Proposal For UK Libel Reform Fixes Many Problems, Leaves Plenty Of Others
from the it's-a-start dept
That all sounds good, but it's not perfect. As Arthur Bright notes at the link above, the law still places the burden on the defendant. This is a bizarre facet of UK libel law. Whereas, in the US, the plaintiff first has to prove defamation, in the UK, it's more or less assumed to be true, and the defendant has to offer up one of the defenses in response.
The one thing that still irks about the new bill, at least from an American perspective, is that it still places the burden of a truth defense on the defendant. It still seems unfair and inefficient to put the burden of proving a statement's truth on the defendant when the plaintiff presumably has much easier access to everything they need to disprove the claim. Perhaps, with the changes the bill makes to strengthen 'fair comment' and tighten jurisdiction, the backwardness of the truth defense will not be as much of an issue. But I still worry about situations where a limited-resource defendant faces a super-wealthy corporate plaintiff - why should the poor village blogger have to prove the truth of a statement that the rich City executive ought to be able to disprove with minimal effort?Hopefully this particular issue can be fixed in later drafts. On the whole, though, it's good to see the UK moving in the right direction on this.