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Andrew97
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B1610 – Defamation Bill 2020, Hardy_Breloom, Seconded by Theloniouss MP
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Defamation Bill 2020

An Act to extend defamation laws to include the release of personal information during criminal investigations

BE IT ENACTED by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

1. Definitions

(1) Personal information refers to the definitions outlined in the Anonymity Act 2020, namely;
(a) personal information covers name, address and image, and
(b) Section 1(1) of the Anonymity Act 2020 only applies if the information or image published is likely to lead to identification of the arrested person.
(2) Suspect of a crime refers to any individual subject to a criminal investigation prior to their arrest;
(a) At which point the Defamation Act 2020 no longer applies, and
(b) The Anonymity Act 2020 applies
(3) Reporting refers to the publishing of information through a newspaper, magazine, other publication, radio, television, cable television, online website, or other medium of mass communication
(4) An ongoing criminal investigation, for the purposes of this bill, refers to any open criminal case that has not yet resulted in an arrest or criminal conviction

2. On the rights of an individual

(1) An individual has the right to be free from defamation
(a) Defamation with regards to an individual shall be any information published which wrongfully causes serious harm to the reputation of that individual
(i) Serious harm refers to any information likely to cause an individual to incur financial loss or;
(ii) Any information which can reasonably be deemed to negatively alter the perception of the character of an individual by their peers

3. On the rights of bodies that trade for profit

(1) For the purposes of this section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not serious harm, as defined in section (1)(a), unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.

4. On the reporting of ongoing criminal investigations

(1) Any individual or media organisation is free to report on ongoing criminal investigations as defined in section 1(4)
(2) Releasing personal information regarding any of the suspects involved in an ongoing criminal investigation shall, for the purposes of this bill, be considered defamation unless;
(a) Personal details have been previously released officially by;
(i) the Crown Prosecution Service, or
(ii) a police spokesperson, or
(iii) another governmental agency
(3) The Crown Prosecution Service can release information on suspects involved in an ongoing criminal investigation should they deem it in the national interest
(a) Should the Crown Prosecution Service release personal details of a suspect of an ongoing criminal investigation it shall not be subject to defamation laws
(4) This section applies to the Anonymity Act 2020 in so far as:
(a) an arrested person chooses not to waive their anonymity.
(b) an arrested person is not suspected of committing terror offences specified under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Criminal Justice Act 2003 and Terrorism Act 2006.

5. On the anonymity of persons arrested for an offense

(1) The Anonymity Act 2020 applies to individuals only upon their arrest
(2) Defamation laws, as specified in the Defamations Act 2013 and the Defamations Act 2020, will apply to individuals prior to their arrest

6. Repeals

(1) The Prohibition of Media Identification of Suspects Act 2019 is hereby repealed
(2) Section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013 entitled "Serious harm" is hereby repealed

7. Extent

(1) This Act extends to the United Kingdom

8. Commencement

(1) The provisions of this Act come into force immediately upon being granted Royal Assent

9. Short Title

(1) This Act may be cited as the Defamation Act 2020



Notes

Increasing the scope of existing defamation laws to include the release of personal information not only protects people from the effects of accusations that could hinder them socially and professionally, it uses laws that are already in existence to do so. It also allows the CPS to release such personal information where it is in the national interest.

The section of the Defamation Act 2013 that is being repealed is as follows:
1 Serious harm
(1) A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to
cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.
(2) For the purposes of this section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades
for profit is not “serious harm” unless it has caused or is likely to cause the
body serious financial loss.
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga...0130026_en.pdf

This is because those definitions are either changed, enhanced or carried over into the new legislation.

The reason that I have exempted the CPS from the defamation act is because, for example, a murder suspect where the evidence is substantial is not in police custody and the information is needed to be released in order to keep the public safe. Even if the information is found to be false, it is still necessary for public safety that the information is released. Allowing the CPS to be subject to defamation laws could result in them not releasing information that puts the public at risk.

As well, all the defenses in the Defamation Act 2013 apply to the new legislation which gives the press scope to act in good faith.

Not only this, but it ties into existing MHoC legislation in a way that the two don’t already do. This bill, if it is enacted, will bring about cohesion and coherence in the legislation.

For reference:
Anonymity Act 2020 - https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho....php?t=6441248
Prohibition of Media Identification of Suspects Bill 2019. - https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho....php?t=5850716


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Hardy_Breloom
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First ever bill, let me know what you think.


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in all seriousness, go easy on me
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Lol, am I wet or something? Do as you please



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Aph
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Personal details is too restrictive. For instance, if Holly Willoughby were in legal trouble, I could say "The blonde 39-year old host of This Morning has appeared in court today for..." This is makes is clear who I'm on about but wouldn't be protected. This is why, as it was explained in your petition, personal details need to be defined by the courts and case law.

I've got to admit I'm also quite confused by the way this is written. It reads almost like you are applying the Annonymity Act to people who have been arrested but not during their trial? If that's the case I'll oppose it.
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Hardy_Breloom
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(Original post by Aph)
Personal details is too restrictive. For instance, if Holly Willoughby were in legal trouble, I could say "The blonde 39-year old host of This Morning has appeared in court today for..." This is makes is clear who I'm on about but wouldn't be protected. This is why, as it was explained in your petition, personal details need to be defined by the courts and case law.

I've got to admit I'm also quite confused by the way this is written. It reads almost like you are applying the Annonymity Act to people who have been arrested but not during their trial? If that's the case I'll oppose it.
The Anonymity Act already enshrines in law what is meant by personal details, hence why I didn't see fit to redefine it for the purposes of this bill. In the Anonymity Act, personal details are essentially defined as any details which can lead to the identification of an individual. Therefore, you couldn't describe Holly Willoughby as such, but you could say "blonde woman" or any other description that wouldn't lead to their identification. Furthermore, personal details aren't defined in the act that this bill repeals.

The Anonymity Act applies from the moment someone is arrested up until their conviction or acquittal. As stated in both this bill and the Anonymity Act.

At any rate, all this bill does is tie the spirit of V1467 to enactment of the Anonymity Act and provide the CPS scope to release information on potential murderers to protect the public. Between the Defamation Act 2013, the Anonymity Act 2020 and this bill, everything has been defined. I have included the relevant sections in the notes and included a link to the Anonymity Act for reference.
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Aph
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(Original post by Hardy_Breloom)
The Anonymity Act already enshrines in law what is meant by personal details, hence why I didn't see fit to redefine it for the purposes of this bill. In the Anonymity Act, personal details are essentially defined as any details which can lead to the identification of an individual. Therefore, you couldn't describe Holly Willoughby as such, but you could say "blonde woman" or any other description that wouldn't lead to their identification. Furthermore, personal details aren't defined in the act that this bill repeals.

The Anonymity Act applies from the moment someone is arrested up until their conviction or acquittal. As stated in both this bill and the Anonymity Act.

At any rate, all this bill does is tie the spirit of V1467 to enactment of the Anonymity Act and provide the CPS scope to release information on potential murderers to protect the public. Between the Defamation Act 2013, the Anonymity Act 2020 and this bill, everything has been defined. I have included the relevant sections in the notes and included a link to the Anonymity Act for reference.
(Original post by Hardy_Breloom)
The Anonymity Act already enshrines in law what is meant by personal details, hence why I didn't see fit to redefine it for the purposes of this bill. In the Anonymity Act, personal details are essentially defined as any details which can lead to the identification of an individual. Therefore, you couldn't describe Holly Willoughby as such, but you could say "blonde woman" or any other description that wouldn't lead to their identification. Furthermore, personal details aren't defined in the act that this bill repeals.

The Anonymity Act applies from the moment someone is arrested up until their conviction or acquittal. As stated in both this bill and the Anonymity Act.

At any rate, all this bill does is tie the spirit of V1467 to enactment of the Anonymity Act and provide the CPS scope to release information on potential murderers to protect the public. Between the Defamation Act 2013, the Anonymity Act 2020 and this bill, everything has been defined. I have included the relevant sections in the notes and included a link to the Anonymity Act for reference.
No they aren't defined in that way. The act uses the same definition as in your bill here.

In that case, what are you actually doing with this bill? repealing something that's already implicitly repealed and re-stating the AA but adding the ability of the police to give out details?
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04MR17
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I must congratulate the author for a very thorough undertaking of this issue.

I shall study it more closely on another occasion.
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Hardy_Breloom
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(Original post by Aph)
No they aren't defined in that way. The act uses the same definition as in your bill here.

In that case, what are you actually doing with this bill? repealing something that's already implicitly repealed and re-stating the AA but adding the ability of the police to give out details?
(1) Personal information refers to the definitions outlined in the Anonymity Act 2020, namely;
(a) personal information covers name, address and image, and
(b) Section 1(1) of the Anonymity Act 2020 only applies if the information or image published is likely to lead to identification of the arrested person.

The AA applies to suspects following their arrest, this applies to suspects beforehand without tying the hands of the press or the CPS and ties the two pieces of legislation together effectively.
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Hardy_Breloom
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(Original post by 04MR17)
I must congratulate the author for a very thorough undertaking of this issue.

I shall study it more closely on another occasion.
Thank you very much and I look forward to reading your response.
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Aph
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(Original post by Hardy_Breloom)
(1) Personal information refers to the definitions outlined in the Anonymity Act 2020, namely;
(a) personal information covers name, address and image, and
(b) Section 1(1) of the Anonymity Act 2020 only applies if the information or image published is likely to lead to identification of the arrested person.

The AA applies to suspects following their arrest, this applies to suspects beforehand without tying the hands of the press or the CPS and ties the two pieces of legislation together effectively.
Yes, and 1(1) of the AA states that personal info is name, address and photo. So I can do exactly what I suggested above because it does not fall foul of the AA and thus not this act either.

I just find myself confused by the awkward wording here. the AA didn't prevent press reporting of trials so you don't need a lot of section 4.

section 3 makes no sense.
Section 2 isn't needed because deformation laws exist iirc and you need to set up punishments for breaking the laws.
Your definitions are confusing.
Section 5 shows that this doesn't apply to people beforehand. You have not (as far as I can tell) extended defamation to pre-arrest, only given a weird re-definition of it.
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Aph
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“Defamation laws, as specified in the Defamations Act 2013 and the Defamations Act 2020, will apply to individuals prior to their arrest”

So... there isn’t actually a Defamations Act 2020.
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Aph
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And yes, the Defamation Act 2013 has truth as a defence. So if I write “x is being investigated for murdering a 17-year-old boy” it cannot be defamation because it is ostensibly true.
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Hardy_Breloom
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(Original post by Aph)
Yes, and 1(1) of the AA states that personal info is name, address and photo. So I can do exactly what I suggested above because it does not fall foul of the AA and thus not this act either.
Except personal info has been defined as any information leading to the identification of the individual involved

I just find myself confused by the awkward wording here. the AA didn't prevent press reporting of trials so you don't need a lot of section 4.
Trials aren't mentioned in section 4 or anywhere else in this bill because they fall under the remit of the AA

section 3 makes no sense.
Yes it does and is necessary to protect bodies that trade for profit from defamation.

Section 2 isn't needed because deformation laws exist iirc and you need to set up punishments for breaking the laws.
Your definitions are confusing.
Punishments are outlined in the Defamation Act 2013. The only amendment that was made to the act was to extend the definition of serious harm.

Section 5 shows that this doesn't apply to people beforehand. You have not (as far as I can tell) extended defamation to pre-arrest, only given a weird re-definition of it.
Section 5 was to enshrine in law and clarify at what point each act would come into force. Before their arrest, suspects aren't given anonymity by the AA, this bill protects them from defamation by having details of them being suspected of a criminal act being released.
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Hardy_Breloom
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(Original post by Aph)
And yes, the Defamation Act 2013 has truth as a defence. So if I write “x is being investigated for murdering a 17-year-old boy” it cannot be defamation because it is ostensibly true.
Perhaps my understanding is wrong, but imputation is defined as: "a suggestion that someone is guilty of something or has a particular bad quality"
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dic...ish/imputation

So given this definition, the imputation in saying “x is being investigated for murdering a 17-year-old boy” is defamation with regards to this bill as by releasing the information of an individual being investigated for murder you are causing them serious harm as Section 2.1.a.ii. states.

That being said, if my understanding is wrong then I shall amend it thusly upon second reading.
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Aph
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(Original post by Hardy_Breloom)
Except personal info has been defined as any information leading to the identification of the individual involved



Trials aren't mentioned in section 4 or anywhere else in this bill because they fall under the remit of the AA



Yes it does and is necessary to protect bodies that trade for profit from defamation.



Punishments are outlined in the Defamation Act 2013. The only amendment that was made to the act was to extend the definition of serious harm.



Section 5 was to enshrine in law and clarify at what point each act would come into force. Before their arrest, suspects aren't given anonymity by the AA, this bill protects them from defamation by having details of them being suspected of a criminal act being released.
No it hasn’t, it has been defined as “personal information covers name, address and image.” With a qualification that it’s only against the rules if the information lets you identify the person. This qualification actually makes it very easy to get around the laws here. Say I own three news papers, in one I say “Ben, aged 25 appeared in court today”, well there are many 25 year old Bens so I’ve not identified him. In the second I say “This Bath resident”, lots of people live in Bath. Once again could be anyone. And finally, I include a fuzzy picture in my third paper. You can’t tell who’s in that picture!
Of course, my readership knows I do this so they read all of my papers to actually learn who the guy is but heck, I’ve not done anything against the law so what do I care?

So what’s the point of 1(4), does it actually change anything?

No it doesn’t. You have defined a thing for a section in the section and that’s all. It doesn’t make sense.

So you should be explicitly amending the Defamation Act 2013, because of implicit repeal, you are repealing the whole of that Act by section 2.

So 5 isn’t needed and should be in the notes.

(Original post by Hardy_Breloom)
Perhaps my understanding is wrong, but imputation is defined as: "a suggestion that someone is guilty of something or has a particular bad quality"
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dic...ish/imputation

So given this definition, the imputation in saying “x is being investigated for murdering a 17-year-old boy” is defamation with regards to this bill as by releasing the information of an individual being investigated for murder you are causing them serious harm as Section 2.1.a.ii. states.

That being said, if my understanding is wrong then I shall amend it thusly upon second reading.
I would say that your understanding is wrong, because Saying that someone is being investigated doesn’t imply a quality, and truth would still apply. Defamation needs to be false statements made about the person to Impugn their character. Otherwise, it would quite obviously be the case that reporting who’s being investigated would already be covered by the Act.
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Hardy_Breloom
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(Original post by Aph)
No it hasn’t, it has been defined as “personal information covers name, address and image.” With a qualification that it’s only against the rules if the information lets you identify the person. This qualification actually makes it very easy to get around the laws here. Say I own three news papers, in one I say “Ben, aged 25 appeared in court today”, well there are many 25 year old Bens so I’ve not identified him. In the second I say “This Bath resident”, lots of people live in Bath. Once again could be anyone. And finally, I include a fuzzy picture in my third paper. You can’t tell who’s in that picture!
Of course, my readership knows I do this so they read all of my papers to actually learn who the guy is but heck, I’ve not done anything against the law so what do I care?
I understand what you're getting at, but being the owner of those 3 newspapers and sanctioning the release of the information which can lead to the identification of the suspect is defamation as this bill states. I could clarify it further, but I don't think its strictly necessary.

So what’s the point of 1(4), does it actually change anything?
It's in the definitions section so I don't have to keep repeating "the period between the individual becoming a suspect and them being arrested". That's why I qualified it with "for the purposes of this bill".

No it doesn’t. You have defined a thing for a section in the section and that’s all. It doesn’t make sense.
(1) For the purposes of this section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not serious harm, as defined in section (1)(a), unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.
It is supposed to be read as such, it is one clause. What it does is prevents a company from saying "oh, you made us look bad" and instead they can only use this bill as defamation if they incur significant financial loss. It was carried over from the Defamation Act 2013 to prevent a legal black hole.

So you should be explicitly amending the Defamation Act 2013, because of implicit repeal, you are repealing the whole of that Act by section 2.
The rest of the Defamation Act 2013 still applies, in fact, it's those same laws that this bill relies on. It's expanding on existing legislation. Just as the Defamation Act 2013 did with the Defamation Act 1952. Sure it changed things here and there and the Defamation Act 1952 isn't in use anymore, but that's how the majority of legislation works, it expands on existing powers and laws.


So 5 isn’t needed and should be in the notes.
Well, it does enshrine it in law.


I would say that your understanding is wrong, because Saying that someone is being investigated doesn’t imply a quality, and truth would still apply. Defamation needs to be false statements made about the person to Impugn their character. Otherwise, it would quite obviously be the case that reporting who’s being investigated would already be covered by the Act.
However Defamation doesn't need to be false statements made about the person to impugn their character. As clearly stated in this law, defamation can involve the release of personal information of those suspected of criminal acts.
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Hardy_Breloom
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I have noticed a typo in the notes in which I used the wrong links for the acts I was linking them to. This will be corrected.
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Ignoring any loopholes that can always be tightened, I dislike 4(a). It effectively puts the decision to report something in the media in the hands of the authorities. If reporting is going to be linked to them releasing details, they need to have clear guidelines for when they can release details. "National interest" is too broad for me to support its usage.

