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Defamation - General and Links

The law of defamation is complex. Rely upon nothing you read here without first taking direct advice on your particular problem. Having said that anyone can be a fully fledged expert on defamation. You need only know to 'Just say No.' Neither encourage actions against you, nor, ever, under whatever provocation, begin a libel action.

Defamation protects reputation, no more. Words are defamatory if they tend to reduce the reputation of the claimant in the minds of right thinking members of the public. Words are frequently both defamatory and true.

A claimant must show that :

  1. Defamatory words (in the relevant and particular context)
  2. were published (i.e. somebody other than the claimant and the defendant saw the words, and
  3. they caused damage to reputation. The claimant must have a reputation which can be damaged. This can limit claims by companies, larger groups, and public authorities in different ways. Sometimes private individuals can have no reputation capable of protection - which is why newspapers can have a field day against somebody who has been convicted of any serious offence.

A defendant may, by way of answer, establish that:

  1. one of the essential elements is absent; or
  2. the defamatory words are true. This is the atom bomb defence. Whichever wins, claimant or respondent, takes all; or
  3. some other (several possibilities) reason protects the publication in law. This may be some form, of privilege, or innocence.
  4. a suitable offer of amends has been made

There are two sub-species of defamation, libel and slander. Libel is when the defamation is written down (including most particularly electronically), and slander is when the incident relates to words spoken.

In general, mere abuse is not defamatory, but it can take a clever person to insult another without straying over the line into defamation. The better the insult, the closer to the edge.


Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 145 18 October 2013