What Is The Law On Defamation And How Can I Prove Defamation Of Character

The purpose of laws surrounding defamation of character is to protect an individual’s reputation. This is bound to be a controversial area from the outset, where issues of Human Rights in relation to another individual’s freedom of speech, (namely Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights) can be raised.

As is the case with most areas of law, the delicate balance, which must be achieved between a person’s reputation on the one hand and another’s right to speak their mind on the other, is no enviable task for judges of our day.

For a defamation claim to succeed in England, three elements first need to be made out:

The words are defamatory

The words refer to the Claimant

The words have been published

We shall now look at each of these in further depth.

The words are defamatory
Whilst there is no concrete definition in law, factors which are considered include deciding if the material lowers the reputation of the Claimant in right thinking members of society, does the defamatory statement causes the Claimant to be shunned or avoided, or exposes the claimant to hatred, ridicule or contempt?
All relevant factors must be considered in this assessment. The word’s ordinary meanings should be considered but also whether or not there are any hidden meanings within the material’s full and rightful context.

The words refer to the Claimant
If the material contains the Claimant’s full name or picture, this element clearly won’t be in dispute. However, often it is the case that nicknames or innuendo’s are used. The courts have decided the general test for whether the material can satisfactorily be made out to refer to the Claimant is
whether a ‘reasonable reader’ – i.e. an average member of society – would make the connection to them.

The words have been published
The legal definition of defamation is the publishing of untrue material that would lower another’s reputation in the eyes of a right thinking member of society.
The word ‘publishing’ immediately brings connotations of something written down. However, this does not have to be so for a claim to succeed. ‘Published’ in this context simply means being transmitted to a third party. The definition of slander, for example, is defamation in a transient form and does not have to have a written element at all. Words will suffice. Similarly, for a claim of libel to succeed, the defamation must be permanent but would still qualify if the defamation took place over the radio or in a theatre, and not in written form.
This being said, the vast majority of defamation claims are a form of libel that is written down, published either on the internet, in a magazine or in the papers. It should be noted that the easier the claim to bring about (i.e. through bringing an action of slander), the higher the burden of proof as the claimant must show that actual (tangible) damage has taken place. This makes sense in order to prevent the court being inundated with an unmanageable volume of claims. Where the words are written down in what constitutes libel, this is no so. The words alone are enough and the claimant does not have to prove any subsequent loss from the defamatory material.

Pinder Reaux & Associates

Business Services News

Read Next


What people say

"We shall, no doubt, be engaging you again soon"

"The matter was concluded very successfully and I’d like to thank John and Wilson again for their helpful and highly professional work earlier this year."

Alex Bailey, Trichromic LLP'

"Great Source of Support"

"You have essentially achieved what we had set out to do. Thank you for all of your assistance in this matter. Throughout this ordeal, you have been a great source of support."

Mary Anne Poutanen, Canada

"I could not have chosen a better firm to represent me."

"You provided the key essentials (and more) for client satisfaction. I am extremely pleased with the services provided by your company and the legal team provided for me. To also turnaround my situation making it a positive outcome, I could not have chosen a better firm to represent me."

Marvyn Smith, London

"I would recomend this service to anyone who has a legal matter"

"I'm so glad I had this advice before my CMD. I was very much prepared and think my company (whom I'm taking to a tribunal) were shocked at my knowledge. I would recommend this service to anyone who has a legal matter."

Jacqueline Stevenson, Bristol

"Can’t wait for another session!"

"John Spyrou kindly offered to provide our publishing firm with an update on libel and defamation law. Those who attended - a mix of veteran editors and those new to the world of journalism - all said how practical and useful they found the training – and now can’t wait for another session!"

Paul Snell, Redactive Media Group

"Highly recommended"

"Alana & Pinder Reaux’s level of service has been exceptionally high. Always keen to help out with the work in an efficient manner. Highly recommended."

Trading Point of Financial Instruments UK Ltd

"Fast and Reliable"

"Fast and reliable notary service for notarisation/legalisation of College reports for foreign office and embassies."

Student Services Department, CATS College London

"One step ahead of the opposition"

"'John Spyrou has the ability to pre-empty arguments and see issues before they arise, thereby allowing him to be one step ahead of the opposition’"

Christopher Bovey, Angelbird Technologies GmbH