determining whether section 8 applies, no account is to be taken of any
publication made before the commencement of the section.

(7) 35Nothing in section 9 or 11 has effect in relation to an action for defamation
begun before the commencement of the section in question.

Previous Next

Contents page 1-9 10-10 Last page