Defamation, libel and slander

In a world where news travels fast and social media and online publications are used by the vast majority of the population, the risk to privacy and reputation increases day by day. If you are concerned about defamatory, offensive statements being published about you which are causing you serious harm, it is important you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

What is defamation?

Defamation is the publication of a statement about an individual or company which has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the subject’s reputation. The defamatory publication will either be a libel or a slander.

  • Libel: relates to a permanent, written publication including newspaper and magazine articles or material published online
  • Slander: relates to statements made orally.

Can I sue for defamation?

Yes. The Defamation Act 2013 sets out the requirements for a claim for defamation.

The remedies include an apology, an order for removal of the defamatory content, an order to cease and desist (requiring the publisher to refrain from publishing further content) or further injunctive relief.

It is possible to sue for damages but it is important to show the defamation has caused financial loss. If successful in a claim, you may also be able to recover a proportion of your legal costs from your opponent.

Alternative claims to consider include malicious falsehood or negligent misstatement.

What is a cease and desist notice?

A cease and desist notice is a letter that requests that an individual or company to stop a specified action and refrain from doing it in the future, with a threat of legal action if the recipient fails to comply, which action would include applying to the Court for injunctive relief or damages. In the event the defamatory material continues to be published, this correspondence serves as pre-action correspondence before you commence proceedings.

The defamatory statement has caused me serious harm

The key element of a defamation claim is that the statement must have caused or is likely to cause serious harm in the form of serious financial loss (section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013).

What is the time limit for bringing a defamation claim?

You must commence proceedings within one year of the date of publication. In the case of ongoing publication of defamatory material online, limitation will start to run from the date the material was first published.

Statutory defences to a defamation claim

Sections 2 to 7 of the Defamation Act 2013 set out the possible statutory defences to a defamation claim which include:

  • Truth;
  • Honest opinion;
  • Publication in the public interest;
  • Operation of websites;
  • Peer-reviewed statement in scientific or academic journal; and
  • Reports etc protected by privilege.

What if the content constitutes a hate crime?

If you become aware of offensive material online which is racist or homophobic or otherwise constitutes a hate crime (under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 or Criminal Justice Act 2003), you should report this to the police as soon as possible.

We can advise you on possible course of action including commencing a private prosecution against the publisher of such content.

Instruct expert defamation litigation solicitors

We understand how damaging defamatory statements can be to an individual or business and we invite you to contact us so we can assess your claim. We can subsequently provide urgent help, advice or representation to clients whose reputation and privacy is at risk.

To instruct our specialist solicitors and barristers, please call our defamation team on 0207 183 0529 or email: [email protected].

Please note that we don’t offer free advice. Instead, for a discounted fixed fee we offer you high quality partner and counsel-led advice in our first meeting. To instruct us on a cease and desist matter costs from £2,500 plus VAT.