Courts will be given new powers to stop Russian oligarchs “abusing” Britain’s legal system to silence critics under reforms announced by the government.
The series of measures is aimed at so-called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).
These include a new tool to allow courts to dismiss frivolous claims more quickly, and a spending cap to prevent the super-rich from “poaching” journalists with the threat of expensive litigation, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said.
SLAPPs typically involve taking legal action to try to stop journalists or campaigners from exposing wrongdoing under defamation and privacy laws.
Targets often receive a “barrage of aggressive legal letters” and withdraw stories before cases reach court, fearing the sky-high costs involved, according to the DOJ.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said. “We will not allow those who fund Putin to use the UK’s legal jurisdiction to silence their critics.
“So today I’m announcing reforms to protect free speech, end abuse of our justice system, and protect those who bravely shine a light on corruption.”
Under the reforms, courts will be able to more quickly dismiss frivolous claims they identify through a new three-part test.
The test will assess whether the case conflicts with a public interest activity, such as a fraud investigation; Was there evidence of abuse of process, such as threatening correspondence; and whether the case has sufficient justification.
The new costs protection scheme is designed to “level the playing field between wealthy claimants and defendants with deep pockets” by protecting defendants from crippling costs.
The move comes after the High Court earlier this year dismissed a defamation suit by Kazakh mining giant Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) against Financial Times reporter Tom Burgis over his “Kleptopia: Excerpts from How Dirty Money Takes Over the World.
The Secretary General of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistritt, said: “Issuing these proposals is a significant step forward in combating the deployment of SLAPPs and other forms of law designed to impede investigative journalism.”
Courts to get new powers to stop abuses by Russian oligarchs UK legal system | Political news
Source Courts to get new powers to stop abuses by Russian oligarchs UK legal system | Political news