Libel Claims: Protect your Reputation

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What is libel?

Libel falls under the civil law area of defamation claims. Libel refers to a form of defamation that involves making false statements or representations about an individual or entity that could harm their reputation. A person may make a libel claim on account of the distress caused by initiating the false statement.

Defamation, in general, is the communication of a false statement that damages the reputation of another person and exposes them to hatred, contempt, or ridicule. Libel specifically applies to defamatory allegations and statements that are made in a permanent form, such as in writing, print, or pictures, as opposed to spoken word defamation, which is known as slander. Both defamation and libel are different and separate to someone providing their honest opinion.

Governed by the Defamation Act 2013, though supplemented by common law too, this area of the law aims to restore business reputations/individual reputations which have been damaged by a defamatory statement. 

The merits of a libel claims will be assessed upon whether the statement is likely to lower the individual in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally, as the court held in Sim v Stretch [1936].

Libel claims examples

Libel Claims can arise in a variety of scenarios but common defamatory statements can include: 

  • The spreading of a false rumour regarding a person, and publishing the statement on social media.
  • An online publication making violent threats to a rival company.
  • An online review stating defamatory information which has meant that others do not use the service.
  • Using an online platform to accuse a business rival of something untrue.

Proving libel claims

When a claimant brings a claim for defamation, they must satisfy the requirements to have merit to their argument. 

Firstly, they must show a defamatory publication or libellous statement. The claim must be brought within one year of publication of this statement. 

Then, the words complained must reference the claimant. The exact name of the claimant is not necessary to satisfy this requirement, though a phrase must link the claimant to the statement e.g. the claimant’s job title. 

Finally, the statement in question must satisfy the libel requirements and it must have caused harm to the reputation of the claimant.  

As libel is a civil tort of strict liability, intention or negligence are not a necessary element of the defendant’s actions. Instead, the claimant must prove the aforementioned requirements.  

The process of making a claim for libel

Identify the libellous statement

  • Gather evidence: Collect all materials (e.g., articles, posts, emails) containing the alleged defamatory statements.

Assess the viability of the claim

  • Defamatory nature: Ensure the statement is defamatory, meaning it causes or is likely to cause serious harm to your reputation. For businesses, it must cause or be likely to cause serious financial loss.
  • Falsity: Prove that the statement is false.
  • Publication: Show that the statement was published to a third party.
  • Identification: Confirm that the statement refers to you specifically.
  • Serious harm: Demonstrate serious harm to your reputation, as required by the Defamation Act 2013.

Consult with a solicitor

  • Initial Consultation: Discuss the details of your case, present your evidence, and get an assessment of your legal options.

Pre-Action Protocol

  • Letter of Claim: Send a formal letter of claim to the defendant outlining your complaint and giving them a chance to respond. This letter should include:

The defamatory statement

Why it is defamatory

The harm it has caused

The remedy you are seeking (e.g., an apology, damages, retraction)

  • Response: The defendant has 14 days to respond, although this period can be extended in complex cases.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

  • Negotiation or Mediation: Attempt to resolve the issue out of court through negotiation or mediation.

Issuing proceedings

  • Drafting the Claim Form and Particulars of Claim: If the issue cannot be resolved, your lawyer will draft a claim form and particulars of claim, detailing your case.
  • Filing the Claim: File the claim form and particulars of claim with the High Court.
  • Service of Process: Serve the claim on the defendant, notifying them of the lawsuit.


  • Acknowledgment of Service: The defendant must acknowledge service within 14 days.
  • Filing a Defence: The defendant has 28 days from the service of the particulars of claim to file a defence.

Case management

  • Case Management Conference: The court will hold a case management conference to set a timetable for the case and address preliminary issues.
  • Disclosure and Evidence: Both parties disclose documents and exchange witness statements.

Trial Preparation

  • Preparation: Prepare for trial by gathering evidence, identifying witnesses, and developing legal arguments.


  • Court Proceedings: Present the case before a judge. This includes opening statements, witness testimonies, cross-examinations, and closing arguments.
  • Judgment: The judge delivers a judgment. If the judgment is in your favour, the court may award damages and possibly issue an injunction to prevent further publication.


  • Appeals: Either party may appeal the decision if they believe there was an error in the trial process.
  • Enforcement of Judgment: If you win, you may need to take steps to collect any awarded damages.


Remedies to libel claims

If you are successful in your claim for libel, the court can order varying remedies, depending on the facts of the matter. Remedies may include: 

Posting a summary of what the court held

If the court find a statement to be libel, they can order the defendant to publish the final judgement of the court. In doing so, they will effectively discharge their previous statement. 

An order to remove the statement

Once a court find a statement to be defamatory in nature, they can simply order the defendant to remove the statement from the platform in which they posted it on.  


If the court deem it necessary, they can order an interim injunction which bans the defendant from publishing any further libellous statements. Breach of an injunction carries its own remedies. 

Offers of amends

When a defendant is not prepared to defend their statement, the court can order the defendant to publicly offer their amends to the claimant. Under the regime set out in ss. 2-4 Defamation Act 1996, the offer of amends must be 1) a suitable correction of their statement and an apology 2) published reasonably and 3) the payment of compensation and costs must be agreed by the court. 

This remedy is only available prior to the service of the Defence.  


When a claimant has suffered financial loss, they can receive compensatory damages for the effect on their reputation and the humiliation attached. Aggravated damages can be awarded if the damage was severe. Unlike in personal injury, special damages for specific losses are rare, though they can be awarded in some cases. Furthermore, a defendant may face exemplary damages as a punishment for their libel. 

Defences to libel claims

Contrastingly, if you are a defendant in a libel case, you can bring a range of defences.

 For example, a defendant could argue that: 

  • The statement was true.
  • The statement was on a matter of public interest.
  • The statement has not caused the claimant reputational harm.
  • The statement was agreed to by the claimant.
  • The statement was protected by absolute privilege e.g. court proceedings, parliamentary debates.
  • Their statement was protected by qualified privilege.

 A defendant’s statement is protected by qualified privilege if the defendant had a duty to communicate the statement to the third party. Additionally, it can apply if the defendant and the third party both have a reason for the statement to be communicated. The Defamation Act 2013 covers the specifics of this area, so you can contact one of our panel if you require further guidance.

Comparing libel and slander

Libel and slander both fall under the category of defamation. Though, there are some small differences between the two. For example, slander can be oral e.g. spoken on television whereas libel must be published in writing e.g. on social media. Another way to distinguish them is through their permanence, as slander can be seen as a temporary form of libel. 

How can a solicitor from our panel can help?

If reputation management is a priority for you, and a defamatory statement has been made by another party, Expert Commercial Law have a panel of specialist defamation solicitors who can be relied upon to advise and act upon your libel claim. 

Firstly, your solicitor can assess the merits of any claim. This will provide you with an idea for the likelihood of success. Once this assessment has been completed, they can advise on the best course of action for the matter. Following the making of an application to the court, your solicitor can represent you at a hearing. They can be trusted to prepare the necessary evidence, documentation, and statements for the hearing. 

It is always beneficial to employ an expert solicitor to handle your libel claim due to their knowledge in the area. This knowledge equips them with the skills to act effectively on your matter. 

Alongside libel claims, our solicitors can assist on a variety of commercial issues, such as breach of contract claims and fraud law claims.  

 To find out more about how we can help, please schedule your free consultation via the chat facility.

 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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