Robinson unapologetic on libel law, despite Scientology move

Peter Robinson denied 'blocking' libel reform
Peter Robinson denied 'blocking' libel reform

Peter Robinson has made clear that he does not regret blocking libel reform in Northern Ireland, despite the situation reportedly leading to a major film about Scientology being pulled across the UK.

The Observer has reported that Sky shelved plans to broadcast Going Clear, a controversial exposé of the religious organisation, because of Northern Ireland’s more restrictive free speech laws.

Paul Tweed, the Belfast lawyer who represents chief Scientologist David Miscavige, also has acted for Mr Robinson and has been the main voice arguing against the extension of the 2013 Defamation Act to Northern Ireland.

The act provides protections for journalism which is in the public interest, attempts to address so-called libel tourism and gives unique protections for academics, some of whom have faced spurious libel claims from large corporations whose products they have questioned.

When asked if he regretted blocking libel reform, the First Minister denied that he had “blocked” reform because there has been a consultation about the issue.

Referring to the decision to stop Westminster’s 2013 Defamation Act extending to Northern Ireland, Mr Robinson was unapologetic, saying “that is what devolution is about – you do your own pieces of legislation”.

He claimed there are “publishers and broadcasters who would like to say and do whatever they want and have no consequences for what they say or do” and added: “In some areas, I think there would be a good case for tightening libel laws and defamation laws because there are some people who are totally irresponsible, and I think particularly of social media...”