American defamation lawyers and others have criticized British Libel law for years; and for good reason. Among other things, English law requires the defendant to prove the truth of the alleged defamatory statement, whereas in the U.S., in most states, and in most circumstances, the plaintiff must prove falsity. Because of England’s pro-plaintiff laws, it has become a destination for plaintiffs looking to find the most favorable forum in which to file suit, AKA "Libel Tourism." But now it looks like this is all about to change.
The Draft Defamation Bill published by the Ministry of Justice last month, seems to be a step in the right direction. While I haven’t read the entire 132 page document just yet (just skimmed it), it is clear that this bill was written, at least in part, in response to the " . . . perception that [its] courts are an attractive forum for libel claimants with little connection to this country, so that [its] law is respected internationally." Obviously the Brits care what the international community thinks, so I think some potentially major changes are on the horizon.
I’ll write a more detailed post regarding the draft bill when I get a chance. For now, here is a copy for your reading pleasure: UK Draft Defamation Bill.