Defamatory statements can be damaging to a person’s livelihood and personally distressing, but you can take action to protect your name.
Whether the incident was verbal or written, such as on Facebook or Twitter, First4lawyers can help. Partly aided by the rise of social media, there was a 23% increase in reported defamation cases in 2014 in the UK, suggesting people are more at risk than ever of their name being brought into disrepute.
Fortunately, the law protects individuals against statements that hurt their reputation. If it has happened to you, you may have a case to sue the person who made a defamatory statement against you for compensation and the prevention of future offences.
First4lawyers can talk you through the process of taking a defamation action against someone, or even defending one should a case be brought against you. Simply contact us and we can discuss your situation.
What is defamation action?
To make a successful claim of defamation against someone, there needs to have been a defamatory statement made against you that has no lawful justification and was published (verbally or written) to a third person.
Lord Atkin described defamation during the case of Sim v Stretch in 1935, when he summed it up as: “a statement which tends to lower the plaintiff in the minds of right-thinking members of society generally, and in particular to cause him to be regarded with feelings of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear and disesteem...”
If you believe the statement made against you and published to a third party has injured your reputation, then you may be able to make a case against them.
However, if the statement was insulting, vulgar, or offensive towards you but did not harm your reputation, then you could find the court would not rule in your favour if you brought a case.
What are the different types of defamation?
If a defamatory statement made against you is announced in a temporary way, such as being spoken in public, then you have suffered a type of defamation known as slander. If, on the other hand, the statement was published in writing – either in print or online – then the person who made the statement may be guilty of a type of defamation known as libel.
In most libel cases, the person responsible for publishing the defamatory statement will be held liable for it. However, there are an increasing number of cases involving defamatory statements published online where the person who wrote the statement is held to account, rather than the person responsible for the website on which it appeared (although the latter does still occur).
If the comment or statement in question does not directly reference you, then you may not be able to make a claim of defamation.
What are the defences to defamation actions?
If a claim of defamation is made against you, there are three defences that will provide a strong position from which to build your case:
- The statement you made was a fair comment, such as an honestly held, non-malicious opinion that was stated in the public interest.
- The statement was justified and you can prove that it holds true.
- The statement was privileged, for example if it was made during parliamentary proceedings, or if you can prove it was made out of a moral or social duty.
The case must be brought within a year of the statement being published. Defamation cases do sometimes go to trial where they can be heard by a jury.
What are the results of defamation actions?
If you are accused of defamation and a judge finds you guilty, you could be ordered to pay damages to compensate the claimant for any suffering they endured. This is known as general damages, but you could also have to pay special damages to compensate for any loss of earnings or potential loss of business suffered by the claimant.
The court will often pass an injunction to prevent the defamatory act from reoccurring, and breaching an injunction can lead to a prison sentence.
I would like to make a claim of defamation – what should I do?
Defamation is a serious allegation to make and it is important that you consider your case carefully before attempting to sue.
By talking to the team of contract and civil litigation solicitors at First4lawyers, you can find out what your chances are of success in court before you act. Likewise, should you want to defend yourself against an allegation of defamation, there are things we can do.
Contact First4lawyers and we will examine the details of your circumstances before advising on the best steps to take towards a successful outcome for you.