Would defamation laws not already apply?
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Hardy_Breloom
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(Original post by Miss Maddie)
Ignoring any loopholes that can always be tightened, I dislike 4(a). It effectively puts the decision to report something in the media in the hands of the authorities. If reporting is going to be linked to them releasing details, they need to have clear guidelines for when they can release details. "National interest" is too broad for me to support its usage.

Would defamation laws not already apply?
At the moment the press can report that "x has been suspected of y" and defamation laws state that because it is true that it is not defamation. What this bill attempts to do is state that if you release someone's information that they are subject to criminal investigations, that is defamation if it results in financial loss or the simple loss of reputation. Hence, the defence of truth can no longer apply as would be enshrined in law.

With regards to your other point, I'm open to ideas of how to approach this particular challenge. Obviously none of us want the public to be at risk of serial killers and such, but I fear that allowing the CPS to be subject to defamation laws would result in them not releasing information that keeps the public safe. National interest is quite a broad term, included to give the relevant authorities enough scope to act. It's something to think about for the second reading definitely though, I'd love to hear ideas of how to tighten it up.
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Miss Maddie
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(Original post by Hardy_Breloom)
At the moment the press can report that "x has been suspected of y" and defamation laws state that because it is true that it is not defamation. What this bill attempts to do is state if you release someone's information that they are subject to criminal investigations, that is defamation if it results in not only financial loss, but also the simple loss of reputation. Hence, the defence of truth can no longer apply as would be enshrined in law.

With regards to your other point, I'm open to ideas of how to approach this particular challenge. Obviously none of us want the public to be at risk of serial killers and such, but I fear that allowing the CPS to be subject to defamation laws would result in them not releasing information that keeps the public safe. National interest is quite a broad term, included to give the relevant authorities enough scope to act. It's something to think about for the second reading definitely though, I'd love to hear ideas of how to tighten it up.
Would the public be at risk of serial killers? Very rarely are big criminals arrested and the public hear about it from then. Usually they are arrested after extensive media coverage, e.g. Raoul Moat case. I'm not sure I'd want restrictions on reporting identities before any arrest has been made. I feel this nicely leads to a natural definition of public interest. When public interest matters there is extensive media coverage before the arrest is made. When public interest isn't an issue the coverage starts after the arrest (along with the public trial), e.g. when a student is accused of rape. I can't think of any case that can be described as national importance where reporting only started after arrest.

If you want the defamation act to apply, why not amend it to make it apply instead of writing a bill and repealing a section?
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(Original post by Miss Maddie)
Would the public be at risk of serial killers? Very rarely are big criminals arrested and the public hear about it from then. Usually they are arrested after extensive media coverage, e.g. Raoul Moat case. I'm not sure I'd want restrictions on reporting identities before any arrest has been made. I feel this nicely leads to a natural definition of public interest. When public interest matters there is extensive media coverage before the arrest is made. When public interest isn't an issue the coverage starts after the arrest (along with the public trial), e.g. when a student is accused of rape. I can't think of any case that can be described as national importance where reporting only started after arrest.

If you want the defamation act to apply, why not amend it to make it apply instead of writing a bill and repealing a section?
It's mostly for the, albeit rare, cases where a criminal is under investigation and haven't yet been arrested. So that manhunts can take place and the public are aware that there is a potentially dangerous criminal on the loose. When you say that you wouldn't want restrictions on reporting identities before arrests are made, that is exactly what V1467 does. However it doesn't do it effectively in my opinion and depending on who you ask, it works a different way.

This bill, simply, extends defamation of character to include information of suspicion prior to someone's arrest, gives the CPS scope to act in the national interest and repeals V1467 in favour of legislation that better ties into the Anonymity Act 2020.

If we apply some tests.
If a high profile person is accused of rape, it is defamation to report on that.
If someone is suspected of murdering someone, and the evidence is substantial, that information can be released.
If someone is accused of sending a death threat over Twitter to someone on the other side of the country, it is defamation to report on that.
If they are arrested, then they fall under the Anonymity Act, if they fall guilty, then it can be reported on.

What this bill tries to do is provide some level of consistency through the process. Personally, whilst I think it can be tidied up a bit, maybe a new section on what 'National interest' means, closing some loopholes that will probably be found, it's a decent bill.

At the moment, it will just be good to see what people think of the premise.
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