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3 J. Media L. 1 (2011)

handle is hein.journals/joomaw3 and id is 1 raw text is: (2011) 3(1) Journal of Media Law 1-17

Worth the Candle?
The Government's Draft Defamation Bill
Alastair Mullis and Andrew Scott'
The Government published its much-anticipated draft Defamation Bill for consultation
in mid-March 2011.1 When introducing the proposals, the Deputy Prime Minister issued
a rallying call for freedom of speech: 'in a modern, liberal and open society dissent should
be celebrated, and debate should be raucous ... the press should be free ... and in our
society, they will be.'2 Stirring words indeed. In light of this rhetoric, it would not have
been surprising if the draft Bill caused the law to lurch in favour of freedom of expression.
It does not do so: with a small number of exceptions, the proposed changes to the
substantive law are modest. This is to be welcomed. It is disappointing, however, that
there seemingly has been little attempt to engage with some key problems that blight
English libel law and practice. These tend to arise in the areas of process and costs. In that
regard, such changes as are proposed in the draft Bill seem more apparent than real.
Indeed, when the draft Bill is viewed in the light of the proposed reform of the costs
regime as it applies to libel, the prospects for access to justice and for the protection of
reputation look bleak for most claimants.' The Government is not yet contemplating
University of East Anglia, UK, and London School of Economics and Political Science, UK respectively. We
would like to thank Eric Barendt for his comments on a draft of this paper. Errors and omissions remain
our own.
1 Ministry of Justice, )raft Defamation Bill Consultation, Consultation Paper CP3/11 (Cm 8020). The
consultation also covers a number of turther suggested reforms that are not-as yet-included in the draft
2  Nick Clegg, 'Comment is Free: We Will End the Libel Farce' The Guardian, 15 March 2011.
3 Ministry of Justice, Reforming Civil Litigation Funding and Costs in England and Wales: Implementation of
Lord Justice Jackson's Recomnendations -The Govrnient Response (Cm 8041).


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