I’m treading carefully here, because Scotland’s fifth largest local authority has already shown itself to be quite touchy over this matter.
However, the question posed (and emphatically answered) by Indymedia Scotland is whether South Lanarkshire Council‘s actions in threatening to take Douglas Community Council to court over allegedly defamatory statements re-posted by them online amount to bullying and/or a stifling of the right to free speech? The two bodies have fallen out over open-cast coal mining in the area, and things are now approaching the writ-serving stage.
But, come on now, if accusing local authority officers of lying is really actionable then who among us does not also belong on the receiving end of a defamation action?
Sounds like a pretty clear case for absolvitor if you’ll pardon my saying so: see Derbyshire CC v Times Newspapers Ltd  UKHL 6 (18 February 1993) . In holding that a local authority had no right to sue for defamation, the House of Lords said “It is of the highest public importance that a democratically elected
governmental body, or indeed any governmental body, should be open to
uninhibited public criticism. The threat of a civil action for defamation must
inevitably have an inhibiting effect on freedom of speech. ” Quite right too.
Thank you very much for that insight, Jonathan. I am pleased to hear that the law takes such a dim view of such tactics. I wonder who’s been advising SLC?
PS. Good luck in the Blawggies!
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