This article is going to briefly discuss the remedies available for claims in defamation. The main remedy available is for the court to award damages. The court may take several factors into account when deciding the amount of damages owed. Such as, whether the defendant apologised promptly, did the claimant already have a bad reputation. Was there provocation by counter-libels. Has the claimant already received damages for the publication of a similar defamatory statement and the remoteness of the damage done to the claimant.
If a defamation case is appealed, then the Court of Appeal does have the right to overturn the amount of damages awarded. In 1996 an appeal by the Mirror Group of Newspapers reduced the original damages awarded from £350,000 to just £75,000. However, the Defamation Act 2013 now states that cases will usually be heard by judges without juries which will assist in more realistic evaluations of damages.
Another remedy is for the claimant to seek an injunction. This could be to prevent a defamatory statement from being published again or to stop it from being published in the first instance. Of course, the claimant needs to know that the defendant plans to publish a defamatory statement for the latter to work. It is called an interlocutory injunction when a claimant is seeking to prevent an initial publication. If granted, an interlocutory injunction will prevent the issue being tried in court. However, courts have been reluctant to grant interlocutory injunctions in defamation cases. This is because powerful and wealthy claimants could potentially stop all criticism of their activities if they were freely granted, which would inhibit freedom of expression. Interlocutory injunctions will only be granted if it is obvious that if the case were to go to trial, the claimant would be able to prove that the publication should not be allowed. The Human Rights Act 1998 states that when deliberating on injunctions on journalistic material, the court must consider several factors. These are, the importance of freedom of expression, how available is the material already, is it in the public interest, and the relevant privacy code.
The courts also have the power to order the defendant to publish a summary of the court judgement. Both parties can agree on the wording, time, form, manner, and place of the publication. If the parties fail to agree, the court will decide on the wording and assist with the other issues. This remedy allows the claimant to have the record set straight after lies have been told about them.
It is important to know that the Limitation Act 1980 puts a one-year time limit on actions to be brought on defamation. However, the courts do have the power to extend this time limit in certain circumstances.
The recent celebrity defamation cases have brought this area of law to the front pages of the press. It shows how important it is to pause before you post. Never post in anger, sleep on it first to consider the possible implications on such a post. You should not unnecessarily risk having another bringing a claim against you or your business for alleged defamation. At Lawdit we can assist you with defamation whether you are alleging defamation, or another has accused you of defamation.
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