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Article

20 Jul 2022

Author:
Government of the United Kingdom

UK: Govt publishes response to call for evidence on SLAPPs against journalists

"Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs): Government response to call for evidence", 20 July 2022

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Protection, or SLAPPs, are a growing threat to freedom of speech and a free press – fundamental liberties that are the lifeblood of our democracy. Typically used by the super-rich, SLAPPs stifle legitimate reporting and debate...

At the heart of our reforms is a new statutory early dismissal process to stop these cases in their tracks – allowing judges to throw out claims that lack merit. This will include a three-part test – with clear criteria to help courts determine whether a case is a SLAPP. First, it will assess if the case is against activity in the public interest – for example investigating financial misconduct by a company or individual. Then, it will examine if there’s evidence of abuse of process, such as whether the claimant has sent a barrage of highly aggressive letters on a trivial matter. Finally, it will review whether the case has sufficient merit – specifically if it has a realistic prospect of success...

[...] SLAPPs are not just a problem related to defamation, but extend to other areas of law, including data protection and privacy. Our understanding of SLAPPs, therefore, must be flexible enough to incorporate these and other areas, but not so broad that it hinders access to justice for legitimate claims where individuals or businesses are trying to protect their reputations...

The Defamation Act 2013 (section 1) established in law that a statement is not defamatory unless it has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the Claimant. The legislation also included a clause in relation to businesses (‘bodies trading for profit’) in which the serious harm test is only met if the business can demonstrate actual or likely serious financial loss...

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