The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition calls for the Anti-SLAPP PMB to be amended to ensure it protects everyone speaking out in the public interest.

Feb 20, 2024 | News

On Thursday 15 February 2024, the Anti-SLAPP Private Members’ Bill (PMB) brought forward by Wayne David MP was published ahead of the Bill’s second reading on Friday 23 February. The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition is disappointed that the shortcomings found in the Anti-SLAPP provisions of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act (ECCTA) have been reproduced almost word-for-word in the Bill. As drafted, the Bill fails to establish meaningful protections for  SLAPP targets. There is however still an opportunity to remedy these deficiencies through small but crucial amendments, which the Coalition believes must be considered at Committee Stage. 

When the ECCTA was passed, the Coalition raised our concerns that while “[t]he new law offers a promising framework for tackling the problem” it was “undermined by an excessively restrictive definition of SLAPP – one that, by requiring the court to identify the intent of the filer, introduces an unnecessary element of uncertainty into the process.” This is the same definition included in the PMB announced last week. Any early dismissal mechanism that requires the intention or motivation of the SLAPP filer to first be identified risks putting the intended protections out of reach of those targeted by SLAPPs. The flaws in the ECCTA have been communicated to the Government by a range of stakeholders since the Bill’s passage and we believe this is therefore a missed opportunity to address these concerns and bring forward a meaningful standalone anti-SLAPP mechanism. 

The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition reiterates our calls for the standalone bill to be as robust as possible and to learn from the concerns raised by civil society, as well as from examples from across the globe. With a standalone Anti-SLAPP Law that establishes universal protections now almost in reach, we call for the Bill to be amended to ensure the protections are accessible by all. We stand ready to support MPs and other stakeholders for this purpose.

The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition co-chairs said:

“Unfortunately for all public watchdogs, the PMB reproduces the same failings and limitations found in the ECCTA. As drafted, the PMB risks becoming an ineffective, inaccessible, and ultimately redundant legal instrument. While we are close to establishing an important protection against SLAPPs, we must be careful. A bad anti-SLAPP Bill could be worse than no Bill at all. To avoid this eventuality, we call for the Bill to be amended at Committee Stage to ensure the Bill does what it intends: to protect everyone speaking out in the public interest against SLAPPs once and for all.”