My understanding is that a green paper will be published in the New Year setting out plans to make it easier for people to sue for defamation. The idea is to cut down the disproportionate costs of bringing a libel action and there’s even a suggestion that there could be a small claims court for libel.
It could have serious consequences for PB as well. The ability for people to publish comments instantly is one of the things that makes this site. If everything had to be moderated before going out then PB could not exist in the form that we know at the moment.
Nor could this blog. This all seems to have emanated from a debate on libel in Westminster Hall on Monday. Winding up the debate, the Justice Minister Bridget Prentice (who has figured on this blog HERE and HERE in recent weeks) said...
We will publish as soon as possible in the new year a consultation paper on defamation and the internet, and later, as part of the proposed consultation, we will also seek views on the abolition of criminal libel in respect of defamatory material. On the issue of conditional fee agreements, some important points have been made about opportunities for people with very little means, and we are therefore very keen to ensure that the current situation continues. We are also concerned about the disproportionate cost of defamation proceedings, we are considering whether additional measures might be necessary to control those costs, and we will consult on that shortly.
Should we be worried? Well, let's not go over the top until we see the consultation paper, but anything which it makes it easier for people to sue for libel will certainly have an impact on how independent and privately run blogs operate. A good thing too, some might say. But in any change to the law, the government must bear in mind that individual bloggers are not in a position to get legal advice and have to be their own editors. Sometimes they may make errors with no malice intended. All this means that MSM bloggers will become even more powerful as they have the backing of large organisations if something goes wrong. And it means that blogs like this may have to operate in a much more 'vanilla' environment where no risks are taken.
If Labour want to stop me blogging, this is exactly the way to go about it, I guess. But I would hope that even they would in the end see sense. We shall see.