Inquiry defamation shake-up delayed

Recommendations for reforms of the legal protection given to local
authority inquiries are to be delayed.

Initially due for publication in late summer, the Law Commission’s
findings are now expected in late autumn or winter.

They are expected to call for all council ad hoc inquiry reports to
be given the defence of qualified privilege. This would prevent the
council being sued for defamation as long as the inquiry was
conducted fairly and without malice.

Any changes would have to be endorsed by Lord Chancellor Lord
Irvine and deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Christina Hughes, the project’s manager at the Law Commission, said
some councils had declined to publish findings because their
insurers feared that people named in the reports would sue for

She said: “It doesn’t help local government transparency.”

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