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  • Defamation by disgruntled former employees

    Defamation by disgruntled former employees

    How to protect employers from online defamation by former employees

    The issue of online defamation by ex-employees has become increasingly troubling for organisations. Because managing online narratives can be challenging, you should do whatever you can to safeguard your organisation against defamation by former employees.

  • Defamation legal advice

    Defamation legal advice

    Our lawyers answer questions about defamation law in the UK

    Below are some of the most common questions clients have asked us concerning defamation law in the UK. Remember, the intricacies of defamation law can be complex, and anyone dealing with such issues should seek advice from a legal professional who is familiar with the facts of their specific case to understand their rights and potential actions fully.

    How much does a defamation case cost in the UK?

    Is defamation illegal in the UK?

    How do I prove defamation in the UK?

    What are the defences for a defamation claim in the UK?

    How do I prove defamation UK?

    What is the legal test for defamation?

    Is it easier to win a defamation case in the UK?

    How long does it take to get a defamation case in the UK?

    Can you go to the police about slander in the UK?

    Who Cannot sue for defamation in the UK?

    Who has the burden of proof for slander UK?

    What counts as defamation UK?

    Why is it hard to win a defamation case?

    is it possible to bring a defamation claim in the small claim court?

    How much does a defamation case cost in the UK?

    The cost of a defamation case in the UK can vary greatly depending on various factors, such as the nature and complexity of the case, the length of time it takes to complete, and the individuals involved. For straightforward cases, it may cost under £5,000 if the situation can be resolved with a detailed letter before legal action. The defamation cease and desist letter before legal action would effectively pre-empt any realistic chance for the respondent to defend their defamatory actions. Investing in a well-drafted letter before legal action can be worthwhile, as it may lead to an early settlement without the necessity for protracted and expensive legal proceedings. However, for complex defamation cases, the costs could escalate to £50,000 or more.

    The complexity of a case can arise from intricate legal issues and a large volume of evidence. Simultaneously, some cases might seem straightforward, but they might involve a difficult respondent who chooses to represent himself. Legal proceedings against a litigant in person (someone who represents themselves without a lawyer) can often increase costs, as the court expects the claimant to comply with procedural matters, which under normal circumstances would be shared between both parties. It's essential to bear in mind that these are broad estimates and actual costs can vary. Always consult with a legal professional for accurate information related to your specific circumstances.

    Defamation Details Legal Advice FAQ

    The cost of a defamation case in the UK can be influenced by several factors, including the complexity of the legal issues involved, the volume of evidence to be examined, and the duration of the proceedings. Straightforward cases might cost under £5,000 if resolved through a detailed letter before legal action, while more complex cases involving difficult respondents or litigants in person could escalate costs to £50,000 or more. Costs can vary significantly, so consulting with a legal professional for an accurate estimate based on your specific situation is crucial.

    Defamation in the UK is not classified as "illegal" in the criminal sense but is considered unlawful within civil law. This means individuals can face civil lawsuits if they make defamatory statements, leading to potential consequences such as injunctions or compensation awards. However, if defamation reaches the threshold of harassment, it might then involve criminal law, potentially making it an "illegal" act subject to police involvement and criminal penalties.

    To prove defamation in the UK, a claimant must demonstrate that a statement was defamatory, referred to them, was published to a third party, and caused or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation. Businesses must also show potential or actual serious financial loss. Additionally, claimants must overcome any defences the defendant might raise, such as truth, honest opinion, or privilege. Each case's specifics greatly influence the ability to prove defamation, underscoring the importance of legal expertise in these matters.

    Defences against a defamation claim in the UK include truth, where the defendant proves the statement was true; honest opinion, showing the statement was an expression of their genuinely held opinion based on facts; privilege, either absolute for certain protected communications or qualified for statements made in the public interest; and innocent dissemination, for those unknowingly spreading defamatory content without negligence. These defences highlight the balance between protecting reputations and upholding freedom of expression.

    Bringing a defamation claim in the UK involves several stages, starting with a pre-action letter and potentially moving through pleadings, evidence gathering, and a trial. The entire process can vary in duration from around a year for simpler cases to several years for more complex ones. Factors affecting the timeline include case complexity, parties' willingness to settle, and court schedules. Given defamation law's complexities and the varied timeframes involved, seeking timely legal advice is essential for anyone considering a defamation claim.

    Is defamation illegal in the UK?

    While the term "illegal" usually refers to actions that are prohibited by law and can result in criminal penalties, defamation in the UK doesn't strictly fall under this category. In other words, defamation is not a criminal act in the UK, and therefore, it isn't considered "illegal" in the traditional sense. However, defamation can be considered unlawful, meaning that it can lead to civil legal consequences.

    If a person defames someone else, they can be taken to a civil court, where the claimant could potentially win an injunction, compensation, and other remedies. It's important to note, though, that in some cases where defamation is published with an intention to harass the victim, the situation can be viewed differently.

    If the defamatory activities meet the threshold for harassment, this can potentially involve criminal law. In such a scenario, the police could take legal action against the person committing the defamation, making it a criminal, hence "illegal", act. You can read more here about online defamation and harassment.

    How do I prove defamation in the UK?

    If you believe you've been defamed in the UK, you'll need to prove several key elements to establish your case. Here's what you need to demonstrate:

    • The statement was defamatory: The comment or material must lower you in the estimation of right-thinking members of society. This means that it negatively affects your reputation in a substantial way. You can read more here about how the court works out a defamatory meaning of a publication. 
    • The statement caused or is likely to cause, ‘serious harm’ to you: Introduced with the Defamation Act 2013, the 'serious harm' requirement means that the statement must have caused or will likely cause significant damage to your reputation. If you're a business, you must also prove financial loss.
    • The statement refers to you: You need to show that the defamatory statement was about you. It is not always necessary for you to be named; it is enough if you can be identified in some other way.
    • The statement was published: Publication, in the context of defamation, means the communication of the defamatory statement to at least one person other than you. It could be through various means such as speech, writing, or some form of broadcast.
    • There is no lawful justification or other defence: The defendant may try to use defences like truth (the statement was true), honest opinion (the statement was a viewpoint that could be honestly held based on the facts), or public interest (it was in the public interest to make the statement). If these or other defences can't be established, then you'll have a stronger case.

    These are complex legal matters, and each defamation case is unique. If you feel you've been defamed, it's recommended that you consult with a legal professional to guide you through the process and help present the strongest possible case.

    What are the defences for a defamation claim in the UK?

    Defending a defamation claim in the UK involves asserting one of several established legal defences. These defences are based on principles of free speech, fairness, and the public interest. Here are the main defences:

    The Defence of Truth:

    This is a complete defence to a defamation claim. If the defendant can prove that the statement made about the claimant was true, or substantially true, then this defence will succeed. In UK defamation law, truth is a complete defence to a claim of defamation. This means that if a defendant (the person accused of defamation) can prove that the allegedly defamatory statement they made about the claimant (the person alleging defamation) was true or substantially true, then the defence will succeed and they will not be liable for defamation. Here are the key aspects of this defence:

    • Whole truth or substantial truth: It's important to note that the statement does not need to be entirely true to qualify for this defence. The test is one of substantial truth. This means that if the 'sting' or main substance of the statement is true, even if some minor details are not, the defence can still be successful. For example, if the defendant makes a statement saying that the claimant was convicted of a crime on a specific date, but they got the date wrong, the defence of truth would still apply if the claimant was indeed convicted of the crime.
    • The burden of proof: Unlike some other defences, the burden of proof here rests with the defendant. It's the defendant's responsibility to provide evidence to prove the truth or substantial truth of the statement. This can involve presenting documents, witness testimony, or any other evidence that supports the truth of the statement.
    • No need to prove public benefit or good intentions: The defence of truth doesn't require the defendant to show that their statement was in the public interest or that they had good intentions in making it. The only thing that matters is the truth or substantial truth of the statement.

    In summary, the defence of truth provides a robust protection for defendants in defamation cases. However, it's not without its complexities, and it requires careful handling and often detailed evidence. If you're involved in a defamation case and are considering using the defence of truth, it's usually advisable to seek professional legal advice to understand your rights and options.

    The Defence of Honest Opinion:

    This defence applies if the defendant can demonstrate that the statement was an expression of their honestly held opinion rather than a statement of fact. It must be based on any fact that existed at the time the statement was published or anything asserted to be a fact in a privileged statement. The defence of honest opinion is another crucial defence in UK defamation law. The goal of this defence is to protect freedom of speech and to allow for the expression of opinions that may be critical or harsh, so long as they are honestly held.

