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Minister Harris Announces Sweeping Reform of Defamation Laws

By March 31, 2023 No Comments
Minister Harris

Minister Harris has announced his intention to introduce sweeping reforms of defamation law in Ireland, including the abolition of juries in High Court actions, the restraining of “libel tourism”, and to make it easier for individuals to access information on those who post anonymously online.

Lack of Protection

The reasoning behind such reforms is to address the lack of protection that currently exists both for individuals and groups considering the accelerated rate of changes in technology, and the way that information is handled and easily disseminated online.

Under the proposed laws, if an individual is defamed, then both the defamatory content and the subsequent correction must be given equal prominence. For example, if a defamatory statement were to be published in a newspaper, then the correction must be given the same position and/or slot in the paper.

Defamatory Content

Additional laws as part of the reform also include an intention to reduce the amount of damages, legal costs, and delays when such cases go to the courts, a new defence for broadcasters who make defamatory statements while live on air, and to introduce a Notice of Complaint system that will make it easier and swifter to notify a digital publication of potentially defamatory content.

It is hoped that the news laws will usher in crucial updates to the antiquated Defamation Act 2009, considering the rapid pace at which technology has advanced since that period, and to make it easier for people to access justice.

The proposed laws come off the back of a major review of the 2009 Act ordered by Helen McEntee, who had previously described defamation as “rich man’s law”.

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