Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Litigation and free speech

Good piece from Helene Guldberg in response to Sheridan's victory in his defamation case:
"Galloway and Sheridan have unfortunately given the UK’s anachronistic libel law - a law that grew out of a dissatisfaction with the old aristocratic ways of dealing with defamation through duels - a new lease of life. (The Scottish libel law is based in large part on England’s libel law, though with some minor differences.)

They, of course, see things differently, depicting themselves as brave working-class heroes fighting against the mighty media empire. Sheridan even accused the News of the World of endangering his unborn baby’s life with its lies. But it is far from brave to sue newspapers for libel. As claimants, the odds are clearly stacked in their favour, whether or not what was said about them was true - which is why the vast majority of claimants win their libel cases."
And without passing judgement on the two illustrious politicians mentioned above, the reason a majority win is because in defamation and libel cases the burden of proof lies with the accused.

Suffice to say while there are some people who think this principle should be extended in English law, I think this would be unwise.

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