Media panel - Feb 14More than one hundred delegates attended the Edge Hill University Law Alumni lecture about the Defamation Act 2013, which opened with an address from the Head of Department of Law and Criminology Professor Francesco Rizzuto and received papers from Paul Tweed and Ursula Smartt. Broadcaster and Edge Hill final year law student Dominic Walker chaired the evening.

Paul Tweed is a partner at Johnsons Solicitors and has represented a number of ‘A list’ celebrities, notably Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Demi Moore. Paul specialises in Libel and Privacy Law and practises in London, Belfast, Dublin and Los Angeles.

Ursula Smartt is an academic lawyer who lectures at the University of Portsmouth and the University of Surrey. Ursula is also the author of ‘Media & Entertainment Law’ (Routledge); the much anticipated second edition will be published in March 2014.

Edge Hill students, together with a number of distinguished journalists, lawyers and broadcasters, heard Ursula give a detailed presentation about the implications of the controversial Defamation Act 2013, which received Royal Assent in April 2013 and came into force in January 2014. Ursula concluded that the new Defamation Act produced a significant number of uncertainties because much of the previous case law will still be relevant.

Paul Tweed expressed concern that the new Act will restrict access to justice for the ordinary man on the street, explaining that the new battle ground is online.

The event Chair Dominic Walker said, “it will be interesting to see how the courts interpret the Defamation Act 2013. I am proud of the fact that we have hosted, what I think, is the first Defamation Act talk in the North West since the new legislation came into force, and to have two distinguished lawyers is really excellent news for those of us with an interest in media law.”

Senior Lecturer in Law Adam Pendlebury said, “at Edge Hill, we pride ourselves as being at the cutting edge of research and to host an event of this nature is hugely beneficial to our students.”

A lively debate followed with questions about libel tourism, internet regulation and the Leveson Inquiry. The Law Alumni Association is planning its inaugural Helena Normanton QC lecture for late 2014.