Features & Analysis

The political row over SLAPPs

The UK’s legal system must endeavour to find an equilibrium in defamation and libel cases between protecting free speech and rooting out accusations made in bad faith.

In recent weeks, so-called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), previously a relatively obscure legal concept with its roots in the United States, have been at the centre of a hotly contested debate in the UK.

Critics claim that these lawsuits, which are used by claimants temporarily to protect their reputations against slander, have a chilling effect on free speech, but others have argued that a legal claim by someone who has been unjustly defamed is not a SLAPP – as its purpose is not strategic and it is not intended to prevent public participation.

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