Clause 5. — (Justification.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Defamation (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th June 1952.

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Photo of Mr Harford Hyde Mr Harford Hyde , Belfast North 12:00 am, 27th June 1952

In view of what I have heard, I wish to support the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas). I regret that so few hon. Members on this side of the House should feel as does the hon. and learned Gentleman, but it seems to me that the plea of justification is very important. That this Clause, as the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) put it, does indicate a very dangerous practice. After all, why should a defendant get away with something which is untrue, particularly in the matter of a libel? In a newspaper libel one particular issue may be read by six million or seven million readers. Why should the onus be on the plaintiff to see that his reputation is not smirched?

In the case of slander it is, perhaps, a little different because in most cases of slander proof of special damage is necessary, but, in the case of a libel which has such an enormous circulation as a newspaper libel it seems to me that the onus—as suggested in this Clause— in respect of any matter of libel should not be put on the plaintiff to show that his reputation suffers.