    To successfully use this defence, a defendant (the person accused of defamation) must meet the following requirements:

    • Statement of Opinion: The defendant must prove that the statement in question was a statement of opinion and not a statement of fact. This can sometimes be a complex task, as it can be difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion in some instances. Usually, it needs to be clear to an average reader or listener that what is being expressed is an opinion.
    • Basis in Fact: The opinion must be based on facts that existed at the time the statement was published. These facts must be indicated in the statement or be generally known. If the basis for the opinion is not clear, the defendant may need to provide additional evidence to show that their opinion was grounded in fact.
    • Honest Belief: The defendant must have honestly held the opinion they expressed at the time of publication. It's important to note that this does not mean the opinion needs to be reasonable, fair, or balanced. Even if others find the opinion extreme, absurd, or highly prejudiced, so long as it's an honestly held opinion, the defence can still be successful.
    • Reasonable Person Test: A reasonable person must be able to consider the statement as an opinion based on the underlying facts.

    For example, a restaurant reviewer might make negative comments about a meal they had at a restaurant. If the restaurant owner sued for defamation, the reviewer could potentially use the defence of honest opinion, as long as they could show that their negative comments were based on the actual meal they had eaten, and were not invented or exaggerated beyond what they honestly thought about it. Like all defences to defamation, the application of the honest opinion defence will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Therefore, if you find yourself involved in a defamation case, whether as a claimant or a defendant, it's advisable to seek professional legal advice.

    The Defence of  Privilege (Absolute or Qualified):

    Privilege protects certain types of communication from defamation claims. Absolute privilege applies to certain proceedings, such as those in Parliament or in court, where the need for free speech outweighs the potential for defamation. Qualified privilege protects the communication of potentially defamatory statements made in the public interest, provided the communication was not made maliciously.

    The Defence of Publication on Matter of Public Interest:

    If the defendant can show that the statement was on a matter of public interest and they reasonably believed that publishing the statement was in the public interest, this defence may apply. The defence of privilege is another fundamental aspect of UK defamation law, aimed at balancing the need to protect individuals' reputations with the need for free and frank discussion in certain contexts.

    Absolute Privilege:

    Absolute privilege offers total protection against defamation claims, regardless of the motive behind the statement. This means that the person making the statement could knowingly say something false or defamatory, and yet not be liable for defamation. Absolute privilege applies to certain proceedings where it is deemed essential that participants can speak openly without fear of legal consequences. This includes:

    • Statements made in the course of parliamentary proceedings, including speeches by Members of Parliament and witnesses giving evidence to parliamentary committees.
    • Statements made in court, or in documents prepared for court proceedings, such as witness testimonies, affidavits, or pleadings.
    • Statements made in certain other legal proceedings, such as public inquiries or disciplinary hearings of professional bodies.

    Qualified Privilege:

    Qualified privilege offers protection for potentially defamatory statements made in other contexts, where it's considered to be in the public interest that people should be able to speak freely. This can include:

    • Media reports of certain public proceedings or official statements.
    • Statements made by individuals in the performance of a legal, social, or moral duty, such as a reference given by an employer.
    • Fair and accurate reports of public meetings or press conferences.

    However, qualified privilege is 'qualified' because it can be defeated if the claimant can prove that the statement was made with malice, meaning the defendant knew the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard for its truth. As with all defamation defences, the specific application of the privilege defence depends on the circumstances of each case. If you're involved in a defamation claim, it's strongly recommended to seek legal advice to understand how these defences could be applied.

    The Defence of Innocent Dissemination:

    This defence is available to those who, in the course of a business, unknowingly and without negligence, published defamatory material authored by a third party. This could include an internet service provider or a bookseller. The defence of innocent dissemination is particularly relevant in the age of digital communication, where many businesses are involved in the transmission, hosting, or distribution of third-party content.

    In UK defamation law, the defence of innocent dissemination is available to individuals or organisations that have, in the course of their business, unknowingly and without negligence, facilitated the publication of defamatory material authored by a third party. This defence is often used by intermediaries such as booksellers, librarians, internet service providers (ISPs), or website operators. These entities may distribute or host vast amounts of content but have limited or no control over its creation. To successfully invoke the defence of innocent dissemination, a defendant must generally show the following:

    1. They did not author or edit the defamatory content.
    2. They were not involved in the decision to publish the defamatory content.
    3. They were not negligent in relation to the publication of the defamatory content.
    4. They did not know, and had no reason to believe, that they were contributing to the publication of defamatory content.

    For instance, suppose an ISP hosts a website that contains a defamatory statement posted by a user. In that case, the ISP might be able to use the defence of innocent dissemination if it can prove it had no knowledge of the defamatory content and acted promptly to remove it once notified. However, if it's demonstrated that the defendant ought to have known that the material was likely to be defamatory, or if they failed to take action when the defamation was brought to their attention, they may not be able to use this defence. It's important to note that the specifics of each case can greatly influence the application of the innocent dissemination defence. Given the complexities of defamation law, it's generally advisable to seek legal advice if you find yourself involved in a defamation case.

    The Defence of Consent:

    If the claimant consented to the publication of the statement, the defendant cannot be held liable for defamation. Remember, the application of these defences will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. If you find yourself involved in a defamation case, whether as a claimant or defendant, it's always wise to seek legal advice. Consent is an absolute defence to a defamation claim. This means that if a person (the claimant) gave their permission for the allegedly defamatory statement to be published, the person who made the statement (the defendant) cannot be held liable for defamation.

    The rationale behind this defence is that it would be unjust to allow a person to sue for defamation when they have freely permitted the publication of the statement in question. Essentially, if you've agreed to the statement being made public, you can't then complain about the damage it does to your reputation. The consent must be freely given, and it must be clear that the claimant was fully aware of the nature of the statement when they gave their consent. The defendant would generally need to provide some evidence to demonstrate that they had the claimant's consent.

    This defence can apply in various contexts. For example, if a person agrees to an interview for a magazine article or a documentary, knowing that certain potentially defamatory statements about them will be included, they may be considered to have consented to the publication of those statements.

    However, the application of the consent defence, like all defences to defamation, will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. For instance, the scope of the consent and the context in which it was given can all be relevant factors. If consent was obtained through deception or under duress, it may not be valid.

    What is the legal test for defamation?

    In the realm of defamation laws, it's important to clarify that there isn't a strict "test" as such, particularly given the varying laws across different jurisdictions. However, in the UK, establishing defamation involves satisfying several critical elements as per the Defamation Act 2013.

    For a statement to be legally considered defamatory, its publication must have resulted in or have a likelihood to cause significant harm to the reputation of the claimant. The statement must essentially lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society, cause them to be shunned or avoided, or expose them to hatred, ridicule, or contempt. The statement must also refer to the claimant and have been published to a third party. This means it must have been made known to someone other than the person making the statement and the person the statement is about. If the claimant is a trading corporation, it must also prove that the statement has caused, or is likely to cause, serious financial loss.

    Moreover, the claimant must be able to overcome any defences the defendant might raise, such as truth, honest opinion, or privilege. Therefore, rather than a single legal 'test', proving defamation involves satisfying these interconnected elements.

    Defamatory Statement:

    In the process of a defamation case, the initial step entails demonstrating that the statement under scrutiny is indeed defamatory. A defamatory statement holds the potential to inflict harm on the reputation of an individual or a corporation. This could be brought about in various ways.

    For example, the statement might incite feelings of hatred, ridicule, or contempt towards the person or entity to which it refers. This could lead to a situation where the individual or corporation is shunned or avoided by others due to the negativity associated with the statement. Alternatively, a defamatory statement might lower the subject in the estimation of 'right-thinking' members of society.

    This can effectively undermine their standing or reputation in their community or industry. Thus, a statement that fulfils any of these criteria can be classified as defamatory within the scope of UK law.

    The Statement Refers to the Claimant:

    The statement must be about, or refer to, the claimant. It's not necessary for the claimant to be specifically named if they can be identified in some other way. In the context of UK defamation law, establishing that a statement is defamatory is the initial step in the process. A defamatory statement is one which has the potential to injure the reputation of an individual or a corporation. This potential harm could manifest itself in various ways.

    For instance, a defamatory statement could expose the person or entity in question to feelings of hatred, ridicule, or contempt from others. Similarly, such a statement might lead to the person or entity being shunned or avoided by others due to the negative image portrayed by the statement. Furthermore, a defamatory statement could lower the individual or entity in the estimation of 'right-thinking' members of society, thereby negatively affecting their standing or reputation. In essence, if a statement fulfils any of these criteria, it can be considered defamatory under UK law.

    The Statement has been Published:

    The defamatory statement must have been published or communicated to a third party. In defamation law, "published" means that someone other than the person making the statement and the person the statement is about has seen, heard, or read it. 

    In terms of defamation law in the UK, the requirement for a statement to be considered published is that it must have been communicated or made available to a third party. This means that the alleged defamatory statement must have been seen, heard, or read by someone who is neither the person making the statement, nor the individual or entity the statement is about.

