At Wendy Doyle Solicitors, we provide specialist advice in this area and represent individuals and corporates in respect of managing their good name and reputation. We can also represent you in either taking or defending defamation and privacy actions. The Defamation Act 2009 came into operation on 1st January 2010, the purpose of which was to revise the law on defamation and repeal the Defamation Act of 1961. The Act has now shifted the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant to prove the truth of a defamatory statement. The definition of “periodical” for the purposes of publication includes as expected newspapers, magazines etc but also “any version thereof published on the internet or by other electronic means”. This definition brings the Act in line with the age of social media which has exploded in recent years.
Tort of Defamation and Defamatory Statements
The Act abolished the tort of libel and slander and created a new tort of defamation which consists of the “publication by any means, of a defamatory statement concerning a person to one or more than one person (other than the first mentioned person) and “defamation” shall be construed accordingly”.
A “defamatory statement” is now defined as a “statement that tends to injure s person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society, and “defamatory” shall be construed accordingly”.
Therefore in order to prove defamation, three elements must be present:
- Defamatory Effect
It can now be seen that the test is an objective test which is looked at through the eyes of reasonable members of society and focuses on injury to a person’s reputation.
The Act sets out the defences to defamation on a statutory footing and include the following:
- Absolute Privilege
- Qualified Privilege
- Honest Opinion
- Offer to Make Amends
There are also a number of new Defences under the 2009 Act which include:
- Declaratory Order
- Correction Order
- Prohibitive Injunction
- Summary Disposal of the Action
It should be remembered that a defamation action must be brought within one year or such longer period as the court may direct not exceeding two years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
Please refer to our blog posts for further information on Defamation Law and court judgements.