Business is hard enough to conduct without somebody concocting lies about your company. In this article, our solicitors have outlined the basics of defamation and what criteria you’ll need to have in order to have a case.
Our solicitors can use their experience to assist you in defending the reputation of your business when somebody has made a statement or allegation that has the potential to affect your reputation.
Conversely, if you have been accused of a defamatory statement that you stand by, we can advise as to how best to defend these claims. Should you have any concerns regarding some content that could possibly be regarded as contentious Alston Asquith are able to advise on how to correctly word statements to avoid any possible action.
What is defamation?
Defamation can either be in the form of libel (written and/or lasting material, such as newspaper articles or posts on social media) or slander (words or gestures), both of which relate to material that has or is likely to have a detrimental effect to the reputation of a company.
What is required for a statement to be defamatory?
The statement must have been published by a third party. In cases of libel, this includes newspaper articles, social media posts, extracts in books. In cases of slander, publication means spoken words.
In order to be defamatory, a statement must have caused or be likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the person defamed.
If it is a business that was defamed, it must show that the statement has caused or is likely to cause serious financial loss.
It is for the person/business defamed to prove that the statement complained of did was in fact about them. If they are not expressly named, the Court would consider whether a reasonable person would understand the statement to refer to that person/business.
What might I achieve if I issue a claim for defamation?
There are various remedies available to a defamed person, including:
- Damages i.e. compensation;
- An order to remove the defamatory statement and cease publication; and
- An injunction.
The remedy sought will depend on the facts of the case.
What if the person/business that made the defamatory statement tells me that it was made in error?
A statutory procedure, namely an ‘offer of amends’ is available to a person/business that has innocently and in error made a defamatory comment. This means that they must admit in writing that the statement was defamatory and offer to provide an apology and correction. This might include an agreement to pay compensation and legal costs.
Are there any defences to defamation claims?
There are a number of possible defences that may be raised, including the following:
If the statement is true, the statement will not be defamatory.
If the statement was one of opinion, it indicated that it was indeed an opinion and an honest person would have held that opinion on the circumstances, the person/business that made the statement may indeed succeed in a defence of an honest opinion.
The maker of a defamatory statement may succeed in this defence if they can show that the statement made was one of public interest and that it was a matter of public interest to publish it.
How long do I have to issue a claim for defamation?
You have one year from the date of publication to issue a claim. It is essential therefore that you act quickly.
What should I do if a defamatory statement has been made against me, or if I have been accused of making such a statement?
Should you think that you or your business have been a victim of defamation then we strongly advise that you speak to us for further advice. Our solicitors are experts in defamation matters and once we have all the facts we will be able to determine whether you have a case.
Do you have a defamation dispute that you’d like to discuss with the team? We have offices in London and Hertfordshire and can arrange a call to provide some initial advice.
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Other areas of practice
Defamation on Social Media and Online