Libel Act

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Charles James Fox (1749—1806) politician

Earl of Chatham William Pitt (1708—1778) prime minister

William Pitt (1759—1806) prime minister


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Prior to 1792 the jury in a libel case only had power to determine the facts of publication and was not permitted to decide whether the matter in question was libellous—that decision being reserved to the judge. In May 1791 Charles Fox argued that civil liberty would be safeguarded by extending the jury's competence to the whole question of libel. The measure was not opposed by the prime minister, William Pitt, and duly became law the following year.

Subjects: British History.

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