Saracens Blog

Is the justification defence in Defamation Act claims always justified?

The defence of justification is that the words complained of were true in substance and in fact. The defence of justification is a lawful defence under the Defamation Act 1996. The question still remains whether one should be allowed a defence for making a defamatory statement under the Defamation Act 1996 simply on the basis that it is true?

We must remember that every person is considered of good repute until proven to be in the contrary. If the defendant is to plead justification as a defence, then it will be up to him to show that the defamatory statements are true or at the least substantially true. While the Defamation Act 1996 may be seen to protect individuals who may make morally questionable judgements, it may be argued that we must protects one’s right to freedom of expression and we must also be able to speak the truth as we see fit. The Defamation Act 1996 provides that the truth may be pleaded as a defence to the whole of the defamatory statements or in the alternative as a defence to a severable part of them. However, the question still remains whether the Defamation Act 1996 goes far enough in providing a defence to the truth?

In many ways it may be argued that the Defamation Act 1996 should have more comprehensive defences to protect people who are utilising their right to freedom of speech. The difficulty, with regards to the Defamation Act 1996, is striking a fair balance that allows, on the one hand, the law to protect the reputation of others but also allows opinions and public debate to be aired freely without fears of recrimination.

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