Dr Andrew Scott has submitted his report on the Review of the Law of Defamation to the Finance Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
The report summarises the responses to a public consultation and proposes possible legislative reforms. The consultation was initiated by the Law Commission and followed calls for the Defamation Act 2013 to be extended to, or replicated in, this jurisdiction. The 2013 Act effected changes to the law of defamation in England, Scotland and Wales.
In his report, Dr Scott says there is no requirement, in either international or domestic human rights law, to amend our law on defamation. However, he provides two draft Bills, one which essentially replicates the 2013 Act and one which draws on, and adds to, the provisions in the Act.
Dr Scott also highlights the need to consider the procedural arrangements in relation to claims for defamation, with a view to minimising costs and ensuring access to justice.
The Minister said: "I welcome the publication of this report, which my officials and I will consider carefully. This will help to inform the policy development process as we seek to ensure that a fair balance is maintained between the right to free speech and the right of the ordinary man and woman in the street, to protect their reputation."
Dr Scott’s report is available at the link below.
Notes to editors:
- Dr Andrew Scott of the London School of Economics carried out the Review on behalf of the Northern Ireland Law Commission.
- The changes effected to the law of defamation in England and Wales by the Defamation Act 2013 include: replacing certain common law defences with statutory defences, introducing a new defence for website operators; and introducing a requirement to show serious harm, or the likelihood of such harm, when an individual brings an action for defamation. Scotland did not effect the full range of changes, but did agree to extend the provisions in the 2013 Act relating to scientific or academic material.
- A consultation paper “Defamation Law in Northern Ireland" NILC 19 (2014) was published in November 2014 and the consultation ran until 20 February 2015. A copy of the paper is available on the Commission's website.
- In the Register of Members’ Interests the Minister outlines his interests in the media sector.
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