Libel Act 1843
|Long title||An Act to amend the Law respecting defamatory Words and Libel.|
|Citation||6 & 7 Vict c 96|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales and Northern Ireland|
|Royal assent||24 August 1843|
|Commencement||1 November 1843|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The Libel Act 1843, commonly known as Lord Campbell's Libel Act, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It enacted several important codifications of and modifications to the common law tort of libel.
- 1 Preamble
- 2 Section 3 - Publishing or threatening to publish a libel, or proposing to abstain from publishing any thing, with intent to extort money, punishable by imprisonment and hard labour
- 3 Section 4 - Publication of libel known to be false
- 4 Section 5 - Publication of libel
- 5 Section 6 - Defence of truth and public benefit against defamatory libel
- 6 Section 7 - Evidence to rebut prima facie case of publication by an agent
- 7 Section 8 - Reimbursement of defence expenses upon acquittal
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The preamble was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1891.
Section 3 - Publishing or threatening to publish a libel, or proposing to abstain from publishing any thing, with intent to extort money, punishable by imprisonment and hard labour
This section was repealed by the Schedule to the Larceny Act 1916.
Section 4 - Publication of libel known to be false
This section formerly provided:
If any person shall maliciously publish any defamatory libel, knowing the same to be false, every such person, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned in the common gaol or house of correction for any term not exceeding two years, and to pay such fine as the court shall award.
See Boaler v R (1888) 21 QBD 284, (1888) 16 Cox 488, (1888) 4 TLR 565
Section 5 - Publication of libel
This section formerly provided:
If any person shall maliciously publish any defamatory libel, every such person, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to fine or imprisonment or both, as the court may award, such imprisonment not to exceed the term of one year.
This section was repealed for England and Wales and Northern Ireland by section 178 of, and Part 2 of Schedule 23 to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The repeal of this section was consequential on the abolition of the common law offence of defamatory libel by section 73(b) of that Act.
Section 6 - Defence of truth and public benefit against defamatory libel
This section allowed the defendant to prove the truth of a libel as a valid defence in criminal proceedings, but only if it also be demonstrated that publication of the libel was to the "Public Benefit". Proving the statement's truth had previously been allowed only in civil libel defences inasmuch as the criminal offence against the public at large was considered to be provoking a breach of peace via printing malicious statements rather than the defamation per se; the truth or falsity of the statement had therefore been considered irrelevant in criminal proceedings before the Act.
Section 7 - Evidence to rebut prima facie case of publication by an agent
In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, this section now reads:
Whensoever [in Northern Ireland], upon the trial of any indictment or information for the publication of a [blasphemous] libel, under the plea of not guilty, evidence shall have been given which shall establish a presumptive case of publication against the defendant by the act of any other person by his authority, it shall be competent to such defendant to prove that such publication was made without his authority, consent, or knowledge, and that the said publication did not arise from want of due care or caution on his part.
Section 8 - Reimbursement of defence expenses upon acquittal
This section was repealed by the Schedule to the Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1908.
Oscar Wilde was bankrupted under this provision when he abandoned his libel prosecution against Lord Queensberry and was ordered to reimburse him for the considerable expenses Queensberry had incurred for legal representation and private detectives.
- The citation of this Act by this short title was authorised by the Short Titles Act 1896.
- See section 10 of the Act and Defamation Act, 1961
- The Libel Act 1843, section 10
- R v Munslow  1 QB 758, 18 Cox 112, 72 LT 301, CCR
- Folkard, Henry Coleman (1908). The Law of Slander and Libel. London: Butterworth & Co. p. 480.
- R v Duffy (1846) 2 Cox 45, (1846) 7 LT (OS) 546, (1846) 6 St Tr (NS) 303
- R v Bradlaugh (1883) 15 Cox 217
- Folkard, Henry Coleman (1908). The law of slander and libel. London: Butterworth & Co. p. 461.