Regulation

Shaking up SLAPPs – time for action

Action is needed on strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPS) to level the playing field between parties and protect the administration of justice.

Royal Courts of Justice

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has heightened concerns around SLAPPs – especially the impact of claims brought by wealthy individuals and corporations clamping down on free speech and reporting on events.

In May 2022, we responded to an urgent call for evidence on SLAPPs from the government.

“Action is needed against SLAPPs to prevent potential abuses of the administration of justice,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.  

To help inform our response to this rapidly developing issue, we set up a working group with law firms representing both defendants and claimants.

Solicitors are held to the highest professional standards and there are rules in place which deal with inappropriate litigation or abusive litigation.

It’s important that we clarify and strengthen rules on SLAPP lawsuits to level the playing field between parties with different financial resources.

We suggest robust use of:

  • existing civil procedure rules
  • gatekeeping by the judiciary
  • case management by the courts, as prolonged processes inevitably increase costs for both parties

We also suggest limiting the legal costs incurred by SLAPP litigation, for example, by exploring:

  • an indemnity fund to help parties with financial resources to bring or defend a case
  • the courts’ readiness to allow indemnity costs
  • legal aid options
  • fixing recoverable costs

There’s no quick solution to this complex issue, however.

Reforms need to strike the right balance between freedom of speech – particularly concerning the public interest – and the right of businesses and individuals to protect their reputation against false allegations.

Read our full consultation response

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS