Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs)

Closed 19 May 2022

Opened 17 Mar 2022

Overview

The Deputy Prime Minister has launched an urgent call for evidence in response to the challenges presented by the increasing use of a form of litigation known collectively as SLAPPs – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

SLAPPs can be characterised as an abuse of the legal process, where the primary objective is to harass, intimidate and financially and psychologically exhaust one’s opponent via improper means.

These actions are typically initiated by reputation management firms and framed as defamation or privacy cases brought by individuals or corporations to evade scrutiny in the public interest.

The call for evidence sets out options for possible reforms and in addition to seeking views on those proposals it is also inviting those who have been subject to SLAPPs or who have an interest to share their experiences and the impact on them.

The call for evidence sets out the background of SLAPPs, the nature of the problem they represent and the characteristics of this type of lawsuit, for example that it is calculated to harass, intimidate and silence those the action is brought against.

A range of reform options are considered, which in brief summary are:

  • Legislative options – the paper proposes establishing a statutory definition of SLAPPs to help identify relevant cases and form the basis for their being subject to a separate case and costs management regime.
  • Defamation reform options – the paper assesses existing defences to defamation in law and how these might be applied in relation to SLAPPs cases. The paper explores whether new approaches should be adopted, such as introducing an ‘actual malice’ threshold for SLAPP claimants.
  • Procedural reforms – the paper assesses whether existing court procedures might be reformed to enable courts to manage SLAPPs cases in a fair and proportionate manner. For example, whether the ‘strike out’ procedure for claims which are an abuse of process should be amended.
  • Regulatory reforms – the paper notes the recent guidance from the Solicitors Regulation Authority and seeks responses on whether those subject to SLAPPs have raised concerns or complaints with regulators.
  • Costs reforms – the paper sets out the current costs regime for defamation and privacy cases and invites views on reforms, including a proposal to introduce a costs capping system in SLAPPs cases.

The Call for Evidence document is available below. A summary in Welsh will be published shortly.

Audiences

  • Legal professionals
  • Journalists
  • Media

Interests

  • Law