    Essentially, this suggests that the potentially harmful statement has been shared or disseminated in some way beyond the parties directly involved in the statement's creation and its subject. This dissemination could be via various means, such as print, broadcast, or online platforms. The concept of publication in defamation law highlights the fact that defamation involves damage to a person's or entity's reputation in the eyes of others.

    Serious Harm:

    The claimant must demonstrate that the defamatory statement has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to their reputation. If the claimant is a for-profit business, they must also show that the statement has caused or is likely to cause them serious financial loss.

    A pivotal aspect of a defamation claim under UK law is demonstrating serious harm. This requires the claimant, or the person alleging defamation, to provide evidence that the defamatory statement has caused or has a likelihood of causing severe damage to their reputation. The idea behind this requirement is to ensure that the courts only deal with cases where substantial damage has occurred, and not trivial matters. Serious harm may manifest in various ways, such as damaging the individual's personal or professional relationships or standing in the community.

    When the claimant is a for-profit business entity, there is an additional requirement to demonstrate that the defamatory statement has led to, or there is a high chance it will lead to severe financial loss. This element recognises that for businesses, harm to reputation often translates directly into monetary damage. This could be through loss of clients or customers, decreased business opportunities, or increased costs due to the need to mitigate the damage caused by the defamatory statement.

    Once these elements have been established, the burden shifts to the defendant, who might then attempt to avail one of several defences, including truth, honest opinion, privilege (absolute or qualified), and public interest. If a defendant can successfully establish one of these defences, they may avoid liability. 

    Is it easier to win a defamation case in the UK?

    The difficulty of winning a defamation case can depend largely on the jurisdiction in which the case is brought. The UK and the US, for example, have different defamation laws and standards of proof which can impact the ease or difficulty of winning a case. Defamation Law in the UK vs the US: In the UK, the burden of proof generally falls on the defendant. This means that if someone sues you for defamation, it is up to you as the defendant to prove that your statement was true, or that it is protected by another defence such as honest opinion or privilege.

    The UK law also does not distinguish between public and private figures when considering defamation cases, meaning everyone is given the same level of protection. On the other hand, in the US, the burden of proof typically falls on the plaintiff (the one who is claiming defamation). This is especially true when the plaintiff is a public figure, like a politician or a celebrity. In such cases, they not only have to prove that the statement was false and defamatory but also that it was made with "actual malice" - meaning the person who made the statement knew it was false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

    This can make defamation cases harder to win in the US, especially for public figures. Impact of Trial by Judge vs Trial by Jury: In the UK, defamation cases are usually tried by a judge alone, whereas in the US, they're often tried by a jury. This can impact the outcome of a case, as individual biases can influence judgement. In the UK, a judge, who is a legal expert, makes the decision based on the facts presented and the law. This can provide a more consistent and predictable outcome, but it's also subject to the interpretation and discretion of a single individual. In the US, a jury, typically consisting of 12 ordinary citizens, decides the case.

    This means the decision is based on the collective judgement of a group of people, which could arguably be more balanced and less likely to be influenced by a single individual's point of view. However, this can also lead to less predictability, as the decision is more likely to be influenced by the personal experiences and biases of the jurors.

    In conclusion, it can be easier to win a defamation case in the UK compared to the US due to the differences in defamation laws, standards of proof, and trial methods. However, each case is unique and the outcome will always depend on the specific circumstances. Anyone dealing with a potential defamation claim should seek legal advice to understand their rights and potential outcomes.

    How long does it take to get a defamation case in the UK?

    The length of time it takes to complete a defamation case in the UK can vary widely based on several factors. These factors include the complexity of the case, the number of parties involved, the willingness of the parties to settle, the court's schedule, and any potential appeals. However, broadly speaking, a defamation case might progress through the following stages:

    • Pre-action stage: This involves a letter before action, any necessary investigations, and possibly pre-action negotiations. This could take a few weeks to several months.
    • Pleadings stage: This involves the preparation and exchange of formal court documents (Claim Form, Particulars of Claim, Defence, and possibly a Reply). This stage usually takes a few months.
    • Disclosure and evidence stage: This involves the parties disclosing relevant documents to each other and gathering evidence, including witness statements. Depending on the volume of documents and the number of witnesses, this stage could take several months.
    • Trial: The trial itself may last anywhere from a day to a few weeks, depending on the complexity of the case.
    • judgement and possible appeal: The judge may deliver their judgement immediately, or they may reserve judgement to deliver at a later date. If there is an appeal, the process can extend for several more months, and possibly longer.

    In total, from the start of proceedings to judgement (excluding any appeal), a defamation case in the UK could take anywhere from about a year to several years. It is important to note that these are general time frames and each case is unique. Legal advice should be sought for an estimation tailored to a specific case. It's also worth mentioning that you typically have one year from the date of publication of the defamatory statement to bring a defamation claim, according to the Defamation Act 2013. However, courts have the discretion to hear cases brought outside this period if they consider it just and equitable to do so.

    Can you go to the police about slander in the UK?

    In the UK, slander and defamation more broadly are typically civil matters rather than criminal ones. This means that the police do not usually get involved in cases of slander. Instead, the person who believes they have been defamed would typically seek legal advice and possibly bring a claim in the civil courts. However, there could be circumstances where a defamatory statement could also involve criminal behaviour.

    For instance, if the statement is part of a campaign of harassment, or incites violence or hatred based on race, religion, or other protected characteristics, then it might be a criminal offence and you could report it to the police. Also, under the Communications Act 2003, it's an offence to send a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character over a public electronic communications network (which includes social media).

    So, if the slanderous statement fits these criteria, it could potentially be a matter for the police. Nevertheless, in most cases, slander and defamation are dealt with through the civil courts. If you believe you've been defamed, it's usually recommended that you seek legal advice to understand your rights and the best course of action.

    Who Cannot sue for defamation in the UK?

    1. Dead people: One of the fundamental principles in defamation law is that a claim must be brought by a living person. The dead cannot be defamed, and their estate or family members cannot sue for defamation on their behalf.
    2. Government bodies: Government bodies, including local authorities and governmental departments, are not permitted to sue for defamation in the UK. This is based on the principle established in the 1993 case of Derbyshire County Council v. Times Newspapers Ltd, which found that it was contrary to the public interest for governmental bodies to sue for defamation.
    3. Trade associations: Trade associations are typically not permitted to sue for defamation on behalf of their members, unless they can demonstrate that the defamatory statement caused them, as an organisation, serious financial loss.
    4. Companies: Companies can bring a defamation claim, but under the Defamation Act 2013, a company must show that the defamatory statement has caused, or is likely to cause, serious financial loss.

    Who has the burden of proof for slander UK?

    In the UK, in a slander or defamation case, the burden of proof primarily falls on the defendant (the person accused of defamation). This means the defendant must demonstrate that their statement falls under one of the defences to defamation, such as truth, honest opinion, absolute or qualified privilege, or that the statement was in the public interest.

    However, this does not mean that the claimant (the person who alleges they have been defamed) has nothing to prove. The claimant has the initial burden of establishing that: The statement was defamatory. The statement referred to them. The statement was published to a third party.

    The statement has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation (if the claimant is a business, they must prove serious financial loss). Moreover, in some cases, the defendant may raise a factual defence where the claimant may need to provide evidence to the contrary. For example, if the defendant raises a defence of truth, the claimant may need to demonstrate that the statement was indeed false. Additionally, if a claimant brings a claim for malicious falsehood - where they must prove that a false statement was made maliciously that caused them damage - the burden of proof is on the claimant. Often, legal action for defamation against online reviewers will also involve a claim for malicious falsehood

    What counts as defamation UK?

    Defamation in the UK is defined by making a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual or a corporation. The false statement must be made to a third party, meaning someone other than the person defamed must have seen, heard, or read it. There are two types of defamation:

    Libel:

    This refers to a defamatory statement that has been published in written form, or in a form that has some degree of permanence, such as a tweet, a Facebook post, a newspaper article, or a TV broadcast.

    Slander:

    This refers to a defamatory statement that is spoken or in a non-permanent form. Under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant. For a claim to be considered as defamation in the UK, the following elements typically need to be proven:

    • The statement was defamatory.
    • The statement referred to the claimant.
    • The statement was published to a third party.
    • The statement has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.
    • If the claimant is a corporate body, they must also show that the statement has caused or is likely to cause them serious financial loss. If these elements are satisfied, then the statement could be considered as defamation. However, there are also several defences available, including truth, honest opinion, absolute or qualified privilege, public interest, and others.

    Why is it hard to win the defamation case?

