More needs to be done to make SLAPPs legislation workable

The Law Society of England and Wales has raised concerns about Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) legislation, which is having its second reading in the House of Commons as part of a Private Members’ Bill.

The bill is focused on the use of litigation to prevent the publication of information about wrongdoing. However, the Society is concerned about the Bill’s workability and potential unintended consequences.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “We welcome this Bill and its aim to legislate for the remaining SLAPPs cases not covered by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023.

“There are, however, areas which require significant modification if the bill is going to achieve its aim.

“The Law Society represents both claimant and defendant lawyers, so we are well placed to suggest changes to the legislation.”

The Law Society recommends:

  • caution against measures that may increase ambiguity and the risk of ‘satellite litigation’*, as well as measures that may increase unnecessary legal costs for either party
  • the inclusion of an objective test to define a SLAPP case and significant re-drafting of what is defined to be “in the public interest”
  • the UK government works with the judiciary and defendant and claimant practitioners to ensure the measures are implemented effectively

Nick Emmerson added: “We also question whether the legislation, as currently drawn, strikes the correct balance between rights to respect private and family life and rights of freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

“Our expert SLAPPs working group has identified areas that require further analysis, including whether the definition of a SLAPP should also cover potentially abusive behaviour by the defendant in a case, either in the course of their defence or a counterclaim.

“The Law Society is willing to facilitate consultation with the profession by offering the benefit of our SLAPPs working group, as well as continuing to give feedback via the government’s SLAPPs Taskforce.”

Notes to editors

* Satellite litigation is where one or more lawsuits that are related to a major lawsuit are being conducted in another court.

Find out more about Wayne David MP’s SLAPPS Private Members Bill.

Read the government’s research briefing on SLAPPs.

The Law Society is a member of the government’s SLAPPs Taskforce.

The Law Society’s Parliamentary Brief is available upon request.

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Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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