Criminal libel is a legal term, of English origin, which may be used with one of two distinct meanings, in those common law jurisdictions where it is still used.

It is an alternative name for the common law offence which is also known (in order to distinguish it from other offences of libel) as "defamatory libel"[1] or, occasionally, as "criminal defamatory libel".[2][3]

It is also used as a collective term for all offences which consist of the publication of some prohibited matter in a libel (in permanent form), namely defamatory libel, seditious libel, blasphemous libel and obscene libel.[4][5]

The common law offences of seditious libel, defamatory libel, and obscene libel were abolished in England and Wales and Northern Ireland on 12 January 2010 when section 73 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force,[6] blasphemous libel having already been abolished in England and Wales on 8 July 2008 by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 created instead the offence of inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their race or religion.

Samoa's Crimes Act 2013 dropped reference to criminal libel, which had been on the statute books as part of the Crimes Act 1961.[7][8]


  1. ^ Halsbury's Laws of England, 2006 Reissue
  2. ^ "Criminal defamatory libel" is the name it is given by Card, Cross and Jones: Criminal Law, 12th ed, paragraph 8.4 at p 107.
  3. ^ Brian A. Dasinge. [1]. Brian A. Dasinger, P.C.; 2014 [cited 27 February 2014]
  4. ^ The Law Commission, Criminal Libel, Working Paper No 84, 15 January 1982, paragraph 1.2
  5. ^ Halsbury's Laws of England, 2006 Reissue
  6. ^ "Coroners and Justice Act 2009". UK Govt. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
  7. ^ "Govt. instructs AG on Media Council". 7 July 2013. Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  8. ^ Crimes Act 2013[permanent dead link]