The Government has used this week's Queen's speech to announce plans to use the next parliamentary session to bring in new libel laws. The new defamation bill aims to abolish jury trials, curb online defamation and reduce so-called 'libel tourism'.
The amendments are being welcomed by many, who say that UK libel law is out of date and too expensive.
Lord Mawhinney is the chairman of the joint Commons and Lords committee on the draft defamation bill.
"Libel law is far too expensive, which is a barrier to all but the richest," he said.
In response to the committee's report the Government agreed to replace the test of 'substantial harm' to reputation which exists at the moment, and replace it with a much stricter test of 'serious harm' which would need to be proven in a defamation case.
"The bill will rebalance the law to ensure that people who have been defamed are able to protect their reputation, but that free speech and freedom of expression are not unjustifiably impeded by actual or threatened libel proceedings," said the Ministry of Justice.
Critics of the existing law have argued it favours the prosecution too heavily, jeopardising legitimate criticism often against large multinationals. In several cases research or investigative journalism has been silenced by companies who threaten libel, knowing that the risk of loss is too great for any publisher, forcing them into a climb down.
The Ministry of Justice added: "The new law will ensure that the threat of libel proceedings is not used to frustrate robust scientific and academic debate, or to impede responsible investigative journalism."
The bill will also target so-called 'libel tourism' in which complainants travel round jurisdictions seeking to bring actions in the country offering the most lucrative compensation payouts. The bill will tighten the test to be applied by courts to actions brought against people who are not resident in the UK or another EU member state.
The bill will also limit trials by jury, by allowing judges to determine when they feel it is appropriate for such a trial to go ahead.
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