Defamation Bill

Memorandum submitted by Elaine Decoulos (D 05)

Introduction

1. My name may be familiar to those who followed the Press Standards Inquiry held by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee during the 2009-2010 session. I very much wanted to submit evidence to the Joint Defamation Committee as well, but was too late. What happened to me and how I got defamed and then libeled in nearly every British newspapers is outlined in one of my Memoranda to the Select Committee and I will not repeat it here. I believe I provide a unique insight into the problems with the libel law in England because there were several defamatory articles published about me in the British press, commencing with a court report that then became libellous. I have also represented myself in court and can assist with procedure and costs, both being huge obstacles to justice.

2. Before I comment on the individual clauses of the bill that I believe need tidying up, I should add that I have been trying to become a Core Participant in the Leveson Inquiry from the start and have been consistently refused. I believe one of the principal reasons for this is because my libel claim against Associated Newspapers remains stayed for costs. It seems what has happened to me in the High Court in my attempt to get justice is too much for even The Leveson Inquiry to hear. It has not helped that the Counsel representing what are known as press victims in the Inquiry, David Sherborne, has been my direct opponent in court. He represented my opponents who were also defendants in the same libel claim against Associated Newspapers because of a quote provided by one of them, Bruno Schroder. A judgment from this claim can also be found as a Memoranda in the Press Standards Inquiry. Certainly, no libel claim should ever be stayed or struck out because of costs, both of which have happened to me as a claimant, despite my defendants being either a corporation or a billionaire. It is beyond reason and a huge block to access to justice.

Bill Clauses

3. Clause 3: From my experience, public interest should remain a requirement for the defence of honest opinion. Otherwise, privacy law will merge even more with libel law. I recommend a definition for public interest be codified in the Civil Procedure Rules with changes proposed to the Rule Committee as necessary. This way a definition of public interest can be used for other types of litigation such as privacy.

4. Clause 7: There should be an amendment that there be no reporting of court proceedings or reports of court documents without both or all parties being given a right of reply.

5. Clause 8: The single publication should exclude newspaper websites and databases. It has been my experience that when newspapers redesign their websites, articles once removed reappear. When someone is involved with an event or court case, several articles can be published within a short period of time and it can be impossible to deal with all of them at once, unless one has a large legal team behind them. And court reports may not be libellous when they are first published, but then become so after their conclusion. Old articles can reappear on newspaper websites and databases around the world. Claimants need to have access to justice for these. This has happened to me and I am pursuing justice in the US over English newspaper articles sold to large American databases.

6. Clause 12: I highly recommend not giving judges discretion on this. It should be clearly defined in statute.

7. Additional Clause: No libel claim should ever be stayed or struck out because of unpaid costs. This is a violation of Article 6 of The European Convention.

June 2012

Prepared 27th June 2012