HC Deb 17 August 1843 vol 71 cc908-9

The report on the Defamation and Libel Bill was brought up.

On the question, that the amendments be read a second time,

The Attorney-General

rose to set himself right as to the bill. The third clause had been misunderstood, as having for the first time established the fact, that truth was a defence for libel. This was not so, and he wished to explain, that by the law at present, the truth was universally an answer to a prosecution for damages The third clause, therefore, would fetter the offer of truth as a defence in every case, unless some public good were to be obtained by the publication. He therefore, had advocated, not opposed, the liberty of the press.

Mr. Christie

was understood to say, that the omission of the third clause, as long as the ninth clause was retained, would tend to increase the number of criminal prosecutions as truth would no longer be a defence on such prosecutions.

Mr. Roebuck

expressed his astonishment that his hon. and learned Friend (the Attorney-General) had taken any notice of the contemptible observation contained in a contemptible paper.

Mr. Bodkin

suggested, to his hon. Friend (Mr. Christie) that the bill should not be carried forward this Session. He thought the omission of the third clause had injured the bill, and he wished to have it restored; He moved, that the House disagree to the amendment omitting the third clause.

The hon. Member's amendment was negatived, and the omission of the clause agreed to.

The report, with amendments was agreed to, and the bill ordered to be read a third time.

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