The long awaited Defamation Act 2013 came into force on 01 January 2014, almost 4 years after the Ministry of Justice first published a draft Defamation Bill in March 2011.
The previous Defamation Act of 1996 came into force at a time before most social media sites were founded and some critics say the amended Act is long overdue in protecting Claimants from defamatory comments made on such sites.
Although the amendments to the Act are vast, the effects of the amendments do not seem to be so vast. In order for an individual Claimant to bring a successful defamation claim, a statement must have caused (or be likely to cause) serious harm to the Claimant’s reputation. Where a Claimant is a business, it must be able to show serious financial loss has been caused or is likely to be caused for an action to succeed.
It is important for Claimants to note that any potential claim for defamation must be brought before the Court 1 year from the date the statement was first published. This is a change to the previous legislation where the limitation period ran from the date each statement was published.
An interesting change in the legislation relates to the power of the court to order a summary of its judgment to be published. This is helpful to Claimants who need to set the record straight and will (hopefully) give peace of mind the damage caused may be rectified by the publication.
Defendants can also see a change in the legislation in the defences available. The requirement to show a statement was justified has shifted to a requirement to show it was true. The requirement the statement was a fair comment has changed to the Defendant having to show it was an honest opinion. There is no longer a need for the Defendant to show the statement was based on a matter of public interest for a defence to succeed.
In the previous Act, website operators were able to defend a claim if it could show it was not the author, editor or publisher of a statement and there was no reason for it to believe a statement was defamatory. Now, the website operator can rely upon a defence that it did not post the statement itself. This is useful for operators who allow external users to post comments to its sites.
The changes to the legislation are not vast but care still needs to be taken when making or publishing statements that may be defamatory.
If you think you may be entitled to make a defamation claim, get in touch for a no obligation discussion.
Frances Jacobs is one of our Solicitors in Leicester, who are all experts in their fields and dedicated to quality client care. If you would like to find out more about our solicitors in Leicester please contact us.Talk to our legal team
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