English defamation law
English law allows actions for libel to be brought in the High Court for any published statements which are alleged to defame a named or identifiable individual (or individuals; under English law companies are legal persons, and allowed to bring suit for defamation in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of him, her or them.
A is liable for saying anything to C about B which would be apt to make the average citizen think worse of the latter.— Tony Weir, Tort Law p.162
Slander actionable per se
While in libel cases there is no burden to prove damage done to reputation, there generally is in slander cases. In some specific circumstances however, there is no need to prove that damage was caused by a slander; this is called ‘slander actionable per se’. The Faulks Committee, a parliamentary committee set up to propose reforms to UK defamation law, recommended in 1975 that this distinction between libel and slander should be abolished.
The following are actionable without proof of special or actual damage:
- Words imputing a crime punishable with imprisonment
- Words disparaging a person in their office, trade, business, or profession. Established in section 2 of the Defamation Act 1952.
Slander imputing “loathsome” or contagious diseases also used to be actionable per se under English common law. It was removed by section 14 of the Defamation Act 2013, but remains in other jurisdictions.
From the Chicago Kent Law Review
Michael D. Savage
It used to be illegal to say someone was guilty of “fornication”, as this damaged their reputation.
It used to be defamatory to call someone a nutter, a loony or bat shit crazy.
So if someone said that I was a loony, pox ridden, an alcoholic, who shagged around and underperformed in his job would that be defamation, nowadays?