Beckett 20.10.23

Leeds Beckett University lecture to highlight shadowy lawsuit used to silence whistleblowers

A Leeds Beckett University academic is set to shine a light on the shadowy litigation used by the wealthy and powerful to silence journalists and whistleblowers.

Visiting Fellow, Professor Ursula Smartt, will outline how strategic lawsuits against public participation, or Slapps, are used to prevent the reporting of matters of public interest in a guest lecture at the university on Tuesday 14 November.

The talk will cover how law firms often send aggressive, intimidating or threatening correspondence to individuals and businesses. These intimidating claims and letters are not legally valid.

The use of Slapps received international attention after Roman Abramovich sued journalist Catherine Belton over her book Putin’s People in 2021, where she claimed he bought Chelsea Football Club on Vladimir Putin’s orders.

Several Russian tycoons, including Abramovich, took legal action against Belton and her publishers, HarperCollins.

In October, the UK passed its first ‘anti-Slapp’ law, creating an early dismissal process, however this is limited to cases involving economic crime only.

Professor Ursula Smartt is Associate Professor of Law at Northeastern University London and holds a research fellowship at the University of Surrey in media and entertainment law. She is Visiting Fellow at Leeds Beckett University.

She has published extensively in international refereed journals in media and entertainment law, on topics such as regulating online harm, internet libel, privacy and freedom of expression, superinjunctions and court reporting.

This lecture is presented by Leeds Business School and Leeds Law School.

Find out more about the lecture and register for tickets.