February 17, 2020

Defamation – What it is and what can you do if someone attacks your reputation

This is a guest blog post by Steven Mather Solicitor – The Right Lawyer for You and Your Business™

Firstly, let me thank Rene and Consumer King for inviting me to post a guest blog on their website. From advising my higher profile clients, I know that brand and reputation management is crucial in this modern age. Maintaining a great public profile is Consumer King’s expertise.

But what happens when someone online says something very detrimental and damaging about you or your brand.

Defamation is the publication of an untrue statement which damages your reputation.

You will have heard of the words libel and slander, and these are the two types of defamation. Many people do not know the difference. Libel involves the written word, for example written down in a newspaper, online on social media or published in a magazine. Slander meanwhile is speech, for example a statement made on live tv or via a video published on YouTube.

In the UK, it is the Defamation Act 2013 which is the current legislation which deals with defamation, along with previous case law decided by the Courts. In order to successfully bring a claim for defamation, you need to demonstrate:

– A statement was made
– That statement is one which tends to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society
– That it caused or is likely to cause harm to your reputation

The are four main defences to defamation claims:

1. The comments were true
2. It was an honestly held opinion and any other honest person would have the same opinion
3. Grounds of public interest
4. Privilege – most usually statements in Parliament.

There is a Court approved specific protocol for defamation claims which everyone ought to follow before legal proceedings in Court are commenced. These require you, as claimant, to write to the party who made the statement (and any third party publisher) and set out what the statement was, what it meant (the “sting” in the tail of the comment), the likely harm to reputation and a request for removal and anything else, such as apology or damages.

In the event that the matter cannot be resolved, then you may want to consider urgent legal proceedings to seek an injunction to stop the (further) publication of the statement.

In any defamation matter (or indeed any claim involving social media and the online world) one must act very quickly. The phrase “spreads like wildfire” can be an understatement at times, given the ease in which statements, posts, videos etc can be shared online. It is therefore important that your whole team – that is the guys at Consumer King, your own staff, your legal team – jump on any reputational attack quickly. In my experience, having good PR is also important when you face reputational damage.

About the Author
Steven Mather is a Commercial & Business Solicitor based in Leicester. He has helped thousands of clients with legal issues worth millions of pounds. He is experienced, approachable and recommended. You can check out his website at https://www.stevenmather.co.uk