Extract from You Can’t Read This Book in the Observer
“In Britain, money buys silence. The cost of libel actions in England and Wales is 140 times higher than the European average. If you lose a case, lawyers operating on a no-win, no-fee contract force you to pay damages, your costs, your assailant’s costs, a “success fee” for the victorious lawyers– which doubles their real costs – and a payment to cover insurance bills. In 2010, Lord Justice Jackson added these together and estimated that the costs of civil litigation in England could amount to 10 times the damages the court awarded.
A chill descended on English writing as publishers realised that punitive costs could cripple them. Libel law became the strangest branch of English jurisprudence. It was a law that lawyers hardly ever tested in court. Libel judges had to find other work for much of the year. The overwhelming majority of libel actions never ended in a hearing to determine if a work was true or its opinions fair, but remained hidden from public view. Publishers quietly settled, coughed up and withdrew offending material rather than run the risk of facing extortionate bills.
Beyond these cases of censorship lay the unknowable number of writers and publishers who self-censored. As when you contemplate religious censorship, you must always think of the books that were never written, and the investigations that were never begun, because of the overweening power of money.”