We understand that some things do not have a price and reputation is one of these. A reputation can take years to build but can be destroyed overnight. If you find yourself in a situation where untruths are made about you or your organisation, you should not sit back and let the reputation you have worked so hard to build be compromised.
Our solicitors are able to provide you with specific advice and support as to the best course of action to adopt that ensures that you achieve a satisfactory outcome to your matter and safeguards your reputation.
In short, defamation is a false statement made by somebody to a third party that damages the reputation of you or your company.
There are two main types: libel and slander. Put briefly, libel covers permanent publications such as written allegations, allegations broadcast on television or radio, and publications on the Internet. Slander refers to spoken words or gestures which are by their very nature of a temporary form.
The key elements in establishing defamation are identification, publication and harm. ‘Identification’ means that the defamatory statement must identify you as the individual or organisation concerned. The statement need not name you specifically, but some form of reference is essential. ‘Publication’ means that the statement must be communicated to at least one other person. This can take many forms such as email, a letter or merely placing something in a public place. In general, the wider the breadth of publication, the stronger the claim is likely to be; however a statement sent to a single recipient can still be defamatory, depending on the context. ‘Harm’ is a term of art and can take a number of forms. The Defamation Act 2013 introduced the threshold test of ‘serious harm’, which must be overcome in order for the claim to progress. What constitutes ‘serious harm’ may vary from case to case, but it general it is necessary to show some financial loss. This area of law is still very much developing.
There are various defences that may be relied upon such as truth, honest opinion, public interest, privilege and consent. Not all of the defences are absolute – some can be overcome by proving malice, ie. that the defendant intended to cause damage to the claimant’s reputation.
Our solicitors will consider the types of defences that may arise in each case, and how to address them.
There is a specific Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation which sets out the procedure which should be followed prior to making a claim. The first step is always to send a formal pre action letter of claim, sometimes known as a ‘cease and desist’ letter. We may be able to agree a fixed fee to prepare this letter for you. A strongly worded letter from a law firm is often enough to see the offending statement retracted. In many cases it is possible to reach a resolution through ‘without prejudice’ negotiations following the initial letter. Where this is not possible, Court proceedings may be necessary to determine the matter. Generally in defamation cases the claim must be brought within one year of the defamatory statement being made. For more information about the procedure of bringing a claim please see our guide on the claim process.
Defamation claims are run in the High Court and costs can rack up quickly. It is always important to consider whether the defendant has sufficient assets to meet an order for costs – there is no point suing a ‘man of straw’. Our solicitors can research the intended defendant’s financial standing and advise accordingly.