    Winning a defamation case can be challenging due to several factors:

    • Burden of proof: In defamation cases, the claimant (the person who claims they were defamed) must establish several elements to win their case. They must prove that the statement was defamatory, that it referred to them, that it was published to a third party, and that it has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to their reputation. For businesses, they must also show serious financial loss. Each of these elements can be complex and challenging to prove, making it hard to win the case.
    • Substantial truth: Under UK law, truth is a complete defence to a defamation claim. What's more, the statement only needs to be substantially true, not wholly true. If the defendant (the person accused of defamation) can prove that the 'sting' or main substance of their statement is true, they may win the case, even if some minor details are inaccurate or false. This aspect can make defamation cases especially difficult for claimants.
    • Honest opinion: Another possible defence is honest opinion. If the defendant can show that their statement was a genuine expression of their opinion, based on facts that existed at the time and were either referred to in the statement or widely known, they might be able to use this defence. This can make winning a defamation claim more difficult, as it requires the claimant to demonstrate that the defendant did not honestly hold the opinion they expressed.
    • Public interest and privilege: Statements that are in the public interest or made in certain privileged situations, such as in Parliament or in court, may also be protected. These defences can make it harder for claimants to win defamation cases.
    • Belief in the truth: If a defendant genuinely believed that the statement they made was true at the time of publication, this can influence the case. Even if the statement is later found to be false, the defendant's belief in its veracity can be a relevant factor.
    • Costs and stress of litigation: Litigation can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. The costs involved in bringing a defamation case, especially if it proceeds to trial, can be substantial. Even if a claimant has a strong case, the cost and stress of litigation can deter them from pursuing their claim to conclusion.
    • Potential for Streisand Effect: The "Streisand Effect" refers to the phenomenon where attempting to suppress information can inadvertently lead to greater publicity for that information. In the context of a defamation case, this means that suing for defamation can sometimes draw more attention to the defamatory statements, causing further reputational harm. Given these challenges, it's generally advisable for anyone considering a defamation claim to seek professional legal advice.

    is it possible to bring a defamation claim in the small claim court?

    Yes. But only in exceptional cases. The so called small claim court is effectively part of the county court. Currently defamation claims need to be issued in the High Court, unless the parties agree to give the county court jurisdiction in their dispute under section 18 of the County Courts Act 1984. Section 15 of the same Act provides that the county court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine any defamation action.

    A claim can only be transferred to the county court by the High Court under section 40 of the 1984 Act. A defamation claim A claim can then find its way to the county court only if it is transferred there, by the High Court, under section 40 of the 1984 Act. The criteria for transfer of defamation claims from the High Court to the county court are set out under Civil Procedure Rule 30.3, which is a non-exclusive but compulsory list of matters to which the court must have regard.

    The transferring court must have regard to the financial value of the claim and the availability of a judge specialising in the type of claim in question. The court must also consider the practical and logistical facilities of competing venues and the importance of the outcome of the claim to the public in general

    .

    Are you a victim of defamation? Time might be of the essence. Call us now for legal advice on +44 207 183 4123 or send a requestand we will contact you as soon as possible.

  • Defamation and a job reference

    Defamation and a job reference

    What to do if your former employer gives a defamatory job reference

    The impact of an employer's reference on a job applicant's prospects cannot be overstated. A positive reference serves as a powerful endorsement, highlighting the applicant's competencies and suitability for the role. Conversely, a negative reference can significantly hinder their chances of securing the position. 

    Table of content

    Steps to take if given a defamatory reference

    Legal rights over a defamatory reference

    Proving a reference is defamatory

    Can the defendant defend a claim over a defamatory reference

    Does a defamatory job reference count as negligence

    Can a defamatory reference be seen in an employment tribunal

    Is it possible to sue a former employer following a defamatory job reference

    What defences an employer might use in a defamation claim for a job reference

    Can employment tribunals handle defamation claims linked to unfair dismissal

    Steps to take if given a defamatory reference

    In situations where a past employer has given a defamatory reference, which unfairly harms your reputation, there are several steps you can take. Firstly, it's crucial to understand the content of the reference and how it may be perceived as defamatory. Next, consider reaching out to the employer to discuss the issue and seek a resolution. If this approach doesn't yield results, legal advice may be necessary to assess your options for addressing the defamatory remarks and mitigating their impact on your career.

    In a nutshell

    Addressing Defamatory Job References

    Understanding the Impact: An employer's reference plays a crucial role in a job applicant's future employment opportunities, where a negative reference can severely hinder their prospects.

    Steps to Take: If you receive a defamatory reference, it's essential to first understand the content, consider discussing it with the former employer, and, if necessary, seek legal advice to explore remedies and possibly mitigate its impact on your career.

    Legal Rights: You have the right to litigate if a previous employer provides a defamatory reference. Successful claims can lead to compensation, especially if the reference contains false information leading to job rejections.

    Proving Defamation: Establishing a defamation case requires showing that the reference was provided with malice, a significant hurdle given defenses available to former employers, such as truth and qualified privilege.

    Defenses Employers Might Use: Employers can defend against defamation claims by proving the truth of the reference's statements or claiming qualified privilege, which protects them if they had a duty to provide the reference.

    Employment Tribunal's Role: Defamatory job references related to unfair dismissal can be addressed within an employment tribunal, which can consider both defamation and unfair dismissal aspects.

    Suing for Defamation: It is possible to sue a former employer for a defamatory job reference, focusing on the false and damaging nature of the reference and overcoming potential defenses like truth and qualified privilege.

    Legal rights over a defamatory reference

    A job applicant has the legal right to pursue litigation if they receive a defamatory reference from a previous employer. Such references might include incorrect or misleading information that leads to the applicant being turned down for a new position. Additionally, the reference could violate the applicant's right to privacy by disclosing sensitive details like medical records or criminal history. If a reference is proven to be defamatory, the applicant might be entitled to compensation from the individual who provided the reference.

    For the reference to be considered defamatory, it must have been shared with a third party, resulting in harm or damage to the applicant. To establish a case of defamation, the applicant must demonstrate that the reference contained false or misleading statements, and that it was delivered with the intent of damaging their reputation or hindering their job prospects. However, it's important to note that recent legal precedents in England have shown a lack of support for former employees claiming defamation due to a negative job reference, even when such references have evidently impeded their ability to find new employment.

    While it is possible to sue for defamation over a negative job reference, proving that the reference has harmed your reputation is essential. Former employers who provided the reference have various defenses at their disposal, especially if the ex-employees perceive the reference as an unjustly negative or defamatory evaluation of their work history. This legal landscape suggests that while the path to suing over a defamatory job reference exists, it is fraught with challenges and complexities.

    Proving a reference is defamatory

    To initiate a successful lawsuit against a former employer for defamation due to a job reference, certain key elements must be established. Primarily, it is essential to prove that the defamatory job reference was provided with malice. This means demonstrating that the former employer issued the reference with the intention to harm your reputation or with reckless disregard for the truth. One of the critical challenges in such cases is overcoming the defense of truth. If the former employer can convincingly argue that they believed the contents of the reference to be true at the time they provided it, this defense can effectively nullify your defamation claim. It is not enough to merely show that the reference was negative or harmful, you must provide evidence that the employer either knew the information was false or acted with a high degree of negligence regarding the truth.

    Additionally, proving defamation involves showing that the reference was not only false but also damaging to your professional reputation. This often requires establishing a direct link between the reference and the negative outcomes you experienced, such as being rejected for a job opportunity. It's also important to consider any applicable legal nuances in your jurisdiction, as defamation laws can vary significantly. In some regions, additional elements such as the requirement to prove actual malice or special damages might be necessary. Seeking legal advice to navigate these complexities and to understand the specific requirements in your area is highly advisable before proceeding with a defamation lawsuit against a former employer.

    Can the defendant defend a claim over a defamatory reference

    In defending against a defamation claim related to a job reference, a former employer typically relies on two main strategies: asserting the truth of the statements made in the reference and claiming qualified privilege. Firstly, the employer must demonstrate a genuine belief in the truthfulness of the information provided in the job reference. This means they need to show that, at the time of writing the reference, they believed the contents to be accurate. This defense hinges on the idea that if the statements in the reference are true, or at least were believed to be true, they cannot constitute defamation.

    Secondly, the defense of qualified privilege is often invoked. This legal principle applies when the employer had a legal, social, or moral duty or interest to communicate the information to the recipient of the reference. The concept of qualified privilege recognises that in certain relationships or situations, such as between a former employer and a prospective employer, the communication of certain information, even if it turns out to be inaccurate, should be protected to encourage frankness and honesty. For example, in a notable case where a former employee sued their employer for providing a defamatory job reference, the court acknowledged that the reference was defamatory.

