What Is Defamation Of Character?

by | Aug 25 2021 | Criminal Defence

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In the UK, both “slander” and “libel” are legal terms that fall under the more encompassing term of defamation of character. Slander describes an individual who uses words as a form of defamation, and libel is a form of written defamation. Below, our team details the legal definition of defamation and clearly explains what you are required to prove to bring a successful claim.

If you are looking to start or defend a defamation case, look no further. We can help you today, give us a call on 020 3795 9020.

Defamation of character lawyers - man who has just undergone defamation - LGBT Lawyers

What Is Defamation of Character?

Defamation of character is a false statement that someone publishes as a statement of fact about you. For the defamation to occur, the statement has to either: 

  • Harm your personal reputation 
  • Harm your professional career
  • Cause financial damages
  • Cause emotion distress

It is important to note that a statement of someone’s opinion is not defamatory unless presented as factual. For example: 

  • Statement one: Jenny made a statement that said, “In my opinion, Borris Johnson is a fraud” 

Statement one is a protected opinion. The courts cannot hinder public speech, even with controversial subjects. Therefore, opinions are protected and are not a form of defamation. 

  • Statment two: Henry made the statement, “Borris Johson is a fraud.” 

The courts can class statement two as defamation as there is no indication of Henry’s statement being his opinion rather than fact. 

What is the difference between slander and libel?

The two primary forms of defamation of character are slander and libel. Below, we have explained the terms and how they differ.

Slander is where an individual makes verbal defamatory comments or makes remarks to an individual through: 

  • Photographs
  • Drawings 
  • Cartoons

Libel is used to describe the untruths that are broadcast in publications. Typically, publications can include:

  • Magazines
  • Websites
  • Emails
  • Books 
  • Newspapers 

It is important to note, the list is not exhaustive and may include other forms of publications. 

What do defamation claimants need to prove?

It’s important to note that if a false statement turns out to be true, your defamation of character claim will be unsuccessful, no matter how bad the statement is.

When it comes to defamation cases, an individual must prove the following three things: 

  • An individual falsely made the statement.
  • A person knowingly or recklessly created the statement. 
  • The person published the information.

If you can prove the three points listed above, a court may presume that you have suffered damages without any showing of harm, and you may be able to receive compensation for the losses.

Another type of claim an individual can make when being subject to defamation is punitive damages. Punitive damages essentially intends to make an example of the person who made the statement. If you wish to recover “punitive damages,” you will need to prove that the defamation was malicious, which can be challenging to prove in court. 

Here at LGBT Lawyers, we can help connect you to an expert Defamation lawyer. Just give us a quick call on 020 3795 9020.

Can it be more difficult for a celebrity to claim defamation of character? 

In short, yes.

The courts in the UK will presume that as you are in the public eye, it is more likely that individuals will make opinion orientated statements about you. Therefore, if you are a public figure (such as a politician, member of local government or celebrity), you must prove that actual malice occurred when the person created the statement. 

Typically, people who make themselves in the public domain are more likely to be targeted to questionable statements, and it is hard for them to prove a defamation claim. 

Are there any defences to defamation?

In court, an individual can use the following types of defences in a defamation of character case: 

  • Truth 

If the statement contains accurate information and some false aspects, the court will assess if the incorrect part of the statement is harmful. If the court finds that the false information contained in the statement is not harmful, then the defence of “truth” may be used as a defence. 

  • Honest Opinion

If it is reasonable that the publisher held the opinion based on facts available, the defence of honest opinion can apply.

  • Absolute privilege 

Some publications are an absolute privilege. The courts excuse these types of statements from being defamatory. These include judge’s rulings during legal proceedings and comments by Members of Parliament who engage in parliamentary debates.

  • Publication on a matter of public interest

A common defence used against defamation proceedings is arguing that the statement published contained information concerning the matter of public interest. If a lawyer can prove that the publisher publicised the information to satisfy the public interest, it can act as a strong defence against defamation proceedings. 

  • Qualified Privilege 

Qualified privilege could offer protection to a publisher of a statement if they had a legal or moral obligation when making the publication to another party.

How do you make defamation of character claims? 

It is important to note that if you wish to start a defamation case, you must bring the claim within one year of the offender publishing the statement.

Typically, to begin a defamation of character claim, you would use the Pre Action Protocol for Media & Communication Claims. There are specific processes and rules about where to start these claims, and only the High Court has sufficient sentencing powers to deal with defamation claims. 

If your legal matter is not suitable for a libel claim, you can stop internet users from finding unwanted/untrue information about you using a right to be forgotten service. 

You should always seek the advice of a lawyer when claiming defamation of character, as a lawyer can advise you on the strength of your case and give you the best chance of success. 

How can a lawyer help?

It can be distressing when a claim is made against you through libel or slander with the intent of unjustly harming your reputation. That’s why we always advise taking swift action in addressing defamation. 

Here at LGBT Lawyers, we can connect you to a lawyer who specialises in defamation of character cases, and who will work alongside you, clear your name, rectify your reputation and help you to receive adequate compensation. 

Are you looking a defamation lawyer?

Whether you wish to bring or defend a defamation of character claim, we can help.

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