Less of an Ass

PARIS – “If the law supposes that,” says Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, “the law is a ass – a idiot.” For decades, Britain’s libel laws had been living down to Mr. Bumble’s expectations. But freedom of expression worldwide received a boost – and Britain’s reputation for commonsense was somewhat restored – in April, when Parliament adopted legislation revising the country’s libel law.

Previously, corporations and individuals all over the world who claimed that they had been defamed – even if those suing or those who allegedly defamed them had little or no connection to the United Kingdom – would bring lawsuits for libel in the British courts. The practice was widely known as “libel tourism.”