What is Defamation?

Peter Hastings, Rogers and Norton


With the burgeoning growth of all types of social media, the opportunities for an individual to break the laws of defamation are all too easy, and indeed businesses too. Any comments or statements can be read by thousands of people within minutes, even if they were never meant to be circulated.

Defamation occurs when words or matters are published to a third party containing a false claim or accusation, which could seem to undermine the reputation of individuals or companies.

The aim is to try and redress unjustified injury to the claimant’s reputation and business and can be divided into two areas, slander and libel. Slander is the publication of defamatory words or actions in a temporary form, for example by spoken word. Libel is the publication of defamatory materials in permanent form. The words are given their ordinary and natural meaning to assess whether they would damage the claimant’s reputation.

There must be a specific accusation that causes damage to an identifiable individual when slander is alleged. The statement must cause someone to think less of the individual/individuals to whom it refers.

Libel is not limited to the written word, but could be a statement against a specific individual which would cause someone to think less of the person or people to whom it refers.

Any statement must have caused, or would be likely to cause serious harm to the claimant’s reputation – if this cannot be established then that statement is not deemed to be defamatory.

A claimant has up to a year to bring an action for defamation against the alleged defendant, from the date the material surfaced. The court has the discretion to hear a claim if this period has lapsed, but only in limited circumstances where it is seen as equitable to do so. The individual who is the subject of the defamatory material should seek to bring an action as soon as possible. Although a Protocol should be followed, we have on occasions sought an injunction to protect our client’s interests.

Our litigation team have a wide experience in helping people navigate the complicated world of the libel and slander laws. We have dealt with all aspects of Defamation and Malicious Falsehood. We regularly act at short notice and urgently to protect our clients.

You can contact us at ph@rogers-norton.co.uk or on 01603 675639.

Share this

Gold Patrons & Strategic Partners