The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition welcomed the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to bring in legislative reform to tackle SLAPPs in July. While the framework proposed has the potential to provide meaningful protections against SLAPPs, much will depend on how this is fleshed out. There are three conditions in particular that we believe any effective law must meet:
- CONDITION 1 – SLAPPs are disposed of as quickly as possible in court: in order to achieve this we need a new statutory mechanism that will require claims targeting public participation to meet a higher threshold in order to advance to trial. Such a threshold must be high enough to prevent such abusive lawsuits being stretched out to trial. Judges should also have discretion to filter out cases that exhibit abusive qualities or would otherwise have a disproportionate impact on freedom of expression.
- CONDITION 2 – Costs for SLAPP targets are kept to an absolute minimum: costs must be awarded to targets of SLAPPs on a full indemnity basis. Since SLAPPs operate through the litigation process, however, it is important that SLAPP targets are able to see that process through to a resolution. While we recognise that the government has no plans to expand legal aid, there are other ways the costs can be minimised for those targeted by such lawsuits – including by reducing the burden of disclosure.
- CONDITION 3 – Costs for SLAPP filers are sufficiently high to deter further SLAPPS: in addition to costs being made available on a full indemnity basis, exemplary damages should be available for cases where the claimant has exhibited particularly egregious conduct, and where the time and psychological harm caused to the defendant needs to be compensated. This must be proportionate to the resources available to the claimant so as to provide an effective deterrent to those using such tactics.
To achieve the above, the coalition has drawn up a UK Model Anti-SLAPP Law in consultation with senior lawyers from across the sector. We hope this draft law, outlined overleaf, will guide the proposals currently being developed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and will also be discussed and adopted by the devolved governments in the UK.Model-UK-Anti-SLAPP-Law-Final-Version