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LRC in push for reform of Defamation Act
Pic: Jason Clarke

24 Jul 2019 / legislation Print

LRC in push for reform of Defamation Act

The Law Reform Commission (LRC) has said that Ireland’s highly-restrictive defamation laws should be eased to limit the possibility of court reporters being sued.

The LRC says that oversight or omission in a court report should be exempt from the threat of defamation.

It believes that the 2009 Defamation Act should be amended to include a non-exhaustive list of factors about what constitutes a "fair and accurate" report of court proceedings.

The updated law should also apply to online bloggers and social media commentary, the LRC says.

Non-press, non-journalist accounts of court proceedings should also have privilege applied to them, the LRC says.

Currently, press reports which are a “fair and accurate” account of court proceedings have immunity from prosecution.

Definition

The commission is proposing amendments to the Defamation Act to better define “fair and accurate” reporting.

Practising journalists already follow these guidelines, the LRC says.

The LRC proposals include:

  • Privilege should apply to shortened court reports where they give a “correct and just impression” of proceedings,
  • Small inaccuracies or omissions should not be seen as significant if a report is generally accurate,
  • Substantially inaccurate reports should not be privileged,
  • Omitting salient parts of court proceedings should not be privileged if this gives a false impression,
  • Assumptions around verdicts ahead of one being delivered should not be privileged.

The LRC says that court reports that do not meet the standard for fairness and accuracy should not be covered by privilege.

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