Northern Ireland

NI defamation law 'should be brought into line with England and Wales'

Belfast High Court

Northern Ireland's defamation law should be brought substantially into line with the law in England and Wales, a report commissioned by the Stormont executive has recommended.

The law in England and Wales was reformed by the Defamation Act, 2013.

It introduced a new threshold meaning claimants have to show they have suffered "serious harm" before suing.

The changes were not extended to Northern Ireland.

It also gives more protection from libel for those running websites if they can show they are not the authors of defamatory posts.

Policy development

The report by legal academic Dr Andrew Scott says that "in the main...it is recommended that reforms directly equivalent to those set out in the 2013 Act should be legislated by the Northern Ireland Assembly".

Stormont Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir welcomed the report which, he said, will be considered carefully.

"This will help to inform the policy development process as we seek to ensure that a fair balance is maintained between the right to free speech and the right of the ordinary man and woman in the street, to protect their reputation," the minister said.