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Libel and Registration Act 1881

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This is the original version (as it was originally enacted).

Libel and Registration Act 1881

1881 CHAPTER 60

An Act to amend the Law of Newspaper Libel, and to provide for the Registration of Newspaper Proprietors.

[27th August 1881]

Be it enactedby the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows :

1Interpretation

In the construction of this Act, unless there is anything in the subject or context repugnant thereto, the several words and phrases herein-after mentioned shall have and include the meanings following; (that is to say,) The word " registrar" shall mean in England the registrar for the time being of joint stock companies, or such person as the Board of Trade may for the time being authorise in that behalf, and in Ireland the assistant registrar for the time being of joint stock companies for Ireland, or such person as the Board of Trade may for the time being authorise in that behalf. The phrase " registry office " shall mean the principal office for the time being of the registrar in England or Ireland, as the case may be, or such other office as the Board of Trade may from time to time appoint. . The word " newspaper " shall mean any paper containing public news, intelligence, or occurrences, or any remarks or observations therein printed for sale, and published in England or Ireland periodically, or in parts or numbers at intervals not exceeding twenty-six days between the publication of any two such papers, parts, or numbers. Also any paper printed in order to be dispersed, and made public weekly or oftener, or at intervals not exceeding twenty-six days, containing only or principally advertisements. The word "occupation" when applied to any person shall mean his trade or following, and if none, then his rank or usual title, as esquire, gentleman. The phrase "place of residence" shall include the street, square, or place where the person to whom it refers shall reside, and the number (if any) or other designation of the house in which he shall so reside. The word " proprietor " shall mean and include as well the sole proprietor of any newspaper, as also in the, case of a divided proprietorship the persons who, as partners or otherwise, represent and are responsible for any share or interest in the newspaper as between themselves and the persons in like manner representing or responsible for the other shares or interests therein, and no other person.

2Newspaper reports of certain meetings privileged

Any report published in any newspaper of the proceedings of a public meeting shall be privileged, if such meeting was lawfully convened for a lawful purpose and open to the public, and if such report was fair and accurate, and published without malice, and if the publication of the matter complained of was for the public benefit; provided always, that the protection intended to be afforded by this section shall not be available as a defence in any proceeding, if the plaintiff or prosecutor can show that the defendant has refused to insert in the newspaper in which the report containing the matter complained of appeared a reasonable letter or statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of such plaintiff or prosecutor.

3No prosecution for newspaper libel without fiat of Attorney General

No criminal prosecution shall be commenced against any proprietor, publisher, editor, or any person responsible for the publication of a newspaper for any libel published therein, without the written fiat or allowance of the Director of Public Prosecutions in England or Her Majesty's Attorney General in Ireland being first had and obtained.

4Inquiry by court of summary jurisdiction as to libel being for public benefit or being true

A court of summary jurisdiction, upon the hearing of a charge against a proprietor, publisher, or editor, or any person responsible for the publication of a newspaper, for a libel published therein, may receive evidence as to the publication being for the public benefit, and as to the matters charged in the libel being true, and as to the report being fair and accurate, and published without malice, and as to any matter which under this or any other Act, or otherwise, might be given in evidence by way of defence by the person charged on his trial on indictment, and the court, if of opinion after hearing such evidence that there is a strong or probable presumption that the jury on the trial would acquit the person charged, may dismiss the case.

5Provision as to summary conviction for libel

If a court of summary jurisdiction upon the hearing of a charge against a proprietor, publisher, editor, or any person responsible for the publication of a newspaper for a libel published therein is of opinion that though the person charged is shown to have been guilty the libel was of a trivial character, and that the offence may be adequately punished by virtue of the powers of this section, the court shall cause the charge to be reduced into writing and read to the person charged, and then address a question to him to the following effect: "Do you desire to be tried by a jury or do you consent to the case being dealt with summarily and, if such person assents to the case being dealt with summarily, the court may summarily convict him and adjudge him to pay a fine not exceeding fifty pounds. Section twenty-seven of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879, shall, so far as is consistent with the tenor thereof, apply to every such proceeding as if it were herein enacted and extended to Ireland, and as if the Summary Jurisdiction Acts were therein referred to instead of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1848.

622 & 23 Vict. c.17 made applicable to this Act

Every libel or alleged libel, and every offence under this Act, shall be deemed to be an offence within and subject to the provisions of the Act of the session of the twenty-second and twenty-third years of the reign of Her present Majesty, chapter seventeen, intituled "An Act to prevent vexatious indictments for certain misdemeanors."

7Board of Trade may authorise registration of the names of only a portion of the proprietors of a newspaper

Where, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, inconvenience would arise or be caused in any case from the registry of the names of all the proprietors of the newspaper (either owing to minority, coverture, absence from the United Kingdom, minute subdivision of shares, or other special circumstances), it shall be lawful for the Board of Trade to authorise the registration of such newspaper in the name or names of some one or more responsible " representative proprietors."

8Register of newspaper proprietors to be established

A register of the proprietors of newspapers as defined by this Act shall be established under the superintendence of the registrar.

