Prof. Alastair Mullis (a colleague of mine at UEA) and Dr. Andrew Scott of LSE (one of the authors of the LSE ‘mediapal’ blog), have completed an interesting report on the reform of libel law in the UK, “Something Rotten in the State of English Libel Law?” (download PDF herethis link is now corrected, apologies for inconvenience). In some ways, it is a response to the earlier report by Index on Censorship/English PEN (available here, along with other resources from the organisations), although it’s more of a discussion than a direct response, with some criticisms of the Index/PEN document and some other suggestions for possible changes to the law. Of particular interest to readers of this blog may be the suggestion that the current law on intermediaries does not need to be amended (see paras 32-34), and the discussion (also picked up in the joint paper by Scott, Andrew Murray and Charlie Beckett here (in docx format!)) of the ‘single publication’ suggestion and a possible middle way between the status quo and the US approach.

Meanwhile, the panel of the great and the good charged with coming up with recommendations for the Ministry of Justice has been announced. Although there are some very interesting people, I was a little surprised to see the lack of academic involvement. I’ve broken it down as :
– six legal practitioners
– five media (counting in-house media lawyers as media)
– three civil society
– one scientist
– one academic (the always-interesting Prof. Gavin Phillipson of Durham, who has recently published a thorough piece on UK privacy law and the ECHR in the Journal of Media Law) (2009) 1 JML 73
– one ‘consultant’ (who, although not mentioned in the official release, is also a lecturer at Sunderland and a co-author of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, and could be counted as a second academic)

One hopes that, after they finish throwing the free biscuits at each other, the panel will engage with researchers active in the area. It might also be interesting to see if any reference is made to the new Defamation Act 2009 in Ireland (on which see Eoin O’Dell’s recent Irish Times editorial and ongoing coverage and John O’Dowd’s new article, also in the Journal of Media Law here (2009) 1 JML 173.