Mark Lewis, the solicitor-advocate in Manchester who currently represents Dr Peter Wilmshurst (see background here), has written an excellent piece on the need for libel reform, in the Solicitors’ Journal. “When the law is so bad that it leaves you speechless it needs changing,” he writes.
The law of defamation is expensive to pursue and even dearer to defend. The stress, time and financial cost of a libel case stop people speaking out. Libel law is simple currently: a rich claimant trumps a poor defendant. Newspapers worry about the ‘chilling effect’ of libel – investigative journalism is hampered as a result of lawyers for the press advising their clients to err on the side of caution.
At least it’s not a matter of life or death. Well, it is now. The chilling effect turned into the ‘killing effect’ when claimants realised that a well-drafted claim form is likely to have the effect of silencing an individual who attacks medical products or procedures.