Insights House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee writes to Ministry of Justice, HM Treasury and DCMS calling for action to tackle the use of strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPPs)


As the Committee reminds us, SLAPPs involve the use or threat of legal action to silence, intimidate or harass critics.

The Committee calls for more action to tackle SLAPPs and support those facing them. Priorities include:

  • SLAPPs to be included in the National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists to provide a mechanism for reporting issues and receiving advice and support;
  • a SLAPPs defence fund, paid for in part by those pursuing SLAPP cases; this could involve using fines levied by the regulator, or enabling a court to order SLAPP claimants to contribute to the defence fund;
  • greater action from the regulator, which the Committee notes has “not provided a sufficient deterrent” against SLAPPs so far;
  • increasing the regulator’s “inadequate” fining powers from £25,000 to £250 million in line with its fining powers for other issues;
  • increasing oversight of the relationship between law firms and “black PR” and private intelligence organisations, which may be used as part of a SLAPP case to monitor and intimidate journalists; and
  • closing money laundering loopholes, which currently have limited application to the payment for legal advice; the Committee notes this is “ironic” as money laundering is itself often a subject of investigative journalism and the illegitimate funding could be used to pay law firms to silence journalists’ investigations into such activities.

The Committee has also called for explanations from the Treasury over how, as reported in the national press, the head of a Russian paramilitary group was granted an official licence to pursue legal action against a UK journalist, despite being subject to official sanctions. To read the Committee’s news release in full and for links to the letters, click here.