DEFAMATION

If someone has damaged your reputation by their speech or by their writing then you may have a claim for defamation for the loss you have suffered.

The Law of Defamation

A claim for defamation is not reserved for the famous or newsworthy against the media. Slander (oral defamation) and libel (written defamation) can and often occurs against lay individuals and can be brought by individuals against governments, other individuals and non-media companies.

In NSW, the legislation governing defamation is the Defamation Act 2005 (NSW). There are three elements required to be proven: Publication, Identification and Damage to Reputation. Publication requires the communication of a statement (written or oral and through any means) to other individuals. Identification requires proving that the content of the statements identifies the person being defamed. Lastly, there will be a damage to reputation if the statement injures the reputation in personal life or in business or leads to ridicule. The reputation will be damaged if an ‘ordinary’ or ‘reasonable’ member of the public would form a lower opinion of the individual because of it. It is irrelevant what the intention of the person was when making the statement – the focus will be on the effect of the statement.

If an individual is sued for defamation, there are various defences that the individual may rely on. Defamation will not be made out where the statement was trivial so as to not cause any damage. If the statement was substantially true, this is also a defence to a claim for defamation. A case for defamation cannot be made where it can be shown that the statement was just an expression of opinion and not supposed to be taken as a fact. If the accused consented to the communication, then it cannot be the source of defamation. There may also exist privileges that prevent the statement from being the subject of defamation proceedings. For example, statements made in Parliament are absolutely privileged from a claim for defamation. There are also qualified privileges.

Why Stewart Law?

At Stewart Law, our team of experienced lawyers can guide you through the complex law surrounding defamation. We apply a cost-conscious approach and seek to achieve the best result while keeping costs at low. Our lawyers are experienced in alternative dispute resolution and can effectively represent your case and negotiate on your behalf. Where no agreement can be reached, our lawyers are also experienced in bringing defamation litigation in court. We can act for parties bringing a claim and those defending themselves against a claim.

It should be noted that there is a very strict time limit of 1 year for claims of defamation to be brought to court. If you believe that you have been defamed, it is imperative that you contact our offices as soon as possible for a free first consultation. We can also then seek to minimise the damage by acting to restraint the publication of the material and limit the spread of the damaging content.