The Model Anti-SLAPP Law, drafted by the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition in consultation with leading media lawyers and industry experts, would provide robust protection against SLAPPs, building on the framework proposed by the Ministry of Justice in 2022. Key features include:
A filter mechanism that empowers courts to swiftly dispose of SLAPPs without the need for a subjective enquiry into the state of mind of the SLAPP filer. This mechanism should subject claims that exhibit features of abuse to a higher merits threshold.
Penalties that are sufficient to deter the use of SLAPPs and provide full compensation to those targeted. Such penalties should take into account the harm caused to the defendant and the conduct of and the resources available to the claimant.
Protective measures for SLAPP victims including cost protections, safeguards, and measures to reduce the ability of SLAPP claimants to weaponise the litigation process against public watchdogs.
In December 2022, the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition sent the model law to the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister and other key stakeholders, encouraging them to base any anti-SLAPP law on the model provided by the coalition.
On 26 November 2023, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill (ECB2) received Royal Assent and became law. With this, the UK’s first anti-SLAPP provisions were made law.
The provisions, included in a set of amendments announced by the UK Government on 13 June, provide courts in England and Wales with the power to strike out before trial SLAPPs claims that relate to information disclosed in the public interest protecting society from economic crimes.
This is a significant improvement and demonstrates significant protections for public interest reporting on this issue. It provides a robust new threshold test along the lines presented in our coalition’s model UK Anti-SLAPP Law and elevates the importance of free speech and public interest relating to economic crime.
However, the amendment is not the meaningful protection against SLAPPs promised by the UK Government in July 2022 – it is only a step in that direction. It only covers claims relating to the “public interest in combating economic crime”. Further to this, it:
Introduces an unnecessary element of uncertainty by making the operation of the law contingent on the belief of the defendant.
Requires the court to identify the intent of the filer – a notoriously difficult, time consuming and costly task. While this is given shape by illustrative examples provided in the amendment, these examples would not cover many cases widely recognised as SLAPPs.
Lacks any means of compensating the defendant or punishing the claimant.
Read the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s statement on the bill here
The UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition prepared a briefing to analyse the amendment in more. Read the briefing here.
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