Defamation: libel and slander

Defamation: libel and slander

1. You should be on guard against making statements which could be defamatory. A defamatory statement is one which injures the reputation of another person: it “tends to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally1“. 

2. Such a statement constitutes a “libel” if it is: 

  • published (publication, for these purposes, is simply the communication of the defamatory matter to a third person)2; and 
  • in writing, print or some other permanent form. 

3. A statement will amount to a “slander” if it is 

  • published; and 
  • made orally or in some other transient form. 

4. An action for defamation can be brought by: 

  • an individual; 
  • a company, in respect of statements that damage its business reputation. 

5. An action for defamation cannot be brought by a Local Authority2 nor by any other public authority. 

6. Section 1(1) of the 2013 Defamation Act introduced a new test which provides that a statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. This is qualified by s 1(2) in that for the purposes of the section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not “serious harm” unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.

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