Essentially, libel and slander are legal claims that protect an individual’s reputation against defamation. In practical terms, a defamatory statement is one which injures the reputation of another person: that is if it “tends to lower him or her in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally”.
What is libel?
A defamatory statement constitutes a "libel" if it is:
-published: (publication, for these purposes, is simply the communication of
the defamatory matter to a third person); AND
-it is in writing, print or some other permanent form.
What is slander?
A statement will amount to a "slander" if it is published AND it is made orally or in some other non-permanent form.
What about photographs/cartoons etc?
Signs, gestures, photographs, pictures, statues, and cartoons can also give rise to a claim for defamation, but the most obvious types of defamatory statements are written or spoken words.
What is the main difference between libel and slander?
The main practical difference between claims for libel and claims for slander is what a claimant has to prove to succeed in his or her claim.
For Libel claims the claimant does not have to prove that he or she has suffered loss or damage as a result of the publication.
- But in a claim for slander, the claimant must prove actual damage. Damage can be presumed and need not be proved in certain cases –for example, if the spoken words accuse the claimant of committing a crime; of being unfit for his or her office, business or profession, or of having a contagious disease.
Who can sue?
A person has to prove that the defamatory words refer to him or her. Nor does it have to be one individual - a member of a group or class of people can sue in relation to a defamatory allegation which refers to the group as a whole, if the group is sufficiently small that the allegation would be understood to refer to him or her personally.
Can a company sue for defamation?
An action for defamation can also be brought by: a company, in respect of statements that damage its business reputation.
Can you get funding for your claim?
Although some lawyers may be willing to act on a ‘no win-no fee’ basis, public funding is generally unavailable either to bring or defend defamation proceedings.
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