Has someone said or written something false about you? Is what they said harming your reputation?

If so, you could be a victim of defamation.

There are two types of defamation: Libel and slander.

Libel is when the false statement is written – like in a newspaper or in a social media post.

Slander is when the false statement is spoken.

You do not need to be specifically named in the false statement to be a victim of defamation. But the statement must allow you to be identified.

Defamation cases are on the increase

The impact of defamation

Defamation can have a lasting effect. Careers can be harmed. Reputations can be harmed. It can also have serious effects on a person's mental health.

Businesses can also be hurt. They can lose customers or have to stop trading.

Social media is powerful in influencing opinions. Lies can be spread easily and quickly.

And, even if action is taken to put things right, reputations may never recover.

Examples of defamation

You don't have to look too far to find examples of high-profile defamation cases. For example:

  • Johnny Depp v The Sun
  • Rebekah Vardy v Coleen Rooney
  • Max Mosley v News of the World
  • Ian Watkins v E! Entertainment Television

But it's not just the rich and famous who can be victims of defamation.

What can I do if I am a victim?

Any person or business can be a victim of defamation and make a claim for compensation. But to do so successfully, the statement which is the subject of the defamation claim

  1. must be proven to be false, and
  2. must be proved to have damaged the reputation of the person or business making the claim.

If you think you have been the victim of defamation, consult a legal adviser who will tell you whether you have a case and should go to court. Or you could try mediation to settle the dispute.

What are the risks if I go to court?

If you choose to make a defamation claim and go to court, the case will be held in public. That means even more people could hear or read about the damaging remarks that have been made about you.

The case might also go deeper into the history of how and why the remarks were made, possibly damaging your reputation further. Cases can also last a long time and be very costly.

You will need to weigh up very carefully the pros and cons of making a defamation claim and going to court.

What are the defences available to those accused of defamation?

There are four main defences available to those accused of making a defamatory statement. The statement was

  • true
  • an honest opinion
  • made because it was a matter of public interest
  • made in Parliament or in a court room, and therefore is not subject to the law of defamation.