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16 July 2008

Libel Tourism in the UK

The centre-right think tank Policy Exchange hosted a fascinating discussion on the UK's libel laws

By Martin Bright

I went yesterday lunchtime to hear New York state asssemblyman Rory Lancman talk about the Libel Terrorism Protection Bill at Policy Exchange. He is concerned that rich individuals are able to use the British courts to sue American authors even when only a few books have been sold in the UK. He used the example of Rachel Ehrenfeld who was successfully sued by Saudi banker Khalid bin Mahfouz over claims made in her book Funding Evil.

Sean O’Neill of the Times raised the concern that journalists were becoming increasingly cowed by threats from libel lawyers representing rich individuals and Islamists. Others on the panel, including Anthony Julius, were critical of newspapers which failed to take the fight to litigious individuals.

I now believe there needs to be a serious review of the law surrounding freedom of expression in this country. Joanne Cash, the libel barrister and Conservative parliamentary candidate for North Westminster, who was hosting the event, agrees with me. So watch this space.

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