In brief: Lord Chancellor plans simpler libel actions

Libel actions will be “improved and simplified” by Lord Mackay's Defamation Bill, introduced into the House of Lords last week. Improvements in the Defamation Bill include a new summary procedure, allowing judges to dispose quickly of simpler and less serious claims and avoid the need for a trial. Judges will be able to make awards of up to £10,000, while also dismissing weak claims. A new defence of 'offer of amends' will allow defendants to curtail proceedings by making an offer of damages to be assessed by a judge. The time limit for litigation will be cut from three years to one. The 'innocent dissemination' defence is also modernised to include hi-tech advances in communications. Separately, Lord Mackay also introduced his Damages Bill, implementing recommendations from the Law Commission's Structured Settlements report.