The Defamation Bill finally received Royal Assent on 25th April 2013, nearly three years after its introduction.
The aim of the Act is to reform the law of defamation to ensure that a fair balance is struck between the right to freedom of expression and the protection of reputation . The Act makes a number of substantive changes to the law of defamation, but is not designed to codify the law into a single statute.
One of the most significant changes is the introduction of a requirement for a claimant to show that they have suffered serious harm before suing for defamation.
Furthermore, corporate bodies (bodies which trade for profit) must now show that the defamatory statement has caused or is likely to cause serious financial loss before being allowed to sue. This does not mean that a company will have to show actual financial losses but it will have to demonstrate that the defamatory statement is likely to cause a financial loss and that the loss is likely to be serious.
It is anticipated that this additional requirement on companies will prevent the flexing of corporate muscles by using the threat of libel action to silence critics.
The Act is expected to come into force later this year.
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