Insights Industry calls on UK government to urgently address strategic lawsuits against public participation (“SLAPPs”)


SLAPPs are a tool used by wealthy individuals to intimidate and financially burden those who seek to expose their wrongdoing, such as threatening exorbitant legal costs in suits brought against journalists falsely claiming defamation or invasion of privacy.  For over a year, journalists and government have been discussing the need for an anti-SLAPP law with the aim of ensuring journalists, public watchdogs, whistleblowers and activists can continue to publish information that is in the public interest without harassment.

Last year the Government introduced the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill which is currently going through the legislative process. It is aimed at preventing the abuse of UK corporate structures and tackling economic crime.  In June 2023, the government stated that it would add provisions to the Bill to prevent SLAPPs relating to economic crime, including a new statutory definition of SLAPPs, a new early dismissal mechanism for SLAPPs claims which ensures that only those that are likely to succeed at trial may proceed (with the onus on claimants to establish the likelihood of success) and costs protection for defendants.

A number of UK media companies and associations have written to the government to request that they commit to including a standalone anti-SLAPP law in the forthcoming King’s Speech.  They say that the proposed amendments to the Bill do not go far enough because, amongst other things, they relate only to economic crime.  Therefore, the next step must be a law that protects everyone who speaks out in the public interest.  This could follow the model law created by the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition which has already been shared with the government.   The King’s speech, in which the monarch reads a list of new bills planned by the government, will take place on 7 November and will mark the last programme of legislation before the general election expected to take place in 2024.

For more information, click here.  To access the Model Law, click here.