Uniform defamation law now applies in Australia. Anyone who has had damaging material published about them can take legal action against authors, publishers, broadcasters and distributors to defend their reputation. Several defences or justifications, including truth, are available. Damages and injunctions are the remedies. Retractions and apologies will reduce the amount of damages awarded.

Contributor

Amy Hando

Barrister

If you are threatened with legal action for defamation

Last updated

1 July 2020

Receiving a solicitor’s letter that threatens to sue you for defamation is extremely intimidating. Such threats are sometimes made to people and organisations that have commented on matters of political or public interest. Many of the defences discussed in this chapter apply to such comments.

It is important that you respond quickly after receiving such a letter. The ‘offers to make amends’ procedure under section 40 of the Defamation Act contains significant cost penalties for defendants who unreasonably fail to make a settlement offer.

A defendant who has made an early offer in accordance with the legislation may rely on the offer as a defence to any action brought against them (s 18(1) Defamation Act).

Free legal advice can be obtained from a community legal centre; see Chapter 2.4: Legal services that can help.

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