A defamation action defends a person against the unjustifiable infliction by another of injury to their reputation and it intends to vindicate the constitutionally protected right to a good name – in Art. 40.3.2 of the Constitution.
Damage to Reputation
Damage to reputation can have an adverse affect on a person’s personal life, his regard within a community and on their working life or business. An unjustifiable attack can have an adverse affect on common perception of the person, their community held esteem and have a damaging effect on their occupancy within their surroundings.
Socrates said “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of -- for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
However the difference in reality between this quote and Defamation is the fact that it is another party unjustly attacking a person’s reputation not the defamed who scuppers their own reputation.
Defamation – What must the Claimant Prove
• Defamatory Statement
A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, contempt, causes him/her to be shunned or injures a person in their business. A person’s reputation is essentially tarnished by the publication of the statement.
• Publication of the Defamatory Statement
Publication involves communication of the defamatory act to a 3rd party. Publication doesn’t have to mean a big national broadsheet publication, it can be to just one 3rd party. It must be proved that it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be communicated to this 3rd party though.
Previously the terms libel and slander were used until they were abolished in 2009, although they can still be heard in people’s conversations today. Anyhow, libel referred to an unjust attack inflicted on a person in written form and slander consisted of spoken defamation.
• Defamatory Effect of Statement
S.2 of the Defamation Act 2009 defines a defamatory statement as:
“ defamatory statement” means a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society, and “defamatory” shall be construed accordingly.
Words will be given their ordinary and natural meanings by the court but the court will consider the effect of innuendos which are clear and obvious.
• Reference to the Claimant in the Defamatory Statement
The injured person must be capable of being identified in the publication. This is normally clear and explicit but sometimes it is not. The 2009 Act provides protection for a person’s reputation in this situation at s.6 (3);
(3) A defamatory statement concerns a person if it could reasonably be understood as referring to him or her.
So if the individuals name is not explicitly stated but it is obvious who it is then that person can take action when they have been defamed.
If you have been defamed there are strict time limits to adhere to for initiating proceedings. A claimant has one year in which to begin proceedings. This can be extended to two years but only in exceptional circumstances and only subject to the court so directing.
If you have suffered an injury to your reputation through defamation we can help.
Every person has a right to a good name, a right to their reputation which is enshrined in our Constitution. An unjust falsehood inflicting injury is not acceptable and reputational standing can be vindicated. Sometimes parties need to go to court to achieve this and sometimes not.
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