    However, it also recognised that the relationship between the provider of a reference (the former employer) and the recipient (the potential new employer) satisfied the criteria for qualified privilege. The court ruled that because the reference was given in a context where there was a duty to provide honest feedback, and it was given to someone with a legitimate interest in receiving it, the communication was protected under the doctrine of qualified privilege. It's important to note that these defenses can be complex and their applicability may vary depending on the specifics of the case and the jurisdiction. Additionally, if it can be proven that the employer acted with malice – that is, with the intent to harm the former employee’s reputation or with reckless disregard for the truth – the defense of qualified privilege may not hold. Legal advice is typically recommended for navigating these nuanced areas of defamation law.

    Does a defamatory job reference count as negligence

    It is indeed possible to pursue legal action against a former employer for negligence in cases where a defamatory job reference has caused you harm. When suing for negligence, the focus shifts from the malicious intent behind the defamation to the employer's failure to exercise reasonable care in providing an accurate and fair job reference. A job reference is a critical document that significantly influences employment opportunities. It is expected to provide a truthful and fair evaluation of an employee's performance and conduct.

    If an employer negligently provides a reference that contains false or misleading information, and this leads to harm such as loss of job opportunities or reputational damage, the former employee may have grounds to sue for negligence. In cases where it can be proven that the employer acted with malice, that is, with deliberate intent to harm or with reckless disregard for the truth, the former employee may also seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to actual damages and are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future. Another important consideration is the statute of limitations for bringing legal action. In the context of defamation, the limitation period is typically shorter, often around 12 months.

    In contrast, negligence claims generally have a longer limitation period, which can extend up to 6 years in some jurisdictions. This extended timeframe provides a broader window for former employees to initiate legal proceedings. However, it's crucial to understand that legal standards for proving negligence differ from those for defamation. In negligence cases, the focus is on the employer's duty of care and whether there was a breach of that duty leading to harm. The complexities of such cases, including the need to prove causation and damages, make it advisable to seek professional legal advice to assess the merits of a case and navigate the legal process.

    Can a defamatory reference be seen in an employment tribunal

    Indeed, under certain circumstances, it is possible to bring a case to an employment tribunal involving a defamatory job reference, particularly if it is connected with an issue of unfair dismissal. If you have been unfairly dismissed and subsequently received a defamatory reference from your former employer, the employment tribunal can address both the defamation aspect and the unfair dismissal claim. This approach is rooted in the principle that the employment tribunal is a specialised forum designed to handle employment-related disputes, including unfair dismissal. This was underscored in a significant High Court decision. In this case, the High Court declined a defamation claim linked to an unfair dismissal, highlighting that Parliament intended for unfair dismissal cases, and any resultant loss claims, to be adjudicated within the specialised framework of the employment tribunal.

    The rationale behind directing these cases to employment tribunals is to maintain coherence in the legal process. Allowing employees to pursue what are essentially unfair dismissal claims through other legal avenues could enable them to circumvent the statutory cap on damages typically imposed in unfair dismissal cases. Moreover, in other courts, claimants might seek to recover legal costs, which is not a common practice in employment tribunal proceedings. Therefore, if your defamation claim is intricately linked with an employment dispute, particularly unfair dismissal, the High Court is likely to be hesitant in hearing your case.

    It may view itself as not the most appropriate venue for what is fundamentally an employment law dispute. This approach helps to streamline employment-related legal processes and ensures that cases are heard in the most suitable forum, one that is specifically equipped to handle the nuances of employment law. However, it's important to consult with a legal professional to understand the specific details and viability of your case within the framework of your jurisdiction's legal system.

    Is it possible to sue a former employer following a defamatory job reference

    Yes, you can sue your former employer if their defamatory job reference has caused you harm. To successfully pursue a defamation claim, you need to prove that the reference contained false information that was communicated with malice or reckless disregard for the truth.

    If your former employer can demonstrate they believed the information was true or if they had a legal, social, or moral duty to provide the reference (qualified privilege), it could be a valid defense against your claim. Additionally, if the defamatory reference is linked to an unfair dismissal, it might be more appropriate to address this within an employment tribunal.

    What defences an employer might use in a defamation claim for a job reference

    A former employer can defend against a defamation claim primarily through two arguments: the truth of the statements in the reference and qualified privilege. They will need to show they genuinely believed the information in the reference was true.

    Additionally, they might claim qualified privilege, arguing that they had a legal, social, or moral obligation to provide the reference. This defense applies when the employer had a duty to communicate honest feedback to someone with a legitimate interest in receiving it, like a potential new employer.

    Can employment tribunals handle defamation claims linked to unfair dismissal

    Yes, if your defamatory job reference is related to an unfair dismissal, you can bring this issue to an employment tribunal. The tribunal can address both the defamation and the unfair dismissal aspects. This approach is consistent with legal precedents indicating that employment tribunals are the appropriate venue for handling disputes related to unfair dismissal, including any consequential claims of loss.

    The High Court is generally reluctant to hear cases that are essentially employment disputes, preferring them to be resolved within the specialised employment tribunal system.

  • How to fight back against anonymous defamation

    How to fight back against anonymous defamation

    Anonymous Internet defamation: what to do

    The challenge of addressing online defamation is exacerbated when the perpetrator hides behind the veil of anonymity. However, with the evolving digital landscape, there are systematic measures and legal tools that can help unveil the identity of such defamers and protect the reputation of the aggrieved party. Here's an overview of what to do when confronted with anonymous internet defamation.

    Table of content

    How to utilise public resources for identification of online defamers

    Digital footprint analysis to expose defamers

    How to obtain disclosure orders and subpoenas to expose defamers 

    When and how to get defamation injunctions

    How to utilise public resources for identification of online defamers

    Our initial strategy involves scouring publicly accessible resources to pinpoint potential identifiers of the defamer. This might include looking into digital footprints, metadata, or even patterns in the content that might hint at the identity. When confronted with the challenge of anonymous online defamation, having an experienced team at your side can make all the difference. Over the years, we have fine-tuned our strategies and leveraged cutting-edge technologies to identify anonymous defamers and protect the reputations of our clients. Here's a deeper look into our expertise and the nuanced approach we employ in this specialized field. Years of handling numerous cases have honed our ability to expertly navigate a myriad of publicly available resources. These databases, forums, and platforms often contain a wealth of information that, when analysed correctly, can lead directly or indirectly to the defamer.

    Identifying Anonymous Defamers Legal Advice FAQ

    Experts examine publicly accessible resources, like digital footprints and metadata, to uncover potential identifiers of the defamer. They look for patterns in the content and use metadata from digital interactions, which might include timestamps and location details, to gather clues about the defamer's identity.

    Content analysis involves detecting nuances, writing styles, and specific terminologies in the defamatory content. Experts look for recurring themes or expressions that might hint at the defamer's background or motives, aiding in narrowing down the suspect pool.

    Collaboration involves discussions with the victim to gather background information and insights into any potential suspects. Understanding the context and motivations behind the defamation helps refine search parameters, making the identification process more precise.

    Legal tools like Disclosure Orders and Subpoenas are used when initial efforts don't identify the defamer. These compel online platforms and service providers to disclose information about the defamer's identity, such as usernames and IP addresses.

    A defamation injunction is sought when defamers are elusive, and direct legal action becomes necessary to stop the defamatory actions. It's enforced by serving it to the platform hosting the content and major search engines, ensuring the removal of harmful content and minimizing its visibility online.

    Digital footprint analysis to expose defamers

    Everyone leaves a trace online, and our team is adept at reading and interpreting these digital breadcrumbs. Whether it's a specific style of writing, the timing of posts, or the kind of platforms used, we can identify patterns that help pinpoint an individual or, at the very least, narrow down the pool of potential suspects. Often overlooked, metadata — the data about data — can be a goldmine of information. Every digital interaction, be it a photo upload, a comment, or a blog post, comes embedded with metadata. This can include timestamps, device information, location details, and more. Our team has the tools and know-how to extract and interpret this data, often revealing crucial clues about the defamer's identity.

    Content Pattern Recognition

    Beyond the digital data, the content itself can offer significant insights. Our team includes experts trained in content analysis. They can detect nuances, writing styles, recurring themes, or specific terminologies used by the defamer, which can hint at their background, motivations, or identity. What sets us apart is our collaborative approach. We combine the expertise of IT professionals, content analysts, and legal experts to provide a comprehensive solution. This synergy ensures that while our tech team delves into the digital aspects, our legal team is ready to act on the information obtained.

    Collaborative suspect identification

    While we harness technological methods, understanding the context and any potential motivations is crucial. We'll engage in a collaborative discussion with you to identify any potential suspects based on the nature and content of the defamation. In the maze of digital anonymity, successfully unmasking online defamers often requires more than just technological expertise. One of the most potent tools at our disposal is collaboration.

