Legal advice on slander & bringing a claim for defamation
Defamation is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of the individual or the company. It covers libel (written) and slander (oral). An individual who believes that he has been defamed can sue for compensation, as can a company whose profits and reputation have been damaged.
In order to bring a defamatory claim the person bringing the claim (“the claimant”) must prove that the person against whom the claim is brought (“the defendant”) has published a defamatory statement against him or her.
A defamation claim generally has a time limit, known as the limitation period of one year in which to commence proceedings. If you wish to bring such a claim, you should seek urgent legal advice from a privacy lawyer regarding the time limit for your specific circumstances.
Defamation and the internet
In the age of social media, there is a wealth of law covering the area of defamatory statements made on the internet or through streams such as Twitter. As with any legal issues that have been referred to in this website, you should obtain specialist legal advice before you pursue any claim.
Bringing a privacy claim
Remedies for disclosure of private information are available under two overlapping legal principles:
“Traditional” breach of confidence claim
The ingredients of the claim are that:
- The information disclosed is confidential in nature
- That it was disclosed in circumstance where the recipient knew (or ought to have known) that the information was confidential
- That there has been an unauthorised use of the material to the detriment of the claimant
The claim was historically used to protect what might loosely be termed “trade secrets” but it is not limited to this and can be used to protect any confidential information. The claim is available to both companies and individuals. It is a defence to show that there was a public interest in disclosure.
“New” claim for misuse of private information
Since the Human Rights Act, 1998 came into force, the courts have developed a “new” claim for misuse of private information, so as to give effect to the right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The claim applies to individuals only.
There are essentially two questions:
- Did the Claimant have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of each piece of information? If not, that is the end of the matter.
- If yes, the claimant’s rights under Article 8 are said to be engaged. The court must go on to balance those rights with the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The claim for misuse of private information is often accompanied by a claim under section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998 for damage and/or distress caused by a contravention of that act. Very broadly, a misuse of private information is frequently a contravention of the Data Protection Act.
In cases involving private information about an individual, both the traditional and new claims can apply.