Published by Geoff Harrison | 10 November 2023
Defamation is a tort or civil wrong. At common law, defamation was either libel being a published false statement damaging to reputation or slander, a spoken false statement that is damaging to reputation. The distinction between libel and slander has been abolished by s7 of the Defamation Act 2005 ('the Act'). The cause of action for defamation is serious harm or the serious harm element. The "serious harm element" of a cause of action for defamation is that the publication of defamatory matter about a person has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to the reputation of the person: s10A of the Act.
The limitation period for a cause of action is not maintainable after one year from the date of publication: s14B Limitation Act 1969. The single publication rule means, despite multiple publications by the same publisher of the same nature, time runs from the date of the first publication: s14C Limitation Act 1969.
DEFAMATION ACT 2005 - SECT 25
Defence of justification
It is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that the defamatory imputations carried by the matter of which the plaintiff complains are substantially true.
DEFAMATION ACT 2005 - SECT 26
Defence of contextual truth
(1) It is a defence to the publication of defamatory matter if the defendant proves that--
(a) the matter carried one or more imputations that are substantially true (
"contextual imputations" ), and
(b) any defamatory imputations of which the plaintiff complains that are not contextual imputations and are also carried by the matter do not further harm the reputation of the plaintiff because of the substantial truth of the contextual imputations.
(2) The contextual imputations on which the defendant may rely to establish the defence include imputations of which the plaintiff complains.