Saracens Blog

What is the Defamation Act?

The Defamation Act 1996 is an Act of Parliament introduced to amend the law of defamation and limitation for defamation or malicious falsehood claims.

The Defamation Act 1996 defines the extent of the law on defamation. Defamation is when a false statement is made by one person or body corporate about another, where such statement attempts to discredit that other person’s character, reputation or credit worthiness.

In order to have a successful action for defamation under the Defamation Act 1996 and case law, the proposed claimant would need to show that the statement complained of is itself defamatory. It must also be communicated to at least one third person and it must be possible to identify the proposed claimant from the statement made.

Under the Defamation Act 1996 there are a number of defences available to those who have published a defamatory statement. For example, under section 1 of the Defamation Act 1996 a defence is available for those who are not “the author, editor or publisher of the statement complained of” (each of these terms are defined in section 1(2) of the Defamation Act). This is often used by websites hosting user generated content. It is also a complete defence to an action for defamation to prove that the defamatory statement is true.

Both prospective claimants and defendants need to be aware of the twelve month time limit to issue a claim for libel, slander and malicious falsehood under section 5 of the Defamation Act 1996. This time limit runs from the date the defamatory statement was made. Although courts have some discretion to extend this in specific circumstances under the Defamation Act, it is best to issue before the expiry of the time limit than risk losing the right to claim.

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