The reputation of an individual is important for many different reasons, and everyone has the right to maintain their good name and Irish defamation law protects this right.
Defamation and Slander
Defamation refers to a situation when a statement, comment, or publication damages someone's reputation. Libel and slander are both common types of defamation.
An act of libel occurs when a statement is published online or offline that damages the reputation of a person. It can be extended to radio and television broadcasts, as well as publications on the Internet.
Slander, occurs when a statement adversely affects the reputation of a person rather than being publicly published. In the Defamation Act of 2009, the types of defamation have been reclassified and instead of referring to libel and slander, it has merged them into one term called 'tort of defamation'.
The Defamation Act 2009 refers to a defamatory statement (whether written or published) as:
- a defamatory statement is written or spoken and is heard or read by a third party
- a false statement is made
- a defamatory statement explicitly implies, refers/relates to a specific person.
Defamation Case Types
The act of defamation can occur on many different platforms and under many different circumstances.
Some examples of defamation cases are as follows:
- Wrongfully accused of shoplifting from a shop/supermarket or other retail outlet
- False imprisonment Held by security for alleged theft in a store
- Security assault - Physically being stopped by security at a store
- Previous employer's defamatory reference
- The publication of a defamatory statement by a media organization
- Being accused of fraud for paying for goods or services with counterfeit notes
Online/Social media defamation
Despite the ease with which you can broadcast your opinions over social media, should you be responsible for any defamation claims made against you if your opinions have been deemed defamatory? Be mindful of the reputation of others before posting anything.
The following is an example of Internet defamation:
- A defamatory statement is published by a media organization and promoted through social media.
What is the process for making a claim?
You should seek legal advice and record the details of the defamatory event or statement:
- Provide a detailed description of the event,
- Record all publications and recordings of the defamatory incident or statement made,
- Obtain witness accounts, where possible,
- Collect any CCTV footage that will assist your case, wherever possible.
Defamation of character
It is necessary for the person claiming defamation to be able to prove the following elements:
A false statement was made
- Third parties have read or heard a published or spoken statement.
- A person's reputation cannot be damaged if nobody reads or hears the defamatory statement. There is a high probability that other parties will also hear the statement if it has been heard or read by one person.
- It is possible for a person's language and meaning of the statement to negatively affect their reputation.
- In reading the statement it is possible to recognise or identify the individual
- A defamatory statement that clearly refers to the victim could have a detrimental effect on their reputation.
Statute of Limitations
It is important to remember that there is a limited timeframe in which you can submit a claim. The Defamation Act 2009 specifies a one-year period following the date of the defamatory act. The statute of limitations refers to the time period during which you can bring a claim.