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Concerns raised over Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs)

Concerns raised over Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs)


The Law Society expresses reservations about the workability and unintended consequences of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation legislation

The Law Society of England and Wales voiced concerns regarding the legislation on Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) during its second reading in the House of Commons. The legislation is part of a Private Members' Bill, with a focus on addressing the use of litigation to prevent the publication of information related to wrongdoing. However, the Law Society has reservations about the practicality of the Bill and its potential unintended repercussions.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson welcomed the Bill's intent to legislate remaining SLAPPs cases not covered by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023. Nevertheless, he emphasised the need for significant modifications to ensure the Bill achieves its objectives. Representing both claimant and defendant lawyers, the Law Society is well-positioned to propose changes to the legislation.

The Law Society recommends caution against measures that could heighten ambiguity and the risk of 'satellite litigation.' They also advocate for the inclusion of an objective test to define a SLAPP case and a substantial re-drafting of what qualifies as "in the public interest." Nick Emmerson urged collaboration between the UK government, the judiciary, and practitioners on both sides to ensure effective implementation of the proposed measures.

Nick Emmerson also questioned whether the current legislation strikes the right balance between the right to respect private and family life and the rights of freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Law Society's SLAPPs working group has identified areas requiring further analysis, including potentially covering abusive behaviour by the defendant during the defence or a counterclaim.

The Law Society expressed its willingness to facilitate consultation with the profession, offering the expertise of its SLAPPs working group and continuing to provide feedback through the government's SLAPPs Taskforce.

As the legislation progresses, the Law Society's concerns highlight the complexities of balancing the right to freedom of expression and the need to address potentially abusive legal actions that stifle public participation. The ongoing dialogue between legal professionals and policymakers is crucial to refining the legislation and ensuring its effective and just application.