Defamation Round the World – is London a libel backwater?

24 03 2010

One of the important planks of the “Libel Reform Campaign’s” platform is that, in England, “The law is so biased towards claimants and so hostile to writers that London has become known as the libel capital of the world”. This claim is often made but lacks a clear factual basis.   The freedom of expression NGO, Article 19, has carried out a survey of civil defamation cases in 176 countries,   This shows that the highest number of cases is in Germany, Poland, Sweden and the USA – with the USA having the highest average damages awards – US$471,221.

The highest number of cases comparative to population is in Sweden, Moldova and Cyprus, the largest damages in Canada, Pakistan, Panama and the USA with the largest damages relative to GDP in India and Pakistan.  Far from being the “libel capital of the world”, London is an also ran – the United Kingdom does not feature on any of these lists.

Even by European standards, England does not do well in the “libel league tables”.   In the 53 countries surveyed in Europe the average is 700 cases per year – in contrast, in England in 2008 (the last year for which full figures were available) there were 259 defamation claims brought (see the Judicial Statistics).  The highest number of cases were in Sweden and Germany.  Moldova had most cases per head of the population.  Once again, England does not feature.

It appears that, far from attracting hordes of libel litigants, English libel laws – and the high costs of bring defamation proceedings – are deterring people from bringing claims in this jurisdiction.  London has become a libel backwater – here, as in many other areas, the action is all elsewhere.



3 responses

25 03 2010
Revised and Updated: ‘Opinion: “The Petition for Libel Reform: Case not Proven”‘ « Inforrm's Blog

[…] have been effectively demolished by Lord Hoffmann (see our post here).   As we pointed out in a recent post far from being the “libel capital of the world”, London is a libel backwater with a […]

19 09 2010
Defamation in New South Wales – lots of cases and more judges « Inforrm's Blog

[…] sometimes, inaccurately, described as the “libel capital of the world” (it is, in fact, a libel backwater).  A more plausible candidate for the international title might be Sydney, capital of the […]

31 01 2011
Socially Legal

Interesting. I’m from Sydney, Australia and actually just posted an article on a similar topic. More specifically, defamation online. I’d love to hear your thoughts (It’s called Are You Libel To Tweet: Defamation in 140 characters or less

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