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Libel Law (German Refugee's Death)

Volume 344: debated on Wednesday 1 March 1939

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asked the Attorney-General whether his attention has been called to the conduct of certain newspapers, on the occasion of the recent suicide of a German refugee named Helene Stolt, in circulating, without foundation of any kind, a story to the effect that Miss Stolt, had been employed in this country as a Nazi spy, thus causing distress to many people; and whether he will consider introducing amendments to the law so as to enable criminal proceedings for libel to be instituted in respect of such conduct notwithstanding the death of the person whose character is traduced by such departure from the standards of honourable journalism?

As is implied in the question, it is impossible under the law as it stands for relatives or friends of the deceased referred to in the question to take proceedings in respect of the allegations which the hon. and learned Gentleman states are without foundation. While sympathising with those who may be affected in cases of this kind there would be great difficulties in amending the law in the way suggested.