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Defamation law - when are the words defamatory


Lawdit Solicitors - Expert Author

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14 August 2009

There is no set definitions of the word defamatory. There are however guidelines to consider if you feel you have been 'defamed':

1. Do the words used lower you in the estimation of right thinking people?

2. Do the words tend to expose you to hatred, contempt or ridicule?

3. Do the words used cause others to shun or avoid you?

There are a plethora of cases that are relevant:

Berkoff v Burchill and Another. In this case it was held that a statement that a person was hideously ugly did not fall into the category of statement that were defamatory by virtue of making people shun/avoid the claimant.

Instead it was held that the words used to describe the claimant could expose him to ridicule and for this reason were held to be defamatory.

If the judge considers that the words are capable of being defamatory then the question of whether they are actually defamatory is decided by a jury.

To do this the jury must look at the statement in a context in its effect on an ordinary reasonable fair minded reader.

For example in the case of Lewis v Daily Telegraph it was held that the words were not defamatory as an ordinary reader would not presume the guilt of the individual simply from reading the story.

It has to be shown that the that the article taken as a whole is defamatory.

Jane Coyle is a trainee solicitor at Lawdit and can be contacted at

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 2009-09-30 12:37:51 in Legal Articles

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