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Libel or price of Carter-Ruck a crime?

by on 26 Jun, 2008

I had to dip into one of the bibles of libel, Carter-Ruck on Libel and Slander, today and got quite a shock. “Libel is a crime,” he writes.

It must be one of the shortest sentences in all of the 737 pages of his book. I knew libel as a civil action: and knew of the 1840s Criminal Libel Act. But “libel is a crime” really hit me.

Indeed it is a crime. The 1843 Act has not been appealed. Lord Scarman, who was known for his liberality, said a criminal libel is “a grave, not a trivial libel”.

And there follows in Carter-Ruck’s book a chapter on blasphemous, seditious or obscene libel.

Surely time for all of these to be off the statute book.

Perhaps the most annoying aspect is that I had to pay for this book twice. I left a copy on a plane. Second hand copies are currently knocking out at £237 for the fifth edition. That price is a crime.

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