Monday, May 17, 2010

Jack of Kent on the “Osler Decison”

Top legal blogger Jack of Kent looks here at the decision in detail. He calls it “a refreshingly liberal judgment, though one which is in the context of an ongoing overall failure of English libel law.

He thinks that it is a useful judgement for bloggers and other internet publishers with regard to the need for claimants to have to prove "publication". Which sounds like it should be the bleeding obvious but not in the weird and wonderful world of libel land.

He concludes with:-

“Now that the case has been struck out, it is difficult to believe it continued for two years and was about to be put to a full jury trial.

However, the complications and technical nature of libel law means that once claims are launched they are excruciatingly expensive in terms of time and money to close down, even when - as in this case - the claim was not clearly not actionable in the first place.

In the upcoming debate over libel reform, it will not be enough to look only at discrete and particular proposals for reform.

There needs to be a fundamental consideration of the role of private right to a reputation in a modern society that requires free discourse on public matters.

Here it is significant that the Osler Blogpost was a non-actionable publication relevant to the political activities of a Claimant, and it was a publication based on publications freely made by the Claimant.

For this to lead to two years of litigation, resolvable only by the pro bono intervention of specialised lawyers, cannot be characterised in any other way than as a fail.

It is by examples such as these that we can see how libel disfigures our polity and our public debates”.

(picture is of Welsh freedom fighter Owain Glyndŵr who some believe to be the figure behind the traditional folk hero “Jack of Kent”)

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