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The role of the law of defamation.

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Umair R. Vadria Defamation The role of the law of defamation is to ensure that the interests of the individuals are protected from the right to freedom of expression in the largely unwritten constitution of UK. To evaluate whether there has or has in fact been defamation against George, the first thing to consider is what Defamation actually means. A simple definition is "Defamation consists of publishing a defamatory statement which refers to an identifiable person, without lawful justification." Lord Atkin said of defamatory statements in Sim v. Stretch (1936)... "A statement which tends to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally, and in particular to cause him to be regarded with feelings of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear and disesteem." Defamation may be broken down into two categories, that of Libel and Slander. Libel is something defamatory that is in a permanent form, for example, in writing or something recorded. Slander is of a less permanent form. The distinction becomes important because Libel is actionable per se, that is without the need for proof of damage. ...read more.


It is not sure whether inter office memo's amount to publication or not. The issue was in debate in the case of Riddick v. Thames Board Mills Ltd (1977). It was again felt though that in any case the defence of Qualified Privilege would be available to the Defendant. It appears that inter office memo's should amount to publication as communication of defamatory material is made to third parties (if the memo consisted of such material in the first place). Qualified privilege is a defence if the defendant can prove that the statements he has made have been made without any 'malice' and has acted in good faith. In Horrocks v. Lowe (1975) the defendant honestly believed that the statements that had been made by him were true. Even though the words that had been used by the defendant in this case had been held to be unreasonable prejudiced, since the defendant had believed that everything he said was true and justifiable, the defence of qualified privilege applied to him. Furthermore, Watt v. Longsden (1930) the facts of which can be compared to the present situation also made available the defence of qualified privilege to the defendant. ...read more.


Edward's situation is very similar to that of Diana. However, in his case, the question of whether there was malice on his part or not could arise. Edwards Company recently failed to secure a business tender with George's company. The onus to prove that there was no malice would be on Edward, rather than George having to prove that there was in fact malice. If Edward can do so then the defence of qualified privilege would be available to him also. The case of Spring v. Guardian (1994) is to George's benefit. A reference given to the prospective employee of a person was given in Negligence, and could have amounted to defamation had the defence of qualified privilege not existed for the defendant, who had the defence of qualified privilege due to non existence of malice. George would be advised to bring an action against Edward as this is where he stands the best chance of succeeding. Another thing that George could do is to sue Westfield Chamber of Commerce itself vicariously, for defamatory acts on the part of its employees (Diana and Edward). It is always more useful to bring an action against someone with deeper pockets to have better chances of success. ...read more.

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