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True Libel
Can I libel you by telling the truth?
    A defamatory statement either:
    1. lowers the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally (Sim v Stretch (1936)); or
    2. causes him to be shunned or avoided; or
    3. is to a person's discredit (Youssoupoff v MGM (1934)).
  1. Strictly, a libel is a defamatory statement to which there is no defence. A libel is, therefore, a narrower notion than a defamatory statement
  2. Truth (justification) is a complete defence in defamation
  3. It follows that a defamatory statement which is proved to be true is not a libel. It can remain defamatory.
  4. If a statement is held to be:
    1. non-defamatory and false - the court finds against the claimant
    2. non-defamatory and true - the court finds against the claimant. Although if a court finds a statement to be non-defamatory, it would not go on then to investigate its truth.
    3. defamatory and false - the court finds for the claimant *unless* a recognised defence can be proved
    4. defamatory and true - the court finds against the claimant
  5. Thus, if a statement is held to be:
    1. a libel - the court finds for claimant ie: case (c) if no defence can be proved
    2. not a libel - the court finds against claimant case (b) OR
      case (c) if a defence can be proved OR
      case (d)

(Acknowledgments but no responsibility to Laurence Godfrey)
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 The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date.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 The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it.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 208 18 October 2013