Libel and Slander FAQ

Who can make or bring a claim for defamation?

Claims can be made by individuals, companies, trade unions and some charities. Equally, claims can be made against them.

What is defamation?

Defamation is a publication (either written or verbal) that would cause ‘right-thinking’ others to think worse of a person, or cause the individual to be avoided or ridiculed.

What is the difference between libel and slander?

Defamation is the collective term for libel and slander. Where the defamation is in writing or some other permanent form it is a libel. Where it is spoken or in some other temporary form it is slander.

Furthermore, the Claimant has to establish actual financial loss caused by the defamatory statement unless the statement relates to one of 4 specified categories:

  • the commission of an imprisonable crime;
  • that the individual has an infectious disease;
  • adultery by a female;
  • words intended to disparage someone in any trade, profession or office.

Where the Claimant is a business they also have to establish that they have, or are likely to, suffer serious financial loss as a result of the harm.

What is a publication?

A publication can be any means of communication with someone other than the person being defamed. It includes: –

  • Spoken words
  • Posting a comment on Twitter, Facebook or another internet site
  • Writing a letter, email or other documents such as a book or newspaper article

The publication does not have to name the person being defamed only that s/he could be identified by some people acquainted with the claimant.

What remedies can I seek from someone who has defamed me?

Your aim will be the vindication of your reputation. This can be achieved for example through adequate compensation for your distress and anxiety or through the immediate public retraction of the statement with an apology and an undertaking from the maker of the defamatory publication not to repeat the statement.

What is the time limit for bringing a defamation claim?

In general, a person has 1 year from the date of the publication to bring a claim in court.

Are there any defences to being accused of defamation?

Yes. The 3 most common defences are: –

  • Justification – that the publication was true or mostly true.
  • Fair comment – that the publication is an honestly held opinion that must be based on facts that are true or mostly true.
  • Privilege – in certain circumstances irrespective of whether a publication is defamatory, it is protected by law because of the occasion on which it was made or the purpose of the statement. The circumstances are varied and include things said in the course of court proceedings.

I have received a Letter of Claim or I have been accused of defamation, what should I do?

Contact us on 0113 244 0597 immediately and ask to speak to a member of our Disputes Team.  We can ascertain quickly the merits of any claim and identify what your defences are if any.  It may be the case that a prompt apology and a signed undertaking will minimise costs to you.

I have received Court papers, what should I do?

Contact us on 0113 244 0597 immediately and ask to speak to a member of our Disputes Team.  Once you have received for example a Claim Form or Particulars of Claim, there are certain deadlines for the provision of a set response.  If you miss these deadlines it may prejudice your defence of any claims.

Someone abroad has made a defamatory statement about me, can I sue in England and Wales?

If the publication has been made to a sufficient number of readers in England and Wales, then you can bring the claim here subject to particular laws. You will need to seek our advice.  Furthermore, whether you can enforce a judgment obtained in England and Wales in another country is also another matter that you must take specialist advice upon.

I live abroad, can I sue for defamation in England or Wales?

Yes, provided your opponent lives or the publication occurred in England or Wales and has been communicated to a sufficient number of readers in the jurisdiction.


The answers to these questions contained in this FAQ document are very general in nature and should not be relied upon in relation to any specific set of circumstances. Specific advice should be sought from Cohen Cramer in relation to your specific circumstances.

For your free and confidential initial discussion to see how we can help you protect your reputation in an effective, efficient and economic way get in touch with us today:

  • By telephone: To speak to a member of our Disputes Team please call 0113 224 7808
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