Shake the SLAPPs – it’s time to act

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has heightened concerns about SLAPPs – particularly the impact of claims filed by wealthy individuals and corporations that suppress free speech and report on events.

In May 2022, we responded to an emergency call for evidence on SLAPPs of the government.

“Action against SLAPPs is needed to prevent potential abuses of the administration of justice,” said Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce.

To help inform our response to this rapidly evolving issue, we have established a working group with law firms representing both defendants and plaintiffs.

Lawyers are held to the highest professional standards and there are rules in place that deal with improper or abusive litigation.

It is important that we clarify and strengthen the SLAPP rules to level the playing field between parties with different financial resources.

We suggest robust use of:

  • existing civil procedure rules
  • control by justice
  • the handling of cases by the courts, as protracted proceedings inevitably increase costs for both parties

We also suggest limiting the legal costs incurred by SLAPP litigation, for example, by exploring:

  • a compensation fund to help parties with financial resources to bring or defend a case
  • the willingness of the courts to allow compensation costs
  • legal aid opportunities
  • determination of recoverable costs

However, there is no quick fix to this complex problem.

Reforms must strike the right balance between freedom of expression – particularly in relation to the public interest – and the right of businesses and individuals to protect their reputations against false allegations.

Read our full response to the consultation