Defamation Claims: Protect Your Reputation

Defamation is a legal concept that arises when a person’s or entities’ reputation is unjustifiably harmed. When someone makes a false statement that causes harm to another person’s reputation or business, it can lead to defamation or malicious falsehood claims.

Navigating defamation claims can be intricate, with the outcome of a case hinging on various factors, such as the nature of the statement, the context in which it was made, and the intentions behind it.

Seeking legal counsel is crucial if you believe you have been defamed, as there are strict time limits for initiating a defamation claim. Understanding the nuances of defamation law is essential in safeguarding both the right to free expression and the protection of reputations in today’s interconnected world.

What is defamation?

Defamation is a legal term used to describe a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual or a company. In the United Kingdom, defamation can take two forms: libel and slander.

Libel refers to a false statement published in writing, such as in a newspaper, book, or online. Slander, on the other hand, refers to a false statement that is spoken, broadcast, or otherwise communicated in a non-permanent form.

The main legislation governing defamation in the UK is the Defamation Act 2013.

Under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is defamatory if it has the tendency to cause serious harm to the reputation of the person or organisation it refers to. The Act also sets out the defences that are available to those accused of defamation, such as truth, honest opinion, and public interest.

In addition to the Defamation Act, there are also other laws that protect against defamation in specific contexts, such as the Communications Act 2003, which deals with defamatory statements made over the internet or through social media platforms.

To be considered defamation under UK law, the statement in question must meet certain criteria. First, the statement must be false. If the statement is true, it cannot be considered defamation. Second, the statement must be communicated to a third party. Finally, the statement must have caused or be likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the individual or company being defamed.

If a statement meets these criteria, the individual or company who has been defamed may have elements of a claim. They can then take legal action against the person who made the statement. They may be able to claim damages and seek an injunction to prevent the statement from being repeated in the future.

Legal action for defamation

If someone has made defamatory statements about you or your business, there are several steps you can take to protect your reputation and seek redress. Here are some actions you can consider:

  • Seek legal advice: The first step you should take is to consult with a solicitor who specialises in defamation law. They can advise you on the strength of your case, the likelihood of success, and the options available to you.
  • Consider sending a cease and desist letter: A solicitor can draft a formal letter to the person who made the defamatory statement, demanding that they retract the statement and apologise. This letter can often resolve the matter without the need for further legal action.
  • Consider alternative dispute resolution: In some cases, it may be possible to resolve the matter through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or arbitration. These methods can be quicker and less expensive than going to court.
  • Start legal proceedings at court: If the malicious falsehood is particularly damaging and the person who made them is unwilling to retract or apologise, you may need to take legal action. This can include filing a claim for defamation in court, seeking damages, and an injunction to prevent the further publication of the defamatory statements.

It is important to act quickly if you believe you have been defamed, as there are time limits for taking legal action. A solicitor can advise you on the time limits that apply to your case.

Remedies for defamation

If a business has been defamed, there are several legal remedies available to them under UK common law. These include:

  1. Damages: If a business can prove that they have suffered financial loss as a result of the defamatory statement, they may be able to claim damages. The damages awarded will depend on the severity of the harm caused to the business’s reputation.
  2. Injunction: A business can seek an injunction to prevent the further publication of the defamatory statement. This can be particularly useful if the statement is likely to continue to cause harm to the business’s reputation.
  3. Apology: A business may be able to negotiate an apology from the person who made the defamatory statement. An apology can help to restore the business’s reputation and can be used in evidence in any future legal proceedings.
  4. Retraction: A business may also seek a retraction of the defamatory statement. A retraction is a statement by the person who made the defamatory statement, acknowledging that the statement was false and apologising for any harm caused.
  5. Correction: A business may also seek a correction to the defamatory statement. A correction is a statement by the person who made the defamatory statement, correcting any inaccuracies and clarifying any misunderstandings.

It is important to seek legal advice if your business has been defamed, as there are time limits for taking legal action, and the remedies available will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Pre action protocol for defamation claims encourages early communication of a claim and promotes the prospect of early resolution.

Defence to defamation claims

If someone is accused of defamation, they can defend themselves against the claim. There are several defences available under UK law, including:

  • Truth: If the statement in question is true, it cannot be considered defamatory under absolute privilege.
  • Honest opinion: If the statement is a genuinely held opinion based on facts that are true, then it can be defended on the basis of honest opinion.
  • Publication on a matter of public interest: If the statement is made in the public interest, such as in a news report or investigation, it may be defended on the basis of public interest.
  • Qualified privilege: If the statement was made in the course of a duty or obligation, such as in a court hearing or parliamentary debate, it may be defended on the basis of qualified privilege.
  • Innocent dissemination: If the person who published the defamatory statement did not know or have reason to believe that it was defamatory, they may be able to use the defence of innocent dissemination.

To successfully defend against a defamation claim, the defendant must prove that the statement in question falls under one of these defences. It is important to note that the burden of proof lies with the defendant to prove that their statement was not defamatory rather than with the claimant to prove that it was.

Defamation caselaw examples

Listed below are some recent defamation cases, providing an overview of the circumstances and the outcome of the case.

  1. Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd & Evening Standard Ltd [2019] UKSC 27 – In this case, the Supreme Court clarified the meaning of “serious harm” under the Defamation Act 2013, ruling that a statement is not defamatory unless it has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.
  2. Jack Monroe v Katie Hopkins [2017] EWHC 433 (QB) – In this case, the High Court awarded damages to food blogger Jack Monroe after columnist Katie Hopkins falsely accused Monroe of supporting the vandalisation of war memorials. The Court held that the accusation was defamatory and had caused serious harm to Monroe’s reputation.
  3. Stocker v Stocker [2019] EWCA Civ 821 – In this case, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision to award damages to the claimant after his ex-wife made a series of false allegations about him on social media. The Court held that the allegations were defamatory and had caused serious harm to the claimant’s reputation.
  4. Joe Lycett v The Daily Mail [2020] EWHC 679 (QB) – In this case, comedian Joe Lycett successfully sued The Daily Mail for libel after the newspaper falsely accused him of hypocrisy in relation to a charity fundraising campaign. The High Court awarded Lycett damages and ordered The Daily Mail to publish a correction and apology.

It is worth noting that defamation cases are fact-specific, and the outcome of each case will depend on the individual circumstances.

How can our panel of solicitors assist?

Expert Commercial Law have a panel of defamation and reputation management solicitors on hand to assist in your commercial defamation case. Our panel firms understand the importance of reputation for business success and can help you get justice for untrue, malicious statements.

Our solicitors also help with commercial claims, such as breach of contractpartnership disputesfraud claimsprofessional negligence and CCJ removal

Please note, we are not a firm of solicitors; however, we maintain a panel of trusted and regulated high profile legal experts. If you contact us in relation to a commercial law case, we will pass your case onto a panel firm in return for a fee from our panel firms. We will never charge you for passing on your case to a panel firm. 

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Please note, we are not a firm of solicitors; however, we maintain a panel of trusted and regulated legal experts. If you contact us in relation to a commercial law case, we will pass your case onto a panel firm in return for a fee from our panel firms. We will never charge you for passing on your case to a panel firm. 

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