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Northern Ireland urged to update libel laws – 1 December 2014

A leading author has said that Northern Ireland risks becoming a prime venue for efforts to “gag” writers worldwide.

Simon Singh, who once found himself at the centre of a major libel storm before the case against him was dropped, made the comments in an article by the International Business Times (IBT), a New York-based web publication.

In April last year, a law was passed in Westminster which placed a new defence to libel on the statute books.

The Defamation Act of 2013 allowed publishers to defend against libel actions by arguing that the material complained of is “a matter of public interest”, and that they believed it was in the public good to broadcast or print it.

This replaced the old “Reynolds defence”, which only existed as a result of legal precedents set by courts.

However, the new law has been blocked from coming into force in Northern Ireland by MP Sammy Wilson, the then-Finance Minister.