Saracens Blog

Benefits of the Defamation Act

The aim of the tort defamation (and the Defamation Act 1996) is to protect reputation.  Reputation is the main feature of a person/business. Many have spent time and money in establishing this reputation. As a consequence, they/it are well known and attract business.

Due to the time and money spent in building this reputation, it is only right that the law should protect the reputation and compensate the individual wronged. However, what is at issue at the heart of defamation cases brought under the Defamation Act 1996 is how to value such a reputation and the level of damages to award to compensate for the harm caused to it.

It is arguable that it a reputation is damaged which is linked to a business, then the level of damages under the Defamation Act 1996 should reflect the loss of profit caused by this. However, it is often difficult to measure how many people would have come to the business had it not been for the defamatory remark. This point also serves to highlight the uncertainties of defamation action under the Defamation Act 1996.

Despite the reasons given above for the protection of reputation under the Defamation Act 1996, it is arguable that the excessive amounts awarded for protecting reputation are arguably too high. For example, awards are often given which far exceed that which would be awarded for personal injury cases. The problem is exacerbated by the role played by juries under the Defamation Act 1996. Juries are able to determine the level of damages awarded. Before they do so, previous awards are read out to them. It is suggested that they often reward a higher amount than the cases read out to themf determining the level of damages for damage to reputation under the Defamation Act 1996 is furthered by the crucial role played by juries.

In light of these difficulties, some have suggested introducing a cap on damages awarded under the Defamation Act 1996. One example is £10,000. However, many would argue a reputation is so valuable that the damage by a defamatory remark exceeds this amount.

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