What is Defamation?
Defamation is the publication of a false statement about a person which damages their reputation. Defamation can occur either in writing or by an oral statement. Publishing an untrue newspaper article or wrongfully accusing a customer of shoplifting are common examples of defamation.
In order to succeed in a claim for defamation, the following criteria must be met:
- A publication or statement to a third party.
- The publication or statement must be untrue.
- The publication or statement must damage their reputation.
If you think you have been defamed, you should contact your solicitor as you may be entitled to compensation. Compensation will vary depending on the nature of the statement and the extent of the publication.
Below are some examples of cases we have represented clients in:
- Print Defamation
Journalists and social media users are entitled to publish information under freedom of expression. However this right must be balanced with the right to a person’s good name. Therefore, there is an obligation on journalists and bloggers to ensure their articles are true and accurate.
Case Study 1 – Defamatory Newspaper Article
We acted for a client who had his character defamed when a journalist wrongly identified him as the perpetrator of a criminal act in a newspaper article. We succeeded in getting the newspaper to remove the article for their website as well as publishing a correction and apology. We also negotiated a financial settlement for the damage caused to our client’s reputation.
Case Study 2 – Defamatory Online Articles / Social Media
Due to the rapid increase in people using social media, we have represented numerous clients in having defamatory comments and publications removed.
- Retail Defamation
Supermarkets and shops have the right to prevent theft from their premises. They are entitled to employ competent staff to stop shoplifting. They do not have the right to detain a person who is wrongly accused of shoplifting. Being unlawfully detained by a security guard under suspicion of shoplifting is an experience nobody wants. The price for getting it wrong can as high for retailers as it is for the victims who have been wrongly accused.
Here is some advice if you are wrongly accused of shoplifting:
- Cooperate fully with the staff and security guards.
- If you are detained, insist on the Gardaí being called (and a parent if you are under 18)
- Show the receipt if you have retained it.
- After the incident, write out a detailed account of what was said to include names, times, dates etc.
- Seek professional legal advice from your solicitor as soon as possible. It is important that your solicitor writes to the shop or supermarket to have the CCTV footage preserved. Your solicitor will advise you if you are entitled to compensation for defamation, unlawful detention or false imprisonment.
Case Study 1 – Accused of Shoplifting
We represented a client that was wrongly accused of shoplifting and was unlawfully detained in a supermarket. The customer subsequently produced the receipt for the goods which the supermarket security guard alleged were stolen. Therefore, the assertion that he was stealing was untrue and as a result our client’s reputation was damaged. Our client suffered further humiliation and embarrassment as the supermarket staff permitted the accusation to take place in full view of staff members and customers. We issued Circuit Court proceedings for defamation and false imprisonment and obtained an apology and substantial compensation for our client.
Case Study 2 – Accused of leaving a restaurant without paying
We acted for a couple who were stopped when leaving a restaurant and accused of not having paid for their meal. They were detained in front of other customers until the staff viewed the CCTV footage which confirmed that they had in fact paid. The couple was extremely embarrassed having had their reputation damaged in their local restaurant. The incident was compounded by the restaurant manager refusing to apologise for the incident. Our firm was contacted to act on behalf of the couple. We took a defamation case against the restaurant and successfully negotiated an out of court settlement where we obtained an apology and a significant sum of compensation for our clients.
Case Study 3 – Accused of paying for goods with a counterfeit note
A client contacted our solicitor’s practice after she was accused of paying for goods with a counterfeit or a fake €50 note in her local newsagent. The shopkeeper stated out loud the fact that it was ‘fake’ in front of other staff and customers. The same note was later verified as a genuine note by the bank that had issued it. As a result, our client had her character defamed in front of other customers. The statement suggested she was engaged in a criminal act by trying to pay for goods with a counterfeit note. Our client was severely embarrassed as she felt her reputation had been damaged. We brought a defamation case against the shop and won our case before a Judge who awarded compensation to our client.
If you have a query regarding defamation, please contact Niall on 01 872 5255 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org