● Defamation protects the interest in reputation.
● The tort is divided into libel, which concerns communications in permanent form, and slander, which concerns communications in transitory form.
● Libel has been actionable without proof of damage; but note the impact of the Defamation Act 2013, s 1.
● Slander is actionable only with proof of damage except in certain exceptional situations.
● Defamation is one of the few remaining areas of civil law in which, until recently, jury trials have been common. In the past, this had a significant influence on the awarding of compensation. However now the Defamation Act 2013, s 11 stipulates that trial will be without jury unless the court orders otherwise.
● Learning the defences to defamation is an integral part of studying this tort.
● The primary defence to defamation is truth.
● Law on the tort of defamation is partially found in common law and partially in statute.
● The action in defamation is exceptional in that it does not survive the death of either the claimant or the defendant and the limitation period is one year from the date of publication.
● The action in defamation is subject to a complex procedural regime.
● The study of defamation law requires an understanding of the impact of human rights law, particularly the right to freedom of expression in art 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
● Defamation should be studied in conjunction with Chapter 15, ‘Privacy’.