23 April 2007
Libel laws to prevent speaking ill of the dead?
The government is to examine potential reforms to libel laws so that the dead or people acting on their behalf can sue for damages, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
Currently, libel laws dictate that only people still living can seek reparations.
However, later this year it is anticipated that the Department of Constitutional Affairs will make public a consultation paper including extending protection to cover the deceased.
The proposed reforms have their genesis in moves to protect murder victims who have subsequently have their reputations damaged by the murder but whose immediate family and relatives currently have no legal recourse.
Yet, in practice because it is thought that restricting the new level of protection to just this group would be unworkable, the reforms would apply in a much wider range of cases.
The proposed reforms have in fact been debated before, when the Faulks committee came out in favour of the move in 1975, with the proviso that relatives are able to pursue actions five years after the death of the person in question.