9Annual returns to be made

It shall be the duty of the printers and publishers for the time being of every newspaper to make or cause to be made to the Registry Office on or before the thirty-first of July one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one, and thereafter annually in the month of July in every year, a return of the following particulars according to the Schedule A. hereunto annexed; that is to say,

(a)The title of a newspaper:

(b)The names of all the proprietors of such newspaper together with their respective occupations, places of business (if any), and places of residence.

10Penalty for omission to make annual returns

If within the further period of one month after the time herein-before appointed for the making of any return as to any newspaper such return be not made, then each printer and publisher of such newspaper shall, on conviction thereof, be liable to a penalty not exceeding twenty-five pounds, and also to be directed by a summary order to make a return within a specified time.

11Power to party to make return

Any party to a transfer or transmission of or dealing with any share of or interest in any newspaper whereby any person ceases to be a proprietor or any new proprietor is introduced may at any time make or cause to be made to the Registry Office a return according to the Schedule B. hereunto annexed and containing the particulars therein set forth.

12Penalty for wilful misrepresentation in or omission from return

If any person shall knowingly and wilfully make or cause to be made any return by this Act required or permitted to be made in which shall be inserted or set forth the name of any person as a proprietor of a newspaper who shall not be a proprietor thereof, or in which there shall be any misrepresentation, or from which there shall be any omission in respect of any of the particulars by this Act required to be contained therein whereby such return shall be misleading, or if any proprietor of a newspaper shall knowingly and wilfully permit any such return to be made which shall be misleading as to any of the particulars with reference to his own name, occupation, place of business (if any), or place of resideuce, then and in every such case every such offender being convicted thereof shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding one hundred pounds.

13Registrar to enter returns in register

It shall be the duty of the registrar and he is hereby required forthwith to register every return made in conformity with the provisions of this Act in a book to be kept for that purpose at the Registry Office and called " the register of newspaper proprietors," and all persons shall be at liberty to search and inspect the said book from time to time during the hours of business at the Registry Office, and any person may require a copy of any entry in or an extract from the book to be certified by the registrar or his deputy for the time being or under the official seal of the registrar.

14Fees payable for registrar's services

There shall he paid in respect of the receipt and entry of returns made in conformity with the provisions of this Act, and for the inspection of the register of newspaper proprietors, and for certified copies of any entry therein, and in respect of any other services to be performed by the registrar, such fees (if any) as the Board of Trade with the approval of the Treasury may direct and as they shall deem requisite to defray as well the additional expenses of the Registry Office caused by the provisions of this Act, as also the further remunerations and salaries (if any) of the registrar, and of any other persons employed under him in the execution of this Act, and such fees shall be dealt with as the Treasury may direct.

15Copies of entries in and extracts from register to be evidence

Every copy of an entry in or extract from the register of newspaper proprietors, purporting to be certified by the registrar or his deputy for the time being, or under the official seal of the registrar, shall be received as conclusive evidence of the contents of the said register of newspaper proprietors, so far as the same appear in such copy or extract without proof of the signature thereto or of the seal of office affixed thereto, and every such certified copy or extract shall in all proceedings, civil or criminal, be accepted as sufficient prima facie evidence of all the matters and things thereby appearing, unless and until the contrary thereof be shown.

16Recovery of penalties and enforcement of orders

All penalties under this Act may be recovered before a court of summary jurisdiction in manner provided by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts. Summary orders under this Act may be made by a court of summary jurisdiction, and enforced in manner provided by section thirty-four of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879; and, for the purposes of this Act, that section shall be deemed to apply to Ireland in the same manner as if it were re-enacted in this Act.

17Definitions

The expression " a court of summary jurisdiction " has in England the meanings assigned to it by the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879; and in Ireland means any justice or justices of the peace, stipendiary or other magistrate or magistrates, having jurisdiction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts. The expression " Summary Jurisdiction Acts" has as regards England the meanings assigned to it by the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1879; and as regards Ireland, means within the police district of Dublin metropolis the Acts regulating the powers and duties of justices of the peace for such district, or of the police of that district, and elsewhere in Ireland the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, and any Act amending the same.

18Provisions as to registration of newspaper proprietors not to apply to newspaper belonging to a joint stock company

The provisions as to the registration of newspaper proprietors contained in this Act shall not apply to the case of any newspaper which belongs to a joint stock company duly incorporated under and subject to the provisions of the Companies Acts, 1862 to 1879.

19Act not to extend to Scotland

This Act shall not extend to Scotland.

20Short title

This Act may for all purposes be cited as the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act, 1881.

Schedules to which this Act refers

Schedule AReturn made pursuant to the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act, 1881

Title of the Newspaper.Names of the Proprietors.Occupations of the Proprietors.Places of business (if any) of the Proprietors.Places of Residence of the Proprietors.

Schedule BReturn made pursuant to the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act, 1881

Title of Newspaper.Names of Persons who cease to be Proprietors.Names of persons who become Proprietors.Occupation of new Proprietors.Places of business (if any) of new Proprietors.Places of Residence of new Proprietors.

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