Libel law reform promised

Cases like that of Simon Singh, who was sued for writing in the Guardian that there was no evidence in support of Chiropractic treatment, have demonstrated how the present libel laws can be used to stifle critics irrelevant of the facts. Singh risked financial ruin by defending the case brought against him by a Chiropractic professional body, which had the funds to pursue it. Although he was successful (helped by the facts), it cost him a lot. Now the Coalition Government has signalled its intention to make good on promises by both coalition partners to reform the laws. The Justice Minister Lord McNally indicated that the Government will be seeking to strike a new balance between freedom of expression and protection against slander. Specifically he stated:

Freedom of speech is the foundation of democracy.

We need investigative journalism and scientific research to be able to flourish without the fear of unfounded, lengthy and costly defamation and libel cases being brought against them.

We are committed to reforming the law on defamation and want to focus on ensuring that a right and a fair balance is struck between freedom of expression and the protection of reputation.

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