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Resisting SLAPPs: Challenging corporations who weaponise the law

All over the world, businesses are trying – and sometimes succeeding – to stifle their critics with oppressive litigation. What can be done?

Wednesday 16 June 2021
16:00 - 17:30

All over the world, businesses are trying – and sometimes succeeding – to stifle their critics with oppressive litigation. What can be done? 

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are bad faith lawsuits, typically brought by corporations, intended to harass, silence, intimidate, and financially burden their critics. Targets of SLAPPs include claimants in ongoing litigation, journalists, NGOs, academics, and activists.  

SLAPPs can be successfully resisted, as was recently shown by the South African ruling in Mineral Sands Resources v Reddell. There, the court recognised that defamation lawsuits brought by an Australian mining giant against environmental lawyers and activists, were in fact SLAPPs.  

However, despite their chilling effects on protest, direct action, and free speech, both national and international legislation to counter SLAPPs is lacking. This webinar will consider the challenges raised by SLAPPs, the ways in which civil society can combat them, and the need for legal reform. 

Our Panel

Richard Meeran (Moderator) is a Partner and Head of the International Department at Leigh Day. He pioneered UK human rights litigation against multinationals, a field in which he has practiced for the past 27 years, securing landmark judgments and settlements for victims in South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Peru. He has more than 50 published articles in this area and has been a frequent speaker at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights and numerous other international meetings.

Leanne Govindsamy is a human rights lawyer working towards social and environmental justice. As head of the Corporate Accountability and Transparency Programme at the Centre for Environmental Rights, she utilises legal advocacy and other tools to promote and protect constitutional rights and values through corporate accountability and transparency. She has previously served as a law clerk in the South African Constitutional Court, worked at legal NGOs in India, and been head of Legal Investigations for Corruption Watch. She holds an LLB from Wits University and an LLM in International Human Rights Law summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame.  

Charlie Holt works as legal counsel for campaigns at Greenpeace International, where he leads the organisation's SLAPP resilience strategy. Until 2019 his work focused on the US, where he worked on two aggressive large-scale SLAPPs targeting Greenpeace and helped set up the anti-SLAPP coalition Protect the Protest. He is now working on building SLAPP resilience in Europe through the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) and also advises EnglishPEN on UK campaign strategy, including the response to SLAPPs in the UK. Charlie is a member of the Bar of England & Wales and holds an LL.M. degree in international human rights law.  

Gill Phillips is Director of Editorial Legal Services for Guardian. A qualified solicitor, she has worked at various leading news organisations, including the BBC and News Group Newspapers and Times Newspapers, where she advised on defamation, open justice, contempt of court, privacy, and national security. Since joining the Guardian, she has advised on phone-hacking, Wikileaks, the Leveson Inquiry, Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, the HSBC files, and the Panama Papers. She sits as a part-time Employment Tribunal Judge and co-authors the College of Law Employment Law handbook. She is a non-resident fellow of the Centre for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University School of Public Policy and holds an honorary law doctorate from London South Bank University.