The Media Guardian has published a report of a round table to discuss libel law reform. Unusually, the panel – put together by Afua Hirsch – was evenly balanced between claimant and defendant lawyers. On the claimant side there were three members of “Lawyers for Media Standards” – Dominic Crossley, Sarah Webb and Jonathan Coad. The defendant’s arguments were advanced by Gill Phillips, John Kampfner and Gavin Millar QC.
As might be expected, there appear to have been few areas of consensus. Although there was some common ground about the problems of libel costs there were strong disagreements about libel tourism, CFAs and burden of proof. Interesting points were made about the public interest defence and codification. Another round table on privacy is promised. Suprisingly the article has attracted only three comments on the “Guardian” website. Perhaps balanced debate is not very interesting after all.
The balanced panel assembled by the Guardian can be contrasted with the Ministry of Justice’s Libel Reform Working Group which, on our calculations contains two claimant lawyers, three “neutrals” and with eleven who are either defendant lawyers, media representatives or “freedom of expression” campaigners.