Knowledge Base

Defamation

A person’s reputation is a very important factor, for many different reasons and every person has the right to his or her good name. This right is protected by Irish Defamation law. There is a fine line between freedom of speech and publishing one’s opinions in such a way that negatively affects a person’s reputation.

The Difference Between Slander and Defamation

When wondering what the difference is between slander and defamation, defamation refers to a situation where a comment, statement or publication hurts a person’s reputation. Two common types include libel and slander.

Libel

Libel refers to situations where a statement that negatively affects a person’s reputation is published online or offline. This can be extended to publication on radio, the internet, and television.

Slander

Slander, on the other hand, refers to situations where a statement that negatively affects a person’s reputation is spoken as opposed to published. Interesting to note is that the Defamation Act 2009 has somewhat redefined the types of defamation and instead of referring to libel and slander, it has amalgamated them into one term called, ‘tort of defamation’.

The Defamation Act 2009 refers to a defamatory statement (whether written or published) as:

  • a defamatory statement is written or spoken and is heard or read by a third party
  • a false statement is made
  • a defamatory statement explicitly implies, refers/relates to a specific person.

Types of Cases That We Specialise in

Defamation can occur on a number of different platforms and in a number of different situations. As specialist defamation solicitors, there are certain areas in which we can help you. If your case falls into one of these categories and you would like to learn more, contact us to tell us about your case:

  • Accusation of Theft – Wrongly accused of shoplifting from a shop/supermarket or any other retail outlet
  • False Imprisonment – Detained by security in a retail outlet following a false accusation of theft
  • Assault by Security – Physically being stopped or held by the security of a shop
  • Defamatory Reference – from a previous employer
  • Defamation by a Media Organisation – Where a media organisation published a statement that is defamatory against you
  • Fraud Accusation – Being accused of paying for goods or services with counterfeit notes

Defamation on Social Media

Social media thrives on our opinions. The more controversial the topic is, the more people will get involved and post their own opinions. While it is very easy to broadcast your opinions on social media, should your opinions or statement be defamatory if you find yourself dealing with a defamation claim made against you? Think before you post as you may be affecting somebody else’s reputation.

Cases of Internet defamation that we specialise in are:

  • Defamation by a Media Organisation – if a media organisation publishes a defamatory statement against you and use social media to promote this publication.

How can I make a Claim?

Contact a Defamation Solicitor

It is advisable that you record the details of the defamatory event or statement made:

  • Detail out the history of the event,
  • Keep all records of any publication or recordings of the defamatory incident or statement being made,
  • Take witness accounts of the event, where possible,
  • Source any CCTV footage that will help your case, where possible.

Ground for Proving Defamation

Given that there is an inherent right to freedom of speech in Ireland if a person claims that a statement against them is defamatory, the person making the claim must know and understand the ways in which they must prove defamation. It is also important to understand how a case can be defended by the defendant. The best way to do this is to speak with a defamation solicitor. They can explain to you, in plain English, just how to go about making a claim.

Character Defamation

In order to prove a statement is defamatory, or even how to prove defamation of character, the person making the claim must be able to show that:

  • The statement made was false
  • The statement was either published or spoken and a third party had read or heard the statement. The reason for this is because if nobody reads or hears the defamatory statement then it cannot damage a person’s reputation. If the statement was heard or read by one person, it can be assumed that it would also be heard by further parties.
  • The language used, the meaning of the statement could have an adverse effect on a person’s reputation.
  • A specific person can be recognised or identified by reading the statement. If the victim is clearly referenced in the defamatory statement then it could have an impact on their reputation.

Defending a claim

For the person who is pursuing a claim, it is important they understand how the person they are making the claim against can defend the claim against them. Defamation Act 2009, sets out particular ways in which a person can defend a claim made against them, which include:

  • Truth – If a person can prove that the statement made is true then no claim can be made.
  • Absolute Privilege – In certain cases, a court might grant immunity to the person who made the statement if the court decides the third party that reads or heard the statement had a right to know.
  • Qualified Privilege – In certain cases a court may decide that the statement made and the person that made the statement had a moral, social or legal duty to publish or announce it, also, in this case, it may be deemed that the third party that read or heard the statement also had a moral, social or legal duty to the information.
  • Honest Opinion – The court may decide not to award compensation for defamation where it believed that the statement made was an honest, genuine opinion of the publisher, rather than a false statement of fact.

Further information:

  • Offer to Make Amends – In this case, the publisher of the statement may offer to retract their statement by publishing a correction or make a payment to the defamed person.
  • Apology – As part of a defence against defamation claims, the guilty person may offer an apology to the defamed person.
  • Consent to Publish – If the defamed person has given consent to the publisher before the publisher made the statement public then no claim can be made by the defamed person.
  • Fair and Reasonable Publication on a Matter of Public Interest – This type of defence implies that the statement was fair and reasonable. It was a topic of public interest and was made for the benefit of the public.
  • Innocent Publication – This defence refers to a situation where a third party was not the author of the statement, editor or publisher of the statement. They took reasonable care in relation to its publication. This suggests that the person whom the claim is made against did not know or had no reason to believe that what they did would cause, or contribute to, the cause of the claim for defamation.

Case Settlement

The compensation awarded for a defamation claim is difficult to estimate without discussing your case, monies awarded are known as compensation for damages:

General Damages

Non-financial damages such as pain and suffering and/or physical and emotional damage as a result of the defamation.

Special Damages

Out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of defamation include. For example, loss of earnings and future earnings (if you were out of work).

Aggravated Damages

Where the offender had aggravated injury to the defamed person. For example, where the defamed person is subject to humiliating or malicious circumstances as a result of the defamation act.

Punitive Damages

Compensation awarded in cases where the offender had shown intent to make the defamatory statement public. They have done this while knowing that it is a false statement and having done so in a reckless nature. 

Statute of Limitations – Legal Time Frames

Following a claim, it is important to remember that there is a certain time frame in place within which you can make a claim. As per the Defamation Act 2009,  the timeframe is 1 year following the date of the defamatory act. Therefore, the time frame in which you have to make a claim is called the statute of limitations.

Finally, with 30 years’ experience as specialist defamation solicitors, Tracey Solicitors, ensure not to overwhelm you with legal jargon. We can provide you with legal advice and guidance, in a language that you can understand. For a confidential discussion or advice on the legal action for slander please call Sarah Walsh on 00353 (0) 1 649 9900 or email ask@traceysolicitors.ie and tell her about your case.