Defamation Solicitors: Libel & Slander
If you believe someone has published false statements about you which has caused damage to your personal reputation, or the reputation of your business, it is important to act quickly to avoid the damage spreading. Our Defamation Solicitors can also help you to take steps to protect your reputation if you or your business are the subject of adverse publicity. They can also help in cases where you have made (or assist someone to make) comments about someone else who alleges they are defamatory of them.
What is Defamation?
Defamation covers libel and slander, both of which concern the communication by someone of false information about you or your business to the public that adversely affects their perception of your reputation. Libel relates to lasting forms of publications like anything in writing or broadcasted (e.g. articles, social media posts, e-mails, broadcasts). Slander, however, refers to momentary publications such as spoken words and gestures.
Defamation cases typically cover statements or information that have caused or are likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the person that the statements or information are made about. Harm to the reputation of a business (i.e. a body that trades for profit) will not be deemed to be serious harm unless the publication has caused or is likely to cause the business serious financial loss.
If a false statement has been made about you or your business on social media, on a website, in an email, magazine or newspaper and you reasonably believe that damage has been done to your reputation as a result, then you may be have a claim for defamation against the publisher of that statement.
You will need to be able to show that the word complained of were published about you, that the meaning of the words complained of is defamatory, and at least one person has seen the publication. In a case of business, you would also need to be able to show actual or potential financial loss caused by the publication of the defamatory comment. Our team will help you to gather the evidence necessary to support your claim for or defence to a defamation action.
Can I take legal action over defamatory statements on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn?
Yes. Even short and relatively ephemeral comments such as Tweets or Facebook posts can be defamatory if they have caused or are likely to cause serious harm to the
reputation of the person that the statements or information are made about.
Can you defame someone accidentally?
Yes. It is the effect of what you wrote or said that is important, not what you intended by it. The fact that the statement is offensive, untrue or upsetting does not necessarily mean it is defamatory. Whether the statement or information is defamatory depends on the precise word used and their natural and ordinary meaning. The court decides the meaning of the word used by considering what the average reader would have understood the words to mean and whether they would cause reputational harm.
Along with the rise of digital media, from personal and company blogs to social media platforms and websites, we are seeing a rise in defamation cases. The abuse of social media to communicate hateful material, to cause reputational damage, or to abuse and threaten victims with harassment, is a huge and growing problem. The Internet enables defamatory words to be spread more quickly and more widely than ever before.
Most of us publish and share content in one form or another on a daily basis these days.
Whether it’s in an email or WhatsApp message, or on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, YouTube or Instagram, we must take care that our words do not defame others.
Who can make a defamation claim?
Not everybody is able to make a defamation claim. Individuals, companies, limited liability partnerships, other partnerships (if the claim is fr the firm as a whole and is made in the name of the partners jointly) are all able to pursue or defend defamation claims, but local authorities, councils, government bodies and political parties cannot – although individual members may be able to in certain circumstances where the statement refers to them as an individual.
Is there a time limit for making a defamation claim?
You are only able to make a defamation claim within one year of the day of publication or expression of the defamatory statement. If genuine harm has been done to your reputation, the courts expect claims to be made quickly. Also, when a statement is published to the public and someone later publishes it or a statement in substantially the same form (to the pubic or otherwise), any cause of action in relation to the later publication is treated as having accrued from the first date of publication.
What is the first step in bringing a defamation of character claim?
The first step is to write a Letter of Claim to the person who published the offending words composed in compliance with the Pre-Action Protocol for Media and Communications Claims setting out the nature of the complaint and the nature of and basis for the entitlement to the remedies you seek.
Available court remedies for defamation claims are damages, an injunction, publication of a summary of the court’s judgment and an order to remove the defamatory statement.
Sometimes the requests made in a Letter of Claim are agreed to and a settlement can be reached. In a settlement it is common for the parties to agree a published correction, apology or statement, even though the court does not have the power to require an unsuccessful defendant to correct the defamatory statement or declare the statement to have been false.
If no settlement can be agreed in response to you sending your Letter of Claim and you want to pursue your claim then the next step would be to issue court proceedings.
Defending allegations of defamation
If you defending a defamation of character case, there are several defences available to you, including:
You cannot be liable if you show that a statement about a person or company is substantially true. The burden of proof is placed upon you as the defendant to provide this, though.
- Honest opinion
The laws on defamation are there to balance the need for freedom of expression, with protection against malicious attacks. You are allowed to state your honest opinion about something if you can show that you actually held this opinion and that the opinion was formed on the basis of facts that were available to you at the time.
- Matters of public interest
This defence may be relied upon by publishers such as journalists who can show that the statement they have published is on a matter of public interest and that they reasonably believed that publishing the statement was in the public interest.
- Absolute privilege and qualified privilege
In certain situations people need to be protected against proceedings for statements they make on occasions where they are required to speak freely. This applies to statements made in Parliament, in court proceedings, in reporting suspicions of criminal activity to the Police, or as part of the responsibilities of a job (i.e. reporting misconduct to a line manager).
How our Defamation Solicitors can help
If you feel your reputation or that of your business has been damaged online, in print or in person, our experienced Defamation Solicitors will provide the legal advice you need to protect your business and/or your personal reputation.
We understand the need for swift action to minimise the impact of the falsehood and claim compensation for the damage it causes. We also know that you will want to take steps to prevent it happening again.
To speak to a specialist civil litigation and disputes solicitor about a defamation of character claim, contact us by calling the number at the top of this page or by filling in our enquiry form and letting us know a suitable time to get back to you.
Our specialist team of Defamation Solicitors will guide you through your options and provide straightforward advice on matters involving defamation.
We will advise you on how best to protect your reputation and that of your company, as we consider your business as important as our own. Litigation is sometimes, but not always, the best option and with over 100 years of practising law, we have the skills, knowledge, and experience to advise you when to litigate and when to consider alternative dispute resolution.
Contact us for help
We provide advice on a wide range of legal issues to clients around Yorkshire and beyond from our offices in Leeds, York and Sheffield. For an initial discussion about your case, contact one of the specialists today using the details on the contact form.
We have spent over one hundred years using our legal skills to help you through difficult, complicated or emotional times. Within every area of law, we put your interests first.
We provide a personalised service, with sector specialists and extensive resources to ensure we are giving you the best solutions to your problems.
Lupton Fawcett have long been recognised for our expertise in Civil Disputes and Litigation. For an initial no obligation discussion with a member of our team please call the office number or leave your details in the form at the top of this page and we’ll contact you.
Our Defamation of Character Solicitors act regularly for clients across the United Kingdom including Bradford, Birmingham, Hull, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Nottingham.
We can support your needs wherever you live in England, Wales & Northern Ireland.
We will always respond promptly, and we will be happy to help.