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A person's reputation, (or the reputation of their business) is valuable and important. When someone says something that harms the reputation of you or your business, it can have serious consequences. There are two types of defamation in UK law, slander (spoken) and libel (written).
What is slander?
Slander is a type of defamation of character, and is something untrue and damaging which is said about you or your business by somebody else, but it can also include gestures. The slander must be said to someone other than you.
A statement is considered to be slanderous if it:
- exposes you to contempt, ridicule or hatred;
- causes you to be shunned or avoided; or
- makes people think less of you.
How to bring a claim for slander
If you want to bring a claim against someone for slandering you, it is important that you act very quickly. This is because the time limits are tight, and you have only one year from the date of the publication of the slanderous statement to start a claim in court. It is very unusual for this time limit to be extended, but it is possible in certain circumstances.
Claims have to be started in the High Court, as no other courts have jurisdiction to deal with slander claims. Slander claims can be issued online with the High Court, but before that, you are expected to engage in correspondence with your opponent, using the Pre Action Protocol for Media and Communications Claims. This Protocol sets out the information that you have to give to your opponent about the case, and also the response that your opponent has to give to you.
You should therefore start off your slander case by sending a letter of claim which complies with the Protocol to your opponent, and then only if the matter cannot be resolved should you start court proceedings. Of course if you are very close to the end of the one year limitation period, you will need to start court proceedings even if you have not yet been through the Protocol procedure, to ensure that you preserve your right to bring a claim. You should take legal advice as quickly as possible, if you think you are near the end of the limitation period.
Evidence in slander cases
It can be difficult to prove that you have been slandered, as the untrue statement about you has not been recorded in a permanent form. It is therefore important for you or your lawyer to speak to witnesses who heard the untrue statements about you as quickly as possible and to take written statements from them, confirming what was said about you.
It can be difficult to find witnesses to help you with slander cases, particularly if they have believed the untrue statement about you, as this might mean they are less willing to help. However, we can help with taking statements from your witnesses, if necessary.
Proving loss in slander cases
The law on slander says that in most cases, you have to prove that you have suffered actual financial loss as a result of the slander, as well as serious harm to your reputation. This is different from libel claims, where you are only required to prove that you have suffered serious harm.
Examples of actual financial loss would be losing your job and having to claim benefits, not being able to use facilities that you have paid for such as a gym or club, having to find alternative more expensive accommodation, or losing your business if you are self employed.
Remedies in slander cases
If someone has slandered you, you can claim damages and other remedies from them.
If you issue proceedings, the court can order your opponent to pay damages to you, and impose an injunction, which could mean your opponent is sent to prison if they repeat the slander again in future. Your opponent can also be required to give a statement in court, to confirm that what they said about you is untrue.
If you win your slander trial, the usual rule is that your opponent will be ordered to pay most of your costs, as well as having to pay you damages.
What do I do next?
Slander law is very specialised and it is important that you establish with the help of an expert at an early stage, whether or not you have a valid clam. If you start a claim in the wrong court, if you do not use the Protocol procedure properly, or if you do not plead your claim properly, you can be ordered to pay costs to your opponent.
At Samuels Solicitors, we specialise in helping clients from all over England and Wales with their slander claims. We try wherever possible to make sure that our clients can have access to justice and manage our legal fees, by offering flexible funding options, which can include no win no fee (conditional fee) arrangements for very strong cases. We can assess how strong some claims are at the very outset, but in other cases, we need to carry out this assessment at a later stage of the proceedings.
Contact us today for a free initial discussion about how we can help.
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