Libel: out with the old and in with the new in Defamation Act 2013

It’s out with the old and in with the new for English and Welsh libel as a result of the Defamation Act.

In comes:

  • The need for the claimant to prove the statement caused serious harm  or is likely to cause serious harm;
  • The need for a profit-making operation to prove the statement caused serious financial loss or  is likely to cause serious financial loss;
  • The need for the claimant who is not domiciled here to prove the courts here are the right place to take the action;
  • A single publication rule: the limitation of 1 year applies to the first publication of the statement complained of, not subsequent publications of it; and
  • A defence of “truth”; the statement is “substantially true”
  • A defence that the statement is in the public interest; and
  • A defence that the statement is in a peer-reviewed scientific or academic journal.

Out goes:

  • The defence of justification;
  • The Reynolds defence;
  • The defence of fair comment to be replaced by honest comment

The overall picture is now:

  • The claimant must prove:
    • The statement was published
      • What it means
      • It was sufficiently published
      • They were identified
      • It is defamatory of them
      • They were seriously damaged or are likely to be seriously damaged or, if trading for a profit, were caused serious financial harm;
      • The defences are:
        • It is substantially true;
        • It is an honestly held opinion;
        • It is on a matter of public interest;
        • It is in a peer-reviewed journal;
        • It is a privileged statement because it is the report of a court action etc.

Still to be resolved by the courts as they apply this new Act are:

  • What does “serious harm” mean; and
  • What does ”substantially true” mean.

But don’t forget that the old unreformed law still operates in Northern Ireland and much the same in the Irish Republic.

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2 thoughts on “Libel: out with the old and in with the new in Defamation Act 2013

  1. lianne tracey says:

    Hi Richard

    I would like to use this blog in our staff newsletter if you would agree for me to republish it with a note to say you wrote it?

    Would you mind me doing this?

    I attended your defamation training last year.

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