My Department is currently finalising the statutory review of the Defamation Act 2009. I expect a draft report with options for reform to be submitted to me in the coming weeks, with a view to my bringing proposals to Government in the autumn.
The Review is already addressing all the issues raised in submissions made to it, including those that featured in a recent campaign by the print media. These include:
- whether changes should be made to the respective roles of the judge and the jury in High Court defamation cases, in particular in relation to the question of damages; and
- whether any change should be made to the level or type of damages which may be awarded in defamation cases, or to the factors to be taken into account in making that determination.
It is important that the Defamation Act operates in practice to ensure that where damages are awarded for defamation, they are fair and proportionate. The objective set for the defamation review was to ensure that our defamation law strikes the right balance between protecting an individual’s good name and privacy, and protecting the right to freedom of expression, taking account of the vital role in our democracy played by a free and independent press.