Defamation and Slander Solicitors

What is defamation?

Defamation is when something is said to a third party that seriously damages or is likely to seriously damage the claimant’s reputation or could result in lost business opportunities. 

There are two types of defamation: libel, where the words complained of are in permanent form, such as writing or broadcast on TV and radio or other electronic media, or slander, which is the spoken word.

The primary defences to defamation are truth, honest comment, and privilege.

The legal requirements for proving defamation in court differ depending on the type of defamation, and the threshold of proving serious harm has been caused is reasonably high. 

Truth means that the defendant can show that the words complained of were true or substantially true. Honest comment concerns expressing an opinion on a matter of public interest or concern. Although comment, the statement must be based on facts, not untruths.

What are the defences to libel or slander?

A defence of privilege can be absolute or qualified. Absolute privilege is an absolute defence which covers things like fair, accurate and contemporaneous reports of legal proceedings, statements made in Parliament, statements about criminal behaviour made to the police, and communications between a solicitor and client. This defence can extend to certain professional conduct proceedings.

Qualified privilege is a defence where the defendant had said something that, although untrue, was said when the defendant was acting under some legal, moral or social duty to make the statement, and the person receiving the information had a legitimate interest in receiving it. Examples are statements made in the employment context in disciplinary or performance review procedures, whistleblowing, or statements made by professionals or officials during their duties. A defence of qualified privilege can be overcome by the claimant showing that the defendant was aware of or reckless as to the untruth of the statement or had an improper motive in making it.

Malicious falsehood is where a false statement is made maliciously by the defendant, which either causes or is likely to cause financial loss to the claimant. “Malicious” means that the defendant knew the statement was false or did not care whether it was true. The statement does not have to cause damage to the claimant’s reputation. The claimant has to prove the statement was false, was made maliciously, and caused or was likely to cause financial harm.

Can you unknowingly defame someone?

Yes. The intention of the defendant is typically unimportant. The real question is whether the words would damage one’s reputation and what the typical reader would have understood the words to mean. Being careless with your words can lead to someone being unintentionally defamed. If your republication harms the claimant, you might be liable for merely repeating someone else’s defamatory statement.

Is there a time limit to making a defamation claim?

There is a strict time limit of one year to issue your claim for defamation and commence legal proceedings at court alleging defamation or malicious falsehood, which runs from the date the defamatory material was first published; therefore, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible to remedy any reputational damage that may have been caused. 

What else should I consider before I make a defamation claim?

Be careful when considering a claim, as they can be very expensive to run. A good chance of success is essential, along with the necessary financial arrangements to do so. Such arrangements can include legal expenses insurance, sometimes included within the house and building contents insurance; however, such policies often exclude defamation claims from cover. Another arrangement – the solicitor is willing to act on the claim on a conditional fee agreement (otherwise called “no-win, no-fee”). There are usually time limits to apply for the insurance cover, typically 180 days.

Not every untrue statement gives rise to a viable claim. The damage or potential damage has to be serious, and you will need the financial means to bring a claim. Legal proceedings should always be seen as the last resort. You should consider whether there are other quicker, cheaper and more effective ways of dealing with the problem.

Defamation of character in the workplace.

Consider your own personal situation carefully. If, for example, something damaging was said about you in the employment context, you might be able to bring a grievance or, possibly, an employment tribunal claim if the words complained of amounted to discrimination or harassment against you. Many disputes can be resolved without the need for any legal action, and a solicitor’s letter will often be enough to bring the matter to a satisfactory solution. 

How Pattinson Brewer’s defamation solicitors can help you. 

Bringing a defamation claim is a very complex matter, so you want to be assured that you have the best team fighting for you and maximising your chances of a positive outcome. Our defamation specialist solicitors work with precision, focus and dedication and are uncompromising when it comes to protecting individuals’ rights.

If you believe you have been a victim of defamation or are facing allegations of defamation, or want further legal advice, please complete our Contact Us form at the top of the page or call 0800 069 9060, and a member of our experienced team will be in touch.

  • Get in Touch

    24 Hour Claims Freephone

    0800 069 9060 contact us
    Blank Form (#2)