Cabinet will today consider reforms of defamation laws that would scrap juries in High Court cases and aim to crack down on ‘libel tourism’.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is seeking Cabinet permission to draft a reforming bill based on the recommendations of the Legal Advisory Group of Defamation.
For years there have been calls to reform the 2009 Defamation Act – and particularly the high pay-outs which can result from libel cases.
It's been argued high profile figures have used Irish defamation law to send a chilling effect through journalism, with litigious individuals making it punitive to investigate them or their interests.
A review of the Defamation Act hasn't recommended caps on damages but does propose getting rid of juries for High Court trials.
A judge alone will assess the case; which it is hoped will reduce excessive awards, the length of hearings and legal costs.
It also recommends anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) mechanisms - essentially stopping exaggerated claims which may be initiated by powerful companies or individuals to discourage debate around something uncomfortable to them.
The review also recommends requiring the court to establish whether Ireland is the right jurisdiction for the case to be heard in, to cut down on ‘libel tourism’, where people take cases here for higher pay-outs.