Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (Tourette Syndrome or “TS”) is a neurological disorder which becomes evident in early childhood or adolescence before the age of 18 years. TS is defined by multiple motor and vocal tics. These verbal tics include shouting and the use of obscene words or phrases which may not be true and can lead to claims being made by individuals under the Defamation Act 1996.
The Defamation Act 1996 was introduced to protect the reputation and good standing of an individual.
Under the Defamation Act 1996 a patient suffering from TS facing a claim for defamation must be able to show that what was said or written during an outburst was not defamatory. The defences available are set out in the Defamation Act 1996 and include but are not limited to:-
1 Innocent publication – created by Section 1 of the Defamation Act 1996 to show that the reasonable care was taken before making the statement and that there was no reason to believe that the statement was defamatory
2 Offer of amends – Section 2 of the Defamation Act 1996 states that if a person has made a defamatory statement, he can offer to pay compensation. Further, under Section 2 of the Defamation Act 1996 it falls to the claimant to prove that the statement was not true.
3 Limitation of time – Under Section.5 of the Defamation Act 1996, the limitation period for defamation actions is one year (as opposed to the usual six-year limit for actions in the law of tort).
TS is a medical condition and by increasing public understanding and tolerance, we will be able to learn that the outbursts patients suffer are not meant to be defamatory but are as a result of the condition that they are suffering from.