    By joining forces with those affected by defamation, we amplify our chances of uncovering the identity of the perpetrator. Let's delve deeper into our collaborative suspect identification process. Though we employ state-of-the-art technological methods, they serve as just one part of our comprehensive approach.

    Real insights often come from blending machine-driven data with human perspectives. By understanding the personal or business context surrounding the defamation, we can refine our search parameters and make our identification processes more precise. At the heart of our collaborative approach are personalised consultation sessions with our clients. These dialogues provide:

    • • Background Information: Understanding any past conflicts, competitors, or disgruntled individuals can offer context.
    • • Specific Incidents: Pinpointing any recent events or changes that might have triggered the defamation helps narrow down the timeline and, potentially, the pool of suspects.
    • • Tone & Style: Is the tone personal, hinting at someone with a personal grudge? Or does it sound more professional, suggesting a competitor or someone from within the industry?
    • • Inside Information: Does the content have details that only certain individuals would know? This can be instrumental in zeroing in on a narrow group of suspects.

    Understanding the 'why' can often lead us to the 'who'. By discussing potential motivations behind the defamation with our clients, we can develop theories about the defamer's objectives, be it financial gain, personal vendetta, business rivalry, or mere mischief.

    Beyond formal consultation sessions, we believe in the power of collaborative brainstorming. By bringing together our team of experts and the insights provided by the client, we foster an environment of creative problem-solving. Such sessions often lead to unexpected breakthroughs in suspect identification.

    How to obtain disclosure orders and subpoenas

    If preliminary efforts don't yield a definitive identification, we resort to more forceful legal tools:

    • Disclosure Orders: These compel online platforms, be it website operators, email providers, or social media platforms, to disclose any relevant information they have about the defamer's identity.
    • Subpoenas: A legal demand for information or testimony against a party, it obligates service providers to share information about anonymous users. Sometimes, even with our best efforts, the identity of the person spreading harmful information about you online remains hidden. When that happens, we rely on stronger legal methods, like Disclosure Orders and Subpoenas, to help reveal the person responsible.

    A Disclosure Order is like an official request from the court, which we can give to companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, or even your email provider. This request tells them they need to share any information they have that could help us figure out who is defaming you online. This can include things like usernames, IP addresses (a unique address that identifies a device on the internet), or when and where they logged in.

    A subpoena is another kind of request from the court, but usually from a court in the US or Canada. When we give a subpoena to a company or a person, they must provide the information we ask for, or they could get into trouble with the court. This can help us get information about the anonymous person causing you trouble. In simple terms, Disclosure Orders and Subpoenas are powerful tools we can use when we need more help finding the anonymous person defaming you online. Think of them like keys that can unlock doors and give us access to the information we need to protect your reputation.

    When and how to get defamation injunctions

    When faced with particularly elusive defamers who skilfully hide their tracks online, we are not deterred. Our commitment to safeguarding your reputation remains unwavering, and in such challenging circumstances, we seek the assistance of the judiciary, which can be a game-changer. Let's explore the steps we take when moving things into the legal arena. An injunction is a legal tool that prohibits or commands certain actions. When we ask the court for an injunction against an anonymous online user:

    • It serves as a direct message to the defamer, urging them to halt their damaging actions.
    • Beyond the individual, it acts as a strong deterrent to others who might consider engaging in such malicious behaviour, sending a clear signal that consequences await those who spread false information online.

    Merely obtaining an injunction isn't enough; its effectiveness lies in how and where it's enforced:

    • Targeting the source: The platform where the defamatory content is hosted, whether it's a blog, forum, or social media site, will be directly served with the injunction. This obligates them to take prompt action, usually resulting in the removal or deactivation of the harmful content. 
    • Engaging search engines: We go a step further by serving the injunction to major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. This ensures that even if, for some reason, the content remains online, it doesn't show up when someone searches for your name or business. Essentially, it becomes like a tree falling in an empty forest; if no one sees it, it minimises the damage.

    While we always hope to resolve defamation issues without resorting to the courts, our priority is to protect your reputation by any means necessary. In those rare instances where traditional methods don't yield results, legal injunctions become our shield and sword, helping us ensure that harmful content is quelled and your reputation remains untarnished.

  • Do you need a lawyer to represent you in a defamation case

    Do you need a lawyer to represent you in a defamation case

    Why you should consult a solicitor before making a defamation claim

    While you don’t need to have a lawyer representing you in your defamation case, you will be wise to ensure that you have proper legal representation in place as early in the proceedings as possible Consulting a solicitor before making a defamation claim is crucial due to the complex nature of UK defamation law. When a defamation claim is unsuccessful, discontinued, or dismissed by a judge, it can exacerbate the situation. Such an outcome may inadvertently suggest to the public that the content in question was not defamatory, regardless of whether the claim was dismissed based on a technicality or a substantial issue. This perception can cause significant damage to the claimant's reputation or standing, potentially more so than the original alleged defamation.

  • Publicly listed companies and claims for defamation

    Publicly listed companies and claims for defamation

    Defamation by Investors Case study

    This case study demonstrates how companies may manage a situation where defamation by shareholders results in losses, profits or reputation woes!

  • Interim injunctions in defamation cases

    Interim injunctions in defamation cases

    Emergency defamation injunctions: A guide

    When it comes to online defamation, individuals and organisations often face the critical decision of whether to seek legal intervention before harmful content is published. Understanding the nuances of interim injunctions for defamation is crucial for anyone seeking to protect their reputation pre-emptively. This article aims to explain, in simple terms, the concept of interim defamation injunctionsand the considerations involved in pursuing one.

  • Company victim of electronic fraud

    Company victim of electronic fraud

    What to do if your company has been a victim of electronic fraud

    If your company has been a victim of electronic financial crime or a scam, it's imperative to act swiftly and decisively, as our client did in the following case study. Immediate action and expert guidance are crucial in mitigating the impact of the fraud and initiating the recovery process.

  • Letter before legal action in defamation

    Letter before legal action in defamation

    Why do you need to send a letter before legal action in defamation cases

    In the UK, sending a letter before action in defamation cases is a critical step that aligns with the Civil Procedure Rules' pre-action protocols, aimed at encouraging dispute resolution outside of court. This letter not only provides the defendant with a chance to rectify the issue, potentially avoiding litigation through apologies, retractions, or compensation, but also serves as a compliance measure that can influence legal costs in court. It clarifies the claim by detailing the defamatory statements and their impact, and signifies the claimant's intent to pursue legal action, thus encouraging a more serious and constructive response from the defendant.

  • The case of Paul Britton and Origin Design

    The case of Paul Britton and Origin Design

    Criminal and civil court proceedings for the same harassment and defamation

    In the UK, while defamation itself doesn't lead to criminal prosecution, certain circumstances surrounding a defamation incident might still involve the criminal courts.

    Table of content:

    Is defamation a civil or a criminal in the UK

    What is the difference between defamation and harassment

    Can you take someone to court for defamation and harassment at the same time

    Can you user a criminal conviction of harassment in a civil defamation case

    Why is the case of Paul Britton and Origin Design significant

    Is defamation a civil or a criminal in the UK

    The case involving web developer Paul Britton and his company, Origin Design, is a notable example in which a criminal conviction for harassment was effectively utilized as the basis for a High Court claim for defamation. In this jurisdiction, defamation is typically addressed as a civil wrongdoing, involving the injured party (the individual whose reputation was harmed) initiating a civil lawsuit against the alleged defamer (the person responsible for making false statements). However, if the defamation case also involves elements of harassment, it may then come under the jurisdiction of criminal court proceedings.

    Defamation and Harassment Legal Advice FAQ

    In the UK, individuals facing online defamation and harassment can pursue both civil and criminal legal avenues. While defamation cases are typically addressed in civil court, where the aggrieved party initiates a lawsuit against the defamer, harassment that involves threatening or persistent unwanted behaviour can lead to criminal proceedings. Notably, if defamation encompasses harassment, the case could cross over into criminal jurisdiction, allowing the victim to pursue both civil damages for defamation and criminal sanctions for harassment.

    Yes, evidence of harassment can play a crucial role in a civil defamation lawsuit. For instance, a criminal conviction for harassment can strengthen a subsequent civil claim for defamation by providing concrete evidence of the defendant's harmful intent and behaviour. This was exemplified in the case against Paul Britton and his company, where harassment was used as a foundation for a High Court defamation claim, demonstrating how criminal findings can bolster civil litigation.

    Defamation and harassment are distinct legal concepts, with defamation focusing on false statements that damage a person's reputation, and harassment concerning unwanted behaviour causing alarm or distress. Despite their differences, the two can intersect, particularly when defamatory actions form part of harassing conduct. This distinction is crucial in determining the appropriate legal response and potential remedies available to victims.

    The case involving Paul Britton and Origin Design underscored the intersection of defamation and harassment through the conduct that led to both a criminal conviction for harassment and a civil action for defamation. Britton's creation of websites to maliciously target and defame a client, coupled with his pursuit of a vendetta, showcased how online actions could lead to severe legal repercussions across both civil and criminal domains, emphasizing the broader legal and societal implications of online misconduct.

    The legal precedent set by the case against Paul Britton and Origin Design is significant for its demonstration of how legal systems can address complex online misconduct involving both defamation and harassment. It illustrates the potential for victims to seek justice through both criminal and civil courts, offering a roadmap for addressing similar cases in the future. The case highlights the importance of accountability for online actions and the legal mechanisms available to protect individuals from harm, marking a critical development in the evolving landscape of internet law.

    What is the difference between defamation and harassment

    Defamation and harassment are two distinct legal issues, and their definitions and consequences differ. Defamation typically concerns itself with false statements that harm a person's reputation, while harassment deals with persistent unwanted behaviour intended to cause alarm or distress. However, situations can arise where the two overlap.

    Can you take someone to court for defamation and harassment at the same time?

    Absolutely. In many legal jurisdictions, it's possible to take someone to court for both defamation and harassment, although the approach and strategy might differ based on the specifics of the case and the legal system in place. One critical factor to consider is the statute of limitations. For defamation claims, in many places, you have a limited window – often only 12 months – to initiate legal action from the date the defamatory statement was made or published.

    Therefore, timing is of the essence when considering legal recourse. If someone has harassed you and, as part of that harassment, made defamatory statements about you, it might be strategic to first address the harassment in a criminal court. Harassment, being a course of conduct that causes alarm or distress, might be easier to prove criminally, especially if there's a pattern of behaviour or clear evidence of intent. Once you've successfully secured a conviction in the criminal court for harassment, this verdict can bolster your subsequent civil claim for defamation. The conviction serves as a potent piece of evidence, indicating the defendant's malicious intent and propensity to use falsehoods as a weapon to cause distress.

    Can you use a criminal conviction of harassment in a civil defamation case

    Yes, you can. A good demonstration of this is the case that our firm took against the web developer, Paul Britton, and his company, Origin Design. The Paul Britton case marked a legal milestone in the UK. It became the first instance where an online troll was held accountable for his harassing and defamatory actions on two distinct occasions: once in the realm of criminal law, and then again in the civil legal system. Paul Britton, a web developer by profession and owner of a web development company, found himself entangled in a disagreement with one of his clients, a certain Mr. Phipps.

    The root of their dispute revolved around a £200 charge for a job that, according to Mr. Phipps, was not executed to the agreed-upon standards. Instead of addressing the grievance directly, Mr. Britton chose to escalate the matter by filing a suit against Mr. Phipps in the small claims court. However, this legal move was just the beginning of a series of vindictive actions. Concurrently, Britton embarked on a sinister campaign against Mr. Phipps. He created multiple bogus websites that maliciously and falsely portrayed Mr. Phipps as a paedophile. This cruel smear campaign was not only damaging to Mr. Phipps's reputation but also caused him considerable emotional distress.

    Though Mr. Phipps was confident that Britton was the mastermind behind these defamatory websites, gathering concrete evidence to substantiate this belief posed a significant challenge. The police, too, found themselves at a similar impasse, unable to conclusively link Britton to the digital onslaught against Phipps. Despite these challenges, the case would eventually become a precedent-setter. Paul Britton faced justice in the criminal court for his online harassment and, once convicted, had to answer for his actions again in a separate civil case in the High Court. The outcome served as a powerful reminder about the consequences of online harassment and the significance of digital responsibility.

    They were embroiled in a controversy that combined elements of both defamation and harassment. Initially, there was a financial dispute between the company and one of its customers. Instead of resolving this issue through traditional means, Britton and Origin Design took to making false statements that damaged the customer's reputation, thereby engaging in defamation. However, it didn't stop at just false claims. The actions of Brittton and his company extended beyond mere statements. They continually targeted the customer with persistent unwanted behaviour that was intended to intimidate, distress, and annoy.

    This repeated troubling conduct is characteristic of harassment. Given the dual nature of their actions, it was feasible for the affected party to pursue a two-pronged legal approach. First, they could potentially initiate a criminal prosecution based on harassment. Criminal harassment charges focus on the psychological or emotional trauma and the direct harm caused by the unwanted behaviour. Once this has been addressed, the aggrieved party can then pivot towards seeking redress for the defamation, focusing on the reputational damage caused by false statements.

    Why is the case of Paul Britton and Origin Design significant

    The case of Britton and Origin Design is significant because it involved a double prosecution, both criminal and civil, for harassment in the UK. The case revolved around Mr. Britton, the owner of a web developing company, who had a dispute with one of his clients, Mr. Phipps, over unsatisfactory work. In retaliation, Mr. Britton created fake websites falsely accusing Mr. Phipps of being a paedophile. The significance of this case lies in the fact that Mr. Phipps' reputation was severely damaged, leading to the loss of his business and the deterioration of his mental health.

    Yair Cohen, a social media lawyer, took on Mr. Phipps' case and obtained evidence that proved Mr. Britton's involvement in the harassing websites. This evidence, including an audio recording, was handed over to the police, resulting in Mr. Britton's conviction for harassment and a prison sentence. Furthermore, Yair Cohen initiated civil proceedings against Mr. Britton for harassment and defamation, which Mr. Britton lost. As a result, he had to pay substantial damages to Mr. Phipps, cover his legal costs, and provide him with an apology. This case highlights the importance of holding individuals accountable for their actions online and the potential consequences they may face in both criminal and civil courts.

    This case was reported in the press

    Web developer created a website about ex-client falsely claiming he was a paedophile

    Web developer avoids jail after creating website about ex-client who falsely claimed he was a paedophile

    Harassment victim wins libel damages

    Are you a victim of defamation? Time might be of the essence. Call us now for legal advice on +44 207 183 4123 or send a requestand we will contact you as soon as possible.

  • Catfishing defamation case study

    Catfishing defamation case study

    How do you stop someone from defaming you?

    This case demonstrates a typical social media defamation case where with prompt action and the right legal support a case that could have lasted for years, was brought to a satisfactory outcome very promptly.

    Table of content

    Defamation on Twitter case

    Defamation and the right to be forgotten

    Twitter defamation strategies

    Legal Issues in pursuing a Twitter defamation case

    Lawyer’s thoughts about the case

    Defamation on Twitter case

    Mr Jerome, a man in his late 40s embarked on a journey to find love. In 2016, he ventured onto a dating website, donning an online persona and a pseudonym to protect his identity. His quest for connection led him to an enchanting romantic partner. Their love story began to unfold after they met on the website Plenty of Fish as they exchanged countless messages via WhatsApp, all under the cloak of his pseudonym.

    As passion blossomed between the two, their relationship escalated to intimate levels. However, fate had other plans. Mr Jerome lost his mobile phone, and when he installed WhatsApp on his new device, his true identity was inadvertently revealed to his romantic partner.

    This revelation led to a whirlwind of emotions, and his partner began to obsess over him, having discovered who he really was. She felt cheated that he had used a pseudonym throughout. Mr Jerome feeling exposed and overwhelmed decided to end all communication with her.

    Years passed, and Mr Jerome thought he had left the turbulent past behind him. But one day, he discovered that three Twitter accounts had been created, spreading false and defamatory allegations against him. These accounts accused him of manipulation, sexual assault, catfishing, and even rape. To make matters worse, they revealed his personal details to the world, jeopardizing his privacy and reputation.

    Social Media Defamation Legal Advice FAQ

    Lawyers tackling social media defamation cases encounter numerous obstacles including navigating the delicate balance between privacy rights and freedom of expression, interacting with multiple digital platforms and anonymous individuals, and the technological intricacies of online services. They must act swiftly to mitigate harm while managing the legal and financial aspects strategically to safeguard the client's best interests.

    Online platforms like Google and Twitter have a pivotal role in defamation cases, wielding significant influence over the online landscape and individuals' reputations. Lawyers must navigate these platforms' policies and leverage their mechanisms for content removal or account suspension, all while advocating for clients' rights to privacy and protection against defamation.

    Anonymity on the internet presents a dual challenge in legal cases: it protects users' freedom of expression and privacy but also enables the spread of false and harmful information. Lawyers must work to unmask anonymous perpetrators responsibly, ensuring accountability for online actions without unduly infringing on privacy rights.

    The legal team addressed the challenges in Mr. Jerome's case by employing a multifaceted strategy, including submitting a right to be forgotten application to Google, serving Twitter with a Norwich Pharmacal Order, and navigating the complex legal, technological, and emotional aspects of the case to restore Mr. Jerome's reputation and achieve a satisfactory resolution.

    Mr. Jerome's case underscores the critical importance of safeguarding one's online identity and privacy. It highlights the risks associated with sharing personal information on digital platforms and the potential for relationships initiated online to lead to significant privacy breaches and defamation. The case serves as a cautionary tale about the unpredictable nature of online interactions and the necessity of legal readiness to address privacy invasions and defamation swiftly.

    Defamation and the right to be forgotten

    Mr Jerome felt harassed. Determined to fight for his rights, he got in touch with our law firm.

    Our lawyers acted swiftly, submitting a right to be forgotten application to Google to delist search results containing the damaging allegations. Google complied, and Mr Jerome’s search results were cleared.

    Twitter defamation strategies

    To that Mr Jerome attain a permanent resolution to the matter, our solicitors served Twitter with a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) application together with a request to delete the three offending accounts and obtain disclosure information. Twitter obliged by deactivating the accounts. However, a new Twitter account surfaced, posting the same malicious allegations against Mr Jerome.

    Upon being notified of the new account, Twitter expressed concerns about the implications of the NPO application. They feared it might have adverse consequences for a woman claiming to have been raped by Mr Jerome. Whilst not actively opposing the application, Twitter intended to have Counsel represent themselves in the disclosure application in the High Court for the purpose of safeguarding the privacy and freedom of expression of their users.

    The application for disclosure was nevertheless granted by the judge. The firm now was able to reach out to the individual in question. This paid off as the poster removed the remaining defamatory tweet. With his reputation restored and the threats neutralized, Mr Jerome finally found peace in the digital realm. This tale serves as a cautionary reminder of the importance of protecting one's online identity and privacy while navigating the unpredictable landscape of modern love.

    Legal issues in pursuing a Twitter defamation case

    In the above case, the lawyers faced several challenges while representing Mr Jerome and fighting to protect his privacy and reputation. Some of these challenges included:

    • Legal complexities: The case involved a delicate balance between Mr Jerome's right to privacy and the freedom of expression of the individuals posting the defamatory content. Navigating these complexities required a deep understanding of the applicable laws and the potential implications of each legal action taken.
    • Dealing with multiple parties: The lawyers had to interact with several entities, including Google, Twitter, and the individual behind the defamatory accounts. This required effective communication and negotiation skills to ensure each party understood their obligations and cooperated with the legal process.
    • Technological challenges: The case involved the use of various digital platforms and required the lawyers to have a strong understanding of the technological aspects of the case. This included understanding how online platforms function, their policies, and the potential loopholes that could be exploited by malicious actors.
    • Tracking down anonymous individuals: The defamatory content was posted by anonymous Twitter accounts, making it difficult for the lawyers to identify and hold the individuals responsible. The NPO application in this catfishing defamation case was one way to obtain disclosure information from the internet companies, but it came with its own challenges, as Twitter was concerned about potential adverse consequences.
    • Balancing costs and outcomes: The lawyers needed to weigh the potential costs of pursuing legal action against the desired outcomes for their client. In this case, Mr Jerome decided not to proceed with incurring further costs after the three offending tweets were deleted. The lawyers had to be strategic in choosing which battles to fight to achieve the best results for their client
    • Time sensitivity: The longer the defamatory content remained online, the more damage it could cause to Mr Jerome. The lawyers had to act quickly and efficiently to minimise the impact of the allegations on their client's personal and professional life.

    Overall, the case presented a unique set of challenges for the legal team, requiring them to draw upon their expertise in privacy law, digital platforms, and effective negotiation to achieve a successful outcome for their client.

    Lawyer’s thoughts about the case

    As the acting lawyer in the catfishing defamation case, I found it to be a fascinating and challenging experience. The case was both legally and emotionally complex, and it pushed me to think critically about the intersection of law, technology, and human relationships. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the case:

    1. Balancing rights and responsibilities: I was struck by the delicate balance between an individual's right to privacy and the freedom of expression of others. This case forced me to consider how far we should go to protect one's reputation and privacy, while also respecting the rights of others to express their opinions and experiences.
    2. The evolving nature of technology: The case highlighted the rapid pace at which technology is evolving and its impact on our lives. As a lawyer, I found it crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in digital platforms and their policies to effectively represent clients in cases like this.
    3. The power of anonymity: I was reminded of the double-edged sword that is anonymity on the internet. While it allows for freedom of expression and a sense of security, it can also enable individuals to spread false and damaging information without consequence. This case underscored the importance of finding ways to hold individuals accountable for their actions online without infringing on their right to privacy.
    4. The role of online platforms: I was intrigued by the responsibility that online platforms like Google and Twitter have in cases like this. They play a crucial role in shaping the online environment and have the power to protect or harm individual reputations. As a lawyer, I found it essential to understand their policies and work with them to achieve the best possible outcome for my client.
    5. The human element: This case served as a powerful reminder of the emotional toll that privacy breaches and defamatory content can have on individuals. It reinforced the importance of empathy and understanding in my work as a lawyer, as well as the need to be mindful of the potential consequences of my actions on all parties involved.
    6. Cost-benefit analysis: The case taught me the value of carefully assessing the costs and benefits of pursuing legal action for my client. In this case, Mr. Jerome ultimately decided not to incur further costs when the three Twitter accounts were suspended. This decision-making process highlighted the importance of being strategic and keeping my client's best interests at heart.

    In conclusion, this catfishing defamation case was a thought-provoking and educational experience that expanded my understanding of privacy law, technology, and the human side of legal disputes. It served as a powerful reminder of the importance of staying current with technological advancements and staying committed to protecting the rights and interests of my clients.

    Are you a victim of defamation? Time might be of the essence. Call us now for legal advice on +44 207 183 4123 or send a requestand we will contact you as soon as possible.

    Case studies are based on true cases where names, dates and circumstances have often been amended to protect the identity of those involved.

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    Norwich Pharmacal Orders are a legal mechanism used in the UK for obtaining information from a third party involved in wrongdoings or unlawful activities. This legal remedy, named after the landmark case of Norwich Pharmacal v Customs and Excise Commissioners, is widely used in various litigation cases, ranging from intellectual property disputes to cybercrime investigations. However, despite its frequent usage, the Norwich Pharmacal Order remains shrouded in mystery and confusion amongst many legal practitioners and individuals.

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    Norwich Pharmacal orders have been an instrumental tool in the legal system to assist people who have been victims of online financial crimes. This order compels third parties that have information to reveal the identity of cybercriminals who engage in illegal activities online. The challenge, however, for the victims of the crimes, is obtaining a Norwich Pharmacal order fast and cost effectively.

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    Why carry out reputational due diligence

    Protect your investment: conduct due diligence

    Avoid surprises: professional research of online reputation

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    Monitor social media presence regularly

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    Trust a specialist reputation solicitor

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    In this libel defamation case, Yair Cohen and Filiz Kiani of Cohen Davis Solicitorsrepresented Jack Aaronson, also known as Dominic Ford, where he took Marcus Stones, popularly known as Mickey Taylor to court. The case, presided over by Mr Justice Julian Knowles at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, shed light on the power of social media and the consequences of false accusations. Let's delve into the facts of the case and the judge's ruling.

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    How do I stop someone from defaming my business

    How can a business defend itself against defamation online

    What happens when a business is being defamed online? Can anything be done about it or free speech is king? The following case study gives some answers to these questions by considering a typical situation of online defamation which small and medium size business often face.

  • What to do with false allegations of sexual assault on Instagram

    What to do if you are subjected to false allegations of sexual assault on Instagram

    One major issue that has become increasingly common is the rise of false allegations of sexual assault on Instagram. While the platform has been a powerful tool for genuine victims to share their stories and seek support, it has also been used by individuals to make unfounded claims of sexual assault against others. These false accusations can have devastating consequences for both the accused and the credibility of genuine victims.

    Furthermore, the ease of sharing information on Instagram means that these allegations can quickly go viral, causing irreparable damage to a person's reputation. As such, it is crucial to address this issue and understand the impact of false accusations on both the accused and the larger community. In this article, we will delve into the prevalence of false allegations of sexual assault on Instagram, the potential motivations behind them, and the steps that can be taken to combat this troubling trend.

  • Defamation by a newspaper journalist from outside the UK

    Defamation by a newspaper journalist from outside the UK

    Defamation during a demonstration

    In this article, we look at a special case where a newspaper journalist from outside the UK is accused of defamation. Defamation means saying or writing something false about someone that harms their reputation. This case study shows how tricky it can be to take legal action in the UK against a newspaper that's based in another country. We'll talk about the different challenges, like dealing with laws from different places and figuring out which country's courts can make decisions. This situation gets even more complicated because of how easily news can spread across the world online.

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