Q: What is the law on Defamation?
The law on Defamation is governed by the Defamation Act 2009. The 2009 act has done away with the old causes of actions for libel (written word) and slander (spoken word) and has replaced it with the single cause of action of defamation.
Defamation consists of the publication of a defamatory statement concerning a person which tends to injure that person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.
The limitation period for bringing a claim for defamation is 1 year but in exceptional cases where the interest of justice so requires it can be extended to 2 years.
Defenses to Defamation include the following;
- The defence of Truth – is self-explanatory and is where the Defendant must establish the truth of a statement;
- Absolute Privilege – applies to statements made by the Government and to the Judiciary such as statements made at Lenister House;
- Qualified Privilege – deals with statements made by a person or persons with a duty to receive it such as the Gardai;
- Honest Opinion - deals with situations where the person making the statement believed in the truth of the statement and the opinion related to matters of public interest;
- Fair and reasonable publication of a matter of public interest – this defence is designed to allow open discussion on matters of public interest, such as newspaper articles;
Offer to Make Amends
The 2009 act provides that where a defamatory statement has allegedly been made the defendant may opt to make an offer of amends. An offer to make amends consists of 3 things
- A suitable correction of the statement concerned must be made and