What Defines Defamation?
According to the Ireland Defamation Act 2009 that repealed the Defamation Act 1961,a defamatory statement injures a person’s good reputation in the eyes of reasonable societal members who may read or hear the statement. Meaning that, a defamatory law suit cannot be filed where a person’s reputation is demeaned in the eyes of his/her gang members. Traditionally, there were two forms of defamation; libel and slander. Slander was spoken defamation while libel was written defamation. However, the advent of technology rendered the two forms of defamation obsolete with the invention of voice recorders and the internet where defamatory statements can be preserved like newspaper cuttings. The 2009 Act introduced the tort of defamation that covers false statements that are either broadcast on TV, written, published on the internet or spoken. However, defamation lawyers in Ireland do not take up all possible defamation cases; an actionable defamatory statement should have three components; it must be published, false, and refer to the main complainant.
Publication must take place for a false statement to be considered actionable for damages. Publication comprises of comments made verbally in public settings or broadcast on TV or radio. As such, if A sends B a letter containing false information and allegations, B cannot take any action against A since the letter is not considered a publication. Note that, a jury will assess damages and determine the level of compensation based on how widespread the publication was. If a person fears that they are about to be defamed by a newspaper or magazine article, they have a right to apply for injunction in a bid to restrain the particular newspaper or magazine publisher. Note that, the court can grant the relief or not. This is because, the court is mandated to balance between the rights of a defamation complainant and the publisher’s right of freedom of expression. If the court allows the publication to proceed, the injured party should file a legal defamation claim against the publisher for damages.
Identification: Reference to the Main Complainant
A defamatory statement must not name a person directly. It can suggest a person by their profession, connections, property or location. For instance, use of a photo belonging to person’s car in a drunk driving campaign article without their consent can amount to defamation if the car owner proves that the car was identified by readers who know that to be their car and concluded that the owner was involved in drunk driving.If just one person provides credible evidence that they recognize a complainant based on an image or description; that is adequate ground to file a defamation law suit.
According to the tort of defamation, “a statement is presumed defamatory until proved otherwise.” However, publication of the truth is not actionable. Therefore, a publisher is can plead justification as a defence and prove the truth of the defamatory statement. A false statement that is published spitefully attracts higher damages as compared to erroneous statements that are published innocently.
A defamation claim can take several weeks before being heard in court and it may also attract enormous legal costs that are settled by the losing party. In light of this, our defamation lawyers in Ireland take their time to examine client defamation claims to ensure that it meets the three stipulated ingredients.