ARTICLE 19 and other members of the UK anti-SLAPP Coalition welcome the Ministry of Justice’s commitment to bring in legislative reform to tackle SLAPPs in July. While the framework proposed has the potential to provide meaningful protections against SLAPPs in the UK, much will depend on how this is fleshed out. Our coalition has drawn up a UK Model Anti-SLAPP Law which consists of components essential for developing a comprehensive legal response to abusive litigation.
There are three conditions in particular that we believe any effective anti-SLAPP law must meet:
1. SLAPPs are disposed of as quickly as possible in court: Claims targeting public participation should be required to meet a higher threshold in order to advance to trial. Judges should also have discretion to filter out cases that exhibit abusive qualities or would otherwise have a disproportionate impact on freedom of expression.
2. Costs for SLAPP targets are kept to an absolute minimum: Costs must be awarded to targets of SLAPPs on a full indemnity basis. Since SLAPPs operate through the litigation process, however, it is important that SLAPP targets are able to see that process through to a resolution.
3. Costs for SLAPP filers are sufficiently high to deter further SLAPPs: in addition to costs being made available on a full indemnity basis, exemplary damages should be available for cases where the claimant has exhibited particularly egregious conduct, and where the time and psychological harm caused to the defendant needs to be compensated.
We Call on the Ministry of Justice to introduce a robust standalone law that can provide meaningful protections against SLAPPs in line with the UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition’s Model Law.