Prominent human rights lawyers Helena Kennnedy KC and Mark Stephens are among the legal signatories to a letter calling for a simpler test for a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) in legislation aimed at curbing abusive litigation. 

The Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation Bill, introduced by a private member but now with government backing, will shortly go to committee stage in the House of Commons. It would create an early dismissal mechanism for SLAPP claims. However the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition, which includes publishers, academics and free speech campaigners as well as authors, said today that the measure as currently drafted would require a subjective judgement about the aim of the action. 

'This is a notoriously difficult, time-intensive, expensive and uncertain process that would undermine the effective operation of the protections the law provides,' the coalition said in a letter to the lord chancellor, Alex Chalk MP. The letter proposes a 'small but important' amendment to replace the subjective test with an objective test. 'This would give SLAPP targets greater certainty, while also providing the clarity courts need to effectively apply the new mechanism.'

'We are closer than ever to establishing a standalone anti-SLAPP law, but we cannot let its proximity stop us from ensuring the bill does what it is intended to: protecting public interest speech from being silenced by SLAPPs,' the letter said.

Signatories include the editors of DMG Media, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and The Sunday Times, Private Eye, and The Economist.


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