Defamation of Character

I found these when I asked Google, “is gossiping illegal?”

This from contactlaw.co.uk

Defamation of character

Defamation of character occurs when someone makes a false statement about you to a third party that is damaging to your reputation.

Defamation of character law is designed to protect and compensate individuals and business from having their character and reputation improperly damaged by untrue defamatory statements.

Under defamation of character law, if you make out a successful defamation case in court, you may be able to stop that person from making or publishing such statements about you. You may also be able to get compensation.

What is defamation of character?

Defamation of character happens when someone says or writes something untrue about you (or your business or product) which is damaging to your reputation (or that of your business)

The false information needs to be about the characteristics of a person (or their business or product). It must cause damage to the image of that person (or their business or product).

A defamation of character lawsuit will only be successful if the information published is:

  • Untrue in some respect
  • Exaggerated
  • Reported in an intentionally misleading way

In the UK, there is no statutory definition of defamation. Instead, various statements by the courts contribute to a common law definition of defamation.

Each definition has a common link to the reputation of the person or business about whom the statement is made. The most widely regarded definition of defamation is a statement made which ‘tends to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally’.

How must the statement be made?

The statement must be communicated to a person other than the person whose reputation is being damaged.

When someone says something bad about you (or your business) it can be hard to be objective about whether it was defamatory. For this reason it is important to obtain advice from a specialist defamation solicitor who is experienced in assessing defamation claims.

For example, insulting or abusive statements are not always defamatory. What needs to be shown is that the statement damages your reputation, or lowers you in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally.

This from

Theodysseyonline.com

There is a difference between gossip and defamation of character. The definition of gossip is speculative conversation about the private lives of people who are not around to directly communicate what is true or false. It is speculative because it is not verified. However, gossip is either used to communicate important social developments in a social network, or it is used to damage someone’s prospects in a way in which that victim cannot correct the situation.

Defamation of character is defined in two ways: libel (written and published) and slander (spoken). Libel is also considered to be writing, picture, or effigy, or anything visual that can be seen that exposes any person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. Defamation of character is illegal because a person’s reputation is considered their property right. Their past is their property, and it is illegal for someone else to damage that property.

It is specifically illegal to do the following:

Spread a lie saying that a person committed a crime or has been in jail or prison.

Spread a lie saying that someone has an infectious, loathsome, or contagious disease. This also includes spreading a lie saying that someone has a mental health issue that they have never been diagnosed with. It is illegal to say that someone has a sexually transmitted disease or any other physical sickness that they do not have.

Spread a lie saying that someone is incompetent for any professional office, trade, profession, or business.

Spread a lie saying that someone is impotent or want of chastity.

Spread a lie that causes actual damage to someone’s professional or familial relationships.

Creating false anecdotes that imply any of the previous lies.

Spreading a lie saying that someone’s name is not their legal name.

Spreading a lie saying that someone has lived in places that they never have to try to vouch for how the lies can be verified.

Spreading a lie saying that someone’s disability is not real and being faked.

Spreading a lie saying that someone does not have their professional talents, has cheated, or faked their professional talents.

Spreading a lie that cause someone to be stalked or harassed by other people, since stalking and harassment are also illegal by themselves.

A person’s professional past is no one else’s business. A person’s past is their property, and purposefully damaging their property and their professional opportunities is illegal.

The problem is that people do not always understand how to distinguish between gossip and defamation of character. The difference is that one tries to eliminate the victim’s voice. A person’s character determines their habits and behaviors. When a person’s character is illegally defamed, that causes their professional network (which they also have a right to), to question that victim’s character. They question whether or not they can trust the voice of the victim to tell the truth of their own past. Since the victim should be able to have the highest authority over their own past, no one should try to have a higher authority over the victim’s past.

This from hse.gov.uk

Definitions of defamation

1. You should be on guard against making statements which could be defamatory. A defamatory statement is one which injures the reputation of another person: it “tends to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally”.

2. Such a 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
  • in writing, print or some other permanent form.

3. A statement will amount to a “slander” if it is

  • published; and
  • made orally or in some other transient form.

4. An action for defamation can be brought by:

  • an individual;
  • a company, in respect of statements that damage its business reputation.

5. An action for defamation cannot be brought by a Local Authority nor by any other public authority.

6. Section 1(1) of the 2013 Defamation Act introduced a new test which provides that a statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. This is qualified by s 1(2) in that for the purposes of the section, harm to the reputation of a body that trades for profit is not “serious harm” unless it has caused or is likely to cause the body serious financial loss.

Defences to defamation

7. There are a number of defences to an action for defamation, including:

  1. the words complained of are true in substance and in fact;
  2. the statement is protected by absolute privilege (see below);
  3. the statement is protected by qualified privilege (see below);
  4. the statement constituted fair comment on a matter of public interest: that is, opinion which any person could honestly hold, based on facts known at the time;
  5. the words were published innocently by a person who was not the author, editor or publisher of the statement, who took reasonable care in relation to its publication, and s/he did not know, and had no reason to believe, that what s/he did caused or contributed to the publication of a defamatory statement and an “offer of amends” has been made. Proceedings cannot be taken if the offer of amends is accepted. It will constitute a defence if the offer was made as soon as practicable after the publisher received notice that the words might be defamatory.
  6. Publication on a matter of public interest provides for the defence to be available in circumstances where it can be shown that the statement complained of was, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest and that it was reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest

8. Absolute privilege attaches to:

  • words spoken in the ordinary course of legal proceedings;
  • a fair and accurate report of public legal proceedings published contemporaneously with such proceedings. Fairness requires that reports should be impartial and should convey the substance of what has taken place in court.

9. Qualified privilege attaches:

  • where the person who makes the communication has a duty to its recipients and they have an interest in receiving it (eg. where you have sought to publicise a letter containing implications for public safety);
  • where it fairly and accurately reports public legal proceedings (they do not have to be published in a newspaper or be contemporaneous).

10. Statements must not be published `maliciously’. Reports are published with `malice’ if the publisher knew the report was untrue, or was reckless as to its truth, or intended to injure the complainant.

11. Where there are good reasons for HSE to issue a press release after a particular case has been heard, Press Office should be contacted immediately. Any comment should be published as soon as possible.