Scotland

Defamation law change considered to protect the dead

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Image caption The law could be changed to allow the dead to sue for defamation

The Scottish government is to consider whether the reputations of people who have died can be protected by law.

At present, only those who have an ongoing litigation case prior to their death can sue for defamation.

A consultation will look at overturning the Scottish legal principle that defamation can no longer apply to people who are not alive.

A spokeswoman said the government was committed to launching a consultation paper before the end of the year.

She added: "These are important and sensitive issues, involving a careful balancing of fundamental rights, and we are determined to take every care to ensure that they are addressed appropriately.

"Scottish ministers will examine the consultation responses carefully before issuing their response to it."

'Strict parameters'

David McKee, a litigation solicitor, said any law change would have to ensure safeguards were in place.

He said: "My own experience is that, generally speaking, people's reputations improve after death.

"Usually what you find is that when politicians die, all of a sudden their opponents are saying what lovely people they are. They didn't say that when they were alive.

"But people do have this frustration that, all of a sudden, there is a freedom to defame after death.

"In defamation law, the difficulty is that if you make a statement or write a comment, the onus is on you to prove that's true."

He added: "There are time limits on personal injury cases of three years and I think that were this legislation to be introduced, there would have to be very strict parameters and very strict time limits of when a case could be introduced."

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