Defamation an Overview
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Issued on 14th October 2010
This article looks at the law of defamation, it's defences and
A defamatory statement is one which tends to lower the
claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society
generally (Sim v Stretch  2 ALL ER 1237 and can be split into two
areas: libel (this is recorded defamatory material) and slander
There are three elements which must be shown in order to bring
a defamation claim:
- A defamatory statement;
- That identifies the claimant (note: this does not have to
by name, in fact a member of a group of people could bring a claim
should they be identifiable);
- Publication to a third party.
If you have been defamed you must bring your claim within one
year of the statement being made(section s4(a) Limitation Act 1980).
The Court does have a degree of discretion in applying the limitation
period however they are usually reluctant to p from it. Recent
case law (Times Newspapers v UK (2009) has provided that every time an
online article is accessed a fresh publication is made, therefore where
a defamatory statement is made online the limitation period is
A reputable publisher / newspaper will contact you with any
"risky" stories they plan to run about you prior to publication
(although in most cases this will be a couple of days maximum) in doing
so they are attempting to bring themselves within the scope of the
Reynolds defence i.e. "responsible journalism". Where a publisher /
newspaper have done so or you have found out about the article some
other way prior to publication then you can consider applying to the
Court for an interlocutory injunction (i.e. preventing the story being
published). Such applications are more often than not turned down, the
basic rule is that if the defendant plans to raise a defence at the
full hearing then the Judge will allow the story to run provided that
the defence has a "realistic prospect of success".
There are a number of defences:
- Justification i.e. the story was true
- Fair Comment (provided "the unmistakeable badge of
- Absolute / Qualified Privilege for example statements made
in the course of parliamentary debate etc
- Qualified Privilege at common law i.e. the 'Reynolds'
"responsible journalism" defence
- Responsibility for publication, quite simply "it wasn't me
- Offer to make amends under sections 2-4 of the Defamation
Where a claim is successful likely remedies include
injunctions from further publication of the material, damages (although
not as much as you would think!) or the publication of an apology.
is a trainee solicitor at Lawdit.
About the Author
Lawdit Solicitors offer services and
advice for litigation, commercial contracts, Intellectual Property and IT legal
agreements. We are experts in commercial law with a heavy emphasis on
Intellectual Property, Internet and e-commerce law. Lawdit is a member of the
International Trademark Association, the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court
Advocates and we are the appointed Solicitors to the largest webdesign
association in the world, the United Kingdom Website Designers Association.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-11-02 12:08:27 in Legal Articles