Protecting your reputation used to be relatively easy. To a large degree you could control the information you put into the public domain and monitor what people were saying about you, taking action if necessary.
Of course, that was all before the internet. Now, there are billions of publicly accessible web pages and information can be updated in seconds from most places in the world.
Whether your reputation has been tarnished online or publically spoken, our dispute resolution lawyers can advise you on the legal rights you have to clear your name.
The accepted legal definition of defamation is "the publication of a statement which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally."
In order for a statement to be defamatory it must: be false; be made by one individual about another - which attempts to discredit that person's character, reputation or credit worthiness, in other words, likely to lower the person concerned in the estimation of others (a mere insult is not enough); be communicated to a third party; and it must be possible to identify the individual from the statement.
If the statement is spoken it is called slander, and if written (or broadcast) it's called libel.
There are a number of defences to a claim of slander or libel. The most obvious is that the statement was true; but there are other defences, including fair comment, public interest or that the words complained of are not likely to lower someone's reputation in the minds of others. There are also other, more technical, defences.
Alternatively, malicious falsehood could be claimed if it can be shown that the statements made were untrue, that the person making the statement knew they were untrue and made with malice (if they knew harm was likely to result from the statement), and that they caused you to suffer a financial loss.
If it is not possible to resolve the dispute amicably by correspondence then court proceedings may be issued in the High Court for compensation and/or an order to stop the other party from repeating the allegations. However, beware, there are strict time-limits for taking legal action for defamation and malicious falsehood (12 months from the date the defamatory statement was made), though this can be extended by the court in certain situations.
If you believe someone has defamed you, or you have been accused of defamation, our dispute resolution lawyers can provide straight-forward and constructive advice.