Legal Acronyms 101 – SLAPPs

The editorial in the latest Law Society Gazette which is principally about “Wagatha Christie” mentions SLAPPs. I keep seeing this acronym without really know what it is. Apparently it stands for Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation.

This is when the legal system is allegedly manipulated by business to stop legitimate human rights work, to restrict civic space and repress dissenting voices.

SLAPPs are defined as groundless or exaggerated lawsuits brought to intimidate bankrupt or silence activists, journalists or members of a community.

According to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (based in London):

“Most individuals and groups facing SLAPPs (65% of cases) raised concerns about projects in four sectors: mining (108), agriculture and livestock (76), logging and lumber (29), and palm oil (20). “

The European Commission has recently put forward a proposal for an EU law against SLAPPs and debate has increasingly been focused on the role of lawyers.

To what extent can lawyers be held to account for facilitating SLAPPs or pursuing tactics designed to intimidate or harass? To what extent should lawyers be held to account for such conduct?

It will be a while before there’s any EU Directive, but a UK government consultation on the role of SLAPPs closed on 19 May 2022. From the Call for Evidence, I note that the Solicitors Regulation Authority updated its conduct on disputes on 4 March 2022, making reference to SLAPPs
for the first time.

The guidance is aimed at all firms and regulated individuals who conduct litigation and who give dispute resolution and pre-action advice. The SRA identifies SLAPPs as “cases in which the underlying intention is to stifle the reporting or the investigation of serious concerns of corruption or money laundering by
using improper and abusive litigation tactics”.

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