The government today threw its weight behind a private member’s bill aiming to curb aggressive litigation against journalists and campaigners. The Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation Bill, put forward by Wayne David MP, would create a new dismissal mechanism to stop SLAPPs claims as well as a costs protection scheme. The measure passed its second reading in the House of Commons today.  

Wayne David MP

The Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation Bill was put forward by Wayne David MP


Announcing the government’s support for the bill, the lord chancellor, Alex Chalk KC, said: 'This government has already proved its commitment to cracking down on those with deep pockets who abuse our courts, so we thank Wayne David for bringing forward this important legislation. Free speech and the free press are lynchpins of our democracy, and to muzzle people in this way is chilling. We want people to feel confident standing up to the corrupt, knowing the law is firmly on their side.’ 

However solicitors warned that the measure, which follows an anti-SLAPP provision in the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, might constrain legitimate litigation. Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: 'We welcome this bill and its aim to legislate for the remaining SLAPP cases not covered by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023. There are, however, areas which require significant modification if the bill is going to achieve its aim.’

The Society has recommended: 

  • Caution against measures that may increase ambiguity and the risk of satellite litigation, as well as measures that may increase unnecessary legal costs for either party.
  • The inclusion of an objective test to define a SLAPP case and significant re-drafting of what is defined to be 'in the public interest'.
  • The government works with the judiciary and defendant and claimant practitioners to ensure the measures are implemented effectively.

Emmerson added: 'We also question whether the legislation, as currently drawn, strikes the correct balance between rights to respect private and family life and rights of freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights.'

Iain Wilson, vice-chair of The Society of Media Lawyers, also criticised the bill.  'It is disappointing that an attempt is being made to rush through further legislation in this area without proper scrutiny. The bill is in large part a cut and paste of poorly drafted last minute amendments to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 (which are yet to be implemented). The legislation is plainly incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and risks handing more power to the unregulated press.'

Hugo Mason, reputation specialist at media firm Simkins, described the bill as 'deeply flawed'. 

The measure 'will affect ordinary people with valid defamation claims more than it will affect the super-rich and powerful wrongdoers that it is supposed to be targeting,’ he said. 'The government is seemingly only hearing advice from one side of the debate, and is so focused on stamping out a perceived problem in a minority of cases that they are ignoring the impact this bill will have on the vast majority of well-intentioned claimants.’

The bill now goes to committee stage. 


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