New threshold of seriousness in defamation proceedings
In libel actions brought by French aerospace engineer Bruno Lachaux against the Evening Standard, the Independent Newspaper and the i, the Supreme Court has clarified the requirement of “serious harm” for defamation actions.
Section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 introduced the hurdle that “A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the Claimant”. However, the practical application of this requirement has not yet been clear.
In this appeal, the newspapers argued that section 1(1) introduced a requirement that the words complained of must not only be inherently injurious but “must also be shown to produce serious harm in fact”. However, Mr Lachaux argued that section 1(1) required only that it was enough that “the inherent tendency of the words must be to cause not just some damage to reputation but serious harm to it”.
The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal but found that section 1(1) introduced a new hurdle to be satisfied before a statement could be regarded as defamatory. The words complained of must not only be inherently injurious but “must also be shown to produce serious harm in fact”. This additional requirement will call for an investigation of the actual impact of the words complained of, including the particular circumstances of the Claimant and the reaction of those to whom it is published.
In reaching this decision, the Supreme Court considered that the objective of Parliament as set out in the preamble to the Defamation Act 2910 was to “amend the law of defamation” and that therefore a requirement to show that words produce serious harm in fact was the only approach that could bring about the substantial change to the law of defamation that was intended.
The practical application of the requirement to demonstrate as a fact that the harm caused by the publications complained of was serious may require extraneous evidence to be submitted. This is likely to involve an investigation of the scale of the publications, whether the publications had come to the attention of any people who knew the Claimant, whether they were likely to come to the attention of others who knew him, the gravity of the statements complained of, the situation of the Claimant and the “inherent probabilities”. The Supreme Court further clarified that “There is no reason why inferences of fact should not be drawn from considerations of this kind”.
This amendment to the law of defamation may have the practical effect of making defamation proceedings more difficult to bring as it adds an additional evidential hurdle for Claimants. It may also increase the costs of defamation claims as prospective Claimants are likely to have to spend money investigating and evidencing serious harm and may also have to attend preliminary hearings arguing about whether it is possible to demonstrate serious harm.
Landowners’ rights and the Electronic Communications Code
Building in your back garden
Christmas is a time for giving (and inheritance planning)
Buying the freehold of your leasehold house
Redeveloping an empty pub for commercial use
Why it takes time to obtain the Grant of Probate
Social Media: The unconscious privacy threat
Is your reputation being threatened?
Making a will after your spouse or partner has died
Interns celebrate completion of internship at solicitors
Selling your home in a flat market, some top tips
Claiming compensation for a serious road traffic accident
New Media and Communications Court list reflects surge in internet defamation claims by Laura Baglow
Has your personal information been shared without your permission?
Planning your escape to the country, what you need to consider – part 2
Government consultation on new national model for shared ownership
Choosing a partnership structure
Planning for what happens when you die by Deborah Adams
Changes to legislation could offer protection for tenants in the private rental sector
Move to the country - Part One
The risks of DIY probate
Will your septic tank still be legal in January?
The death knell for ‘kiss and tell’?
Making a will when you retire
Selling your property at auction
Not looking so good - your guide to compensation for botched non-surgical cosmetic procedures
New threshold of seriousness in defamation proceedings
Legal considerations when building a granny annex
Choosing the right person for your power of attorney
Formal Interviews - Do you need legal representation?
Privacy rights and aerial images
Trustees’ duty to give information to beneficiaries
Five problems with a leasehold property
Taking your first commercial lease
Is your organisation protected from employee social media legal risk?
Have you been targeted by negative social media posts?
Farmers be alert when being inspected
Help for House Sellers?
Don’t let your digital assets end up in a digital grave
Valuing an estate for probate
Development proposals and your local authority search
What can you do if your child is injured in a serious accident
NetRights welcomes new protection for social media users
SHOULD I GET A LAWYER FOR A SPEEDING OFFENCE?
Supreme Court recognises that social media is a “casual medium” in libel battle
Choosing the best conveyancer who is right for you
Making a will after a second or subsequent marriage
Option or promotion agreement – which is best for landowners?
Anonymous pub and restaurant online reviews leave a bad taste
Have you had an accident involving a horse?
Help to Buy – beware of some cracks in the structure
Understanding Lasting Powers of Attorney
Changes to Energy Performance Certificate for Landlords
Had a cycling accident? Your route to obtaining compensation
New year, new home: tips to sell your home in the New Year
Tax Planning for your inheritance
Hearing loss: when your employer may be liable
Buying a home for your retirement, five things you need to consider
Farmers plan to diversify after Brexit
Ministers press ahead with probate fee shake-up - reports BBC News
Botched dental treatment? You may be entitled to compensation
Why a Health and Welfare Power of Attorney is a good idea
Will the new charge on building developments in Cornwall affect you?
Energy Performance Certificates – Do They Matter?
HMRC Challenging Stamp Duty Land Tax Payments
Ben Mitchell qualifies as a solicitor
The potential implications of Brexit on employment law
Appointing a guardian for your children
Houses in multiple occupation – new rules from October 2018
New Agriculture Bill published
Will Brexit affect my pension?
Dreaming of a holiday home? Sort out the legals before putting your feet up
Lasting Power of Attorney by Deborah Adams
Settled status after Brexit by Alexis Hager
How to choose an executor to administer your estate when you die
How overage agreements can boost profits from your land
Top tips for first-time buyers
How Could Brexit Affect My Farm?
Wills & Succession in Spain by Deborah Adams
Brexit – an international and local view by Alexis Hager, Litigation
Capital gains tax - important facts for non-residents of the UK
Buying a home: the importance of making sure the seller is entitled to sell
Changing a will after someone has died: it is possible and it could save you money
Your responsibilities when you have people working in your home
Sad passing of Battle of Britain pilot who served with Parnall family member
Considerations when buying a heritage property
Disciplinary proceedings at work: guide for employers
Employers should have a disciplinary process in place, but just following this may not be enough to avoid falling foul of the law and exposing yourself to the risk of an employment tribunal claim.