Innocent until slurred by the Tabloids...
"1) In libel, the defendant is guilty until proven innocent"
In English Law a person is presumed innocent unless guilt is proven! If a newspaper publishes a potentially libellous statement, they need to be able to back that statement up with *PROOF* (and not simply "person X told us that...")
English PEN are falsely using this principle to try to reverse the burden of proof, ie you have to show that their statement was incorrect, which is utterly ridiculous.
2) "We recommend: Cap damages at £10,000".
This makes publishing libel a simple matter of money. If you're going to make more than £10,000 from a libel through increased readership/ viewers/ advertising revenue, publish and be damned.
3) "Abolish the Duke of Brunswick rule and introduce a single publication rule"
This is sensible. Of course if an article is published on a news website etc, it would not be difficult to amend the original to withdraw the libel. Any other copies aren't down to the original publisher.
4) "No case should be heard in this jurisdiction unless at least 10 per cent of copies of the relevant publication have been circulated here"
Again, also sensible. There should not be "libel tourism".
5) "Establish a libel tribunal as a low-cost forum for hearings"
6) "Strengthen the public interest defence"
Hmm. The "public interest" is not (despite how many have tried to define it) simply what the public is *interested* in (see Max Mosely for details). A Public Interest defence must show that there is material benefit to the public (eg publishing MPs expenses) or that by publishing, the public is protected from or informed about something they *should* know (see Professor Nutt for details)
7) "Expand the definition of fair comment"
Reasonable, provided, of course, that such comments are, in themselves, not libellous!
8) "The potential cost of defending a libel action is prohibitive We recommend: Cap base costs and make success fees and ‘After the Event’ (ATE) insurance premiums non-recoverable"
By the same token, the cost of *proceeding* with a libel action is prohibitive. If Joe Public is libelled by a National Newspaper, without Legal Aid (no longer available for libel actions) his chance of actually being able to afford to get anywhere are slim.
9) "Exempt interactive online services and interactive chat from liability"
There should be "Common Carrier" protection for web forums etc making them not responsible for what is posted on their pages. If libel is proven, the statements should be taken down, but this should not be done pre-emptively with a threat of "take this down or we'll sue you too!"
10) "Not everything deserves a reputation We recommend: Exempt large and medium-sized corporate bodies and associations from libel law unless they can prove malicious falsehood"
I can see the rationale behind this, eg the McLibel trial where McDonalds using libel laws to threaten into silence anyone who disagreed with them (and failed, spectacularly!) but it does risk setting a dangerous precedent requiring organisations to prove "malice", something which may be very hard to do...
4.5 / 10 Could do better...