Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Change in libel laws 'not required in Northern Ireland'

Mike Nesbitt
Mike Nesbitt

A Stormont committee has been told there is no need to reform antiquated Northern Ireland's libel laws by a high-profile libel lawyer.

The UUP's Mike Nesbitt had been briefing the committee on his proposed Private Member's Bill, which reflects aspects of the new Defamation Act in England and Wales.

Recent changes to libel laws there have been designed to stop the UK becoming a hotspot for libel 'tourists', and removed the presumption in favour of a trial by jury in defamation cases. Libel lawyer Paul Tweed expressed his opposition to the introduction of similar legislation in Northern Ireland, saying it was not required.

Another lawyer, Brian Garrett, said he did not favour rubber-stamping all Westminster legislation, but there were areas where it should apply and defamation was one of those.

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay said he was open to the question of whether or not there should be a presumption for trial by jury, and to the possibility of a no-win, no-fee arrangement in defamation cases.