Defamation Bill

Memorandum submitted by Celia M. Bibby (D 03)

The House of Commons Defamation Public Bill Committee have asked for Associated Memoranda for consideration regarding the Defamation Bill currently in the Committee Stage.

Clause 7: Reports etc. covered by Privilege: whether the proposals to extend its defences is appropriate and sufficient.

1. This memorandum is taking a radical approach to Clause 7 Privilege and arguing that this Defence in Defamation Law removes the basic right of an individual to have redress for any proven defamation they have suffered.

2. The right to defend one’s professional and private reputation has been accepted in other aspects of the Defamation Bill so the exceptions specified under Clause 7 Privilege are promoting a two-tier justice system, which is contrary to equality under the law.

3. This Memorandum is focussing on the Defence of Privilege in the way it affects UK patients. Patients are already at a legal disadvantage under the law, since the 1990 Access to Medical Records Act S 5.1 removes any right of access given by the Act by allowing the holder of the records (usually a GP) to prevent access.

4. If, following application to the High Court, a Claimant’s medical records (or part of them) are seen by them, or the records are made available by other means, and they are found to contain proven defamatory statements, there is no legal redress under the law because of the Defence of Privilege.

5. The wording of the Defence of Privilege is to protect the medical profession and the insurance companies, which act for them. No UK patient would ever have voted for such a Defence and many voters today are not aware of the existence of the S.5.1 of the Access to Medical Records Act or the Defence of Privilege and their effect to patients’ rights under the law.

6 The law usually allows for the matter in a dispute to be heard in Court with both sides having the opportunity to put their argument and with an impartial judge and/or jury to decide the outcome. Defence of Privilege removes this fundamental tenet of the British Common Law by refusing the citizen the right to seek redress under the law.

7. Evidence is given in Factual Information Nos. 47-104 and the book "Expert Witness" and the oral evidence synopsis held in the Scrutiny Unit of the House of Commons. This evidence shows that the present Defence of Privilege acts against the exposure of crime, promotes the "bullying" of those who are vulnerable due to ill health and shields the truth from public scrutiny. Although thankfully rare the crimes of people such as former GP Harold Shipman remind us that no-one citizen’s rights should be considered greater than another.

8 The Factual Information illustrates how a defamation, concealed for some 25 years and then revealed during an unrelated civil legal action, despite all the attempts by the legal and medical professions to keep it hidden, prevented an unprejudiced consideration of the medical evidence and legal issues in the civil case referred to.

9. In addition the motivation for the defamation was malicious in that the defamation was not true, either at the time it was made nor subsequently over the following 25 years. The intent was to shield the perpetrator from prosecution by the Police for a potential crime under the Mis-Use of Drugs Act 1971 by discrediting a witness.

10. The recipients of the defamatory material (legal professionals in the civil legal case) were able to pass such defamatory material relating to their client between them without the client having sight or knowledge, initially of the defamation. A confidentiality undertaking, by the Defendant’s insurers (MDU) in the civil case, was used to prevent the solicitors in the civil case communicating freely with their client. This was also used to restrict certain issues in the Expert Reports, commissioned in the case, becoming known to the Claimant.

The Defamation was finally revealed when the Claimant took the case over and submitted a Writ against the Defendant, the papers were released by the Law Society, and the Claimant continued acting as a Litigant in Person, including conducting her own case at a Judicial Review in the High Court

11. The domino-like effect of the defamation gave rise to legal investigation beyond the original case as each interested party attempts to have the truth suppressed. The costs in legal terms are increased with each attempt to silence the Claimant, costs which are eventually borne by the taxpayer.

June 2012

Prepared 26th June 2012