Thursday, 3 June 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
The review of the Defamation Act 2009 is a legislative priority for the Government and my Department.
The Justice Plan 2021 restates the Programme for Government commitment to review and reform our defamation laws to ensure a balanced approach to the right to freedom of expression and the right to protection of good name and reputation, as well as ensuring effective access to justice.
My Department has already completed extensive work on the defamation review including holding a public consultation, organising a symposium on defamation law reform, examining relevant reforms in other jurisdictions and careful consideration of recent domestic and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) case law.
Unfortunately, completion of the review was delayed last year due to the need to prepare and enact urgent legislation to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.
My Department is now finalising the report of the defamation review, with options for change to the law, which I expect to receive very shortly. I intend to publish it, subject to Government agreement, very soon after that. As outlined in the Justice Plan 2021, it is intended that a General Scheme of a Defamation (Amendment) Bill will be prepared by the end of this year.
As a measure of the Government's commitment to this reform, I have already included the Defamation (Amendment) Bill, to implement the resulting legislative changes, in the Government’s updated Legislation Programme, which was published on 13 January 2021.
It is a priority for me and my Department to get the reform of defamation law right, and to bring forward the required legislation at the earliest opportunity.