Belfast Telegraph

92% back libel law change in Northern Ireland

By Adrian Rutherford

Support is overwhelming for a change in Northern Ireland's outdated libel laws, a survey by free speech campaigners has found.

More than 700 people have signed a petition calling for the Defamation Act to be adopted here, the Libel Reform Campaign said. The Act became law in England and Wales, and partially in Scotland, in April 2013.

It stops defamation actions being brought unless someone could show that serious harm has been done to them.

It also provides legal defences where a matter is considered in the public interest.

However, the law was not extended to Northern Ireland, after being blocked by Stormont.

The Libel Reform Campaign, which wants the Act introduced here, found massive support for change. The group received 552 replies to its survey - seven times higher than a similar Ministry of Justice consultation for England and Wales. Some 92% of those surveyed agreed there should be a stronger public interest defence in Northern Ireland. And 747 people have signed a petition calling for the full adoption of the Defamation Act here.

Jo Glanville, director of free speech group English PEN, said: "The response to the Law Commission's consultation should be published at the earliest opportunity, so that there is no further delay in bringing overdue reform to Northern Ireland".

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