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New defamation bill includes "requirement of serious harm"

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Houses Of Parliament

© Rex Features

The text of the Defamation Bill 2012-13 has been published on the official Parliament website.

Following the announcement of the legislation in this year's Queen's Speech, the bill adds a "requirement of serious harm" for defamation to have taken place.

"A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant," the bill reads.

The defences outlined in the bill include truth, honest opinion and responsible publication on matter of public interest.

It also notes that operators of websites have a defence in regard to statements posted on their websites by third parties, should certain conditions be met.

> Read the Defamation Bill 2012-13 in full here

A section of the bill addresses peer-reviewed statement in scientific or academic journals.

According to the bill, articles in such publications are deemed to to be privileged under certain conditions, such as the content's relation to scientific and academic matters and a procedure of independent review.

The bill also addresses the matter of "libel tourism", noting that the courts will not have jurisdiction to deal with actions against a person not domiciled in the UK or a Member State "unless the court is satisfied that, of all the places in which the statement complained of has been published, England and Wales is clearly the most appropriate place in which to bring an action in respect of the statement".

Journalist, lawyer and long-time campaigner for libel reform David Allen Green said on Twitter: "Defamation Bill *looking good* but still needs improvements re public interest, corporations, etc. @SLSingh [science writer Simon Singh] should be proud."

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