Definition of and legislation related to defamation
To damage another person’s reputation by publishing or communicating false statements about them. The old common law distinction between libel (written and published defamation) and slander (spoken defamation) no longer has any legal significance. law deals with protecting reputations. Defamation law gives a person whose reputation has been wrongfully attacked the right to take legal action against those responsible for the attack. The option of taking legal action is only available if:
- Relevant or important. For example, material evidence is something that helps to prove an argument in a criminal case. was ‘published’ (written, spoken, illustrated or posted on the internet) to at least one other person;
- the material identified the A person who begins a civil action against another person. (the person who claims to have been defamed) directly or indirectly; and
- the material was ‘defamatory’ of the plaintiff.
If all the above elements are established, the publisher must try and establish that they have a (1) A defendant’s response to the legal claims made against them in court by a prosecutor or plaintiff. (2) A lawful excuse for conduct: for example, causing minor injuries to someone while saving them from certain death. (3) ‘The defence’ is also a way of referring to the defendant and their legal team. to the plaintiff’s claim. Note that the publication of defamatory material is presumed to cause damage to a plaintiff, and so the plaintiff does not have to separately prove that they have suffered damage.
Uniform defamation law came into operation throughout Australia on 1 January 2006. In Victoria, the relevant Statutory rules made by parliament or by bodies the parliament delegates power to, for example a local council or a registration authority. See delegated legislation; statute. is the Defamation A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. 2005 (Vic) (‘Defamation Act’).Before the enactment of the uniform law, defamation law was different in each state and territory, which caused complexity in relation to Australia-wide publications (e.g. national newspapers).
Before the Defamation Act, the law of defamation in Victoria was governed solely by decisions of the courts (the (1) The system of law developed by the English courts through precedent and adopted in ‘common law countries’ in the British Commonwealth (as opposed to Roman law (civil law) or ecclesiastical law). (2) The case law made by judges in that system. (3) Case law that is not part of the law of equity. (4) Historically, the rules of law common to all people in England, as distinct from local or customary laws.). The Defamation Act retained much of the common law – including the common law defences to defamation – and supplemented those defences with new Found in a statute of delegated legislation. For example, a statutory authority or body is aperson or organisation that has special powers given by parliament to do work for the public benefit. defences. So, Victoria’s defamation law comprises both the Defamation Act and the common law.
When are words defamatory?
Words are defamatory when they convey a meaning (or ‘imputation’) about a person that lowers the person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of the community, or causes the person to be ridiculed, avoided or despised by members of the general public. The meaning of the publication (whether written, spoken or illustrated) as a whole within which the defamatory words exist is central to legal action.
How does a court decide what meanings are conveyed by a publication?
To establish what meanings or imputations are conveyed, the words and/or images contained in the publication must be considered in the context of the entire publication. The publisher’s intention is irrelevant in establishing a publication’s meaning. The real question is what meaning(s) would an ordinary, reasonable person understand from the publication. The An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate. views the publication through the eyes of this hypothetical ‘ordinary reasonable person’, in order to decide what meanings are conveyed. The law recognises that the ‘ordinary reasonable person’ is a person of average intelligence, who is neither perverse, morbid or suspicious of mind, nor avid for scandal, but who is also not unusually naïve, who engages in a degree of loose thinking, who can and does read between the lines, and who has a The ability to understand and be held responsible by the law for your actions. It also refers to a person’s ability to understand and agree to something, such as to undergo medical treatment. Full legal capacity is reached at 18 years of age, when a child becomes an adult. for implication that is greater than that of a lawyer.
A defamatory imputation may be the natural and ordinary meaning of a publication (i.e. the meaning an ordinary person would take from the words). Or, a defamatory imputation could be a special meaning (known as a ‘true innuendo’) understood only by some people who have knowledge of a particular fact or set of facts. For example, the statement, ‘Mr X got married last Sunday’, made to someone who knows nothing about Mr X’s personal life, is not defamatory. However, if the listener knows that Mr X was already married, the statement has a defamatory meaning, because it implies that he has committed bigamy.
A publication is defamatory if an ordinary person reading or The time and place at which a court or tribunal hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. the words, without inside knowledge, considers that the publication conveys a meaning that is defamatory. It is not enough for the publisher to point to another possible interpretation that is not defamatory; if ordinary people understand the publication to have a defamatory meaning, an alternative innocent meaning is not a defence.
Where a true innuendo is Claimed but not proved. For example, the police can allege in court that a car was stolen, but they then have to prove it with evidence. If you say a person did something illegal you are making an allegation. Unless you can back it up, you will not be able to win a court case about it., the publisher is only liable if the plaintiff, in addition to establishing a defamatory meaning, can show that the material was published to at least one person who knew the relevant facts to understand the special meaning.