Defamation actions are not reserved only for those who have been defamed in a national newspaper article. Defamation can be more localised and immediate e.g. being accused wrongly of shoplifting or being turned away wrongly from a night club. While being wrongly accused of shoplifting in your home town may not make the national news, it may in fact be more damaging as the wrongful statement is being made in the presence of persons who matter – your community.
Defamation actions can be long, and often involve highly personal issues for those involved. However, sometimes it is worth taking this road, as wrongs can be righted, and the defamed can be compensated.
In order for a person to be defamed, broadly speaking, there must be three elements present:
1. There must be a “defamatory statement”
A “defamatory statement” means a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.
Sometimes, the statement may not be defamatory on its face but may, by implication, be defamatory and injure a person’s reputation.
In relation to the shoplifting scenario mentioned above, it should be noted that from the case law, when dealing with such cases, the store owner is allowed to make reasonable enquires of you.
2. There must be an identification of the person being defamed
This can be very obvious, e.g. where a person is actually named, or pictured. However, this may not always be the case, and identification may not be this blatant. The Defamation Act 2009 states: “a defamatory statement concerns a person if it could be reasonably understood as referring to him or her”. This means that if it would be reasonable to associate a statement with a certain person, then the identification criteria is met.
If reference is made to a class of persons (e.g. reference to a specific G.A.A. club), a member of that class may have a case, if, among other things, the statement could reasonably be understood to refer to that individual person.
3. There must be a must be a Publication of the defamatory statement
A defamatory statement can be verbal or written, and this includes on the internet and social media. A publication is not just limited to words and can encompass images and gestures.
A defamatory statement is not “published” if it is published to you alone.
Also, a defamatory statement is not “published” if it is published to you and another where, it was not intended to be published to the other person and it was not foreseeable that by publishing it to you, that another would get sight/sound of it.
Should you satisfy the above criteria, you may be entitled to a remedy. There are several remedies available to persons who have been defamed, including:
1. An order declaring that the statement was defamatory,
2. An order forcing the defamer to publish a correction,
3. An order prohibiting further publications,
Should you feel that you have been defamed, it is important to act fast and to contact your solicitor immediately as you only have one year from the date of first publication to bring a claim. This one year period can be extended to 2 years, should certain conditions be satisfied. Also, by acting fast, you may be able to prevent further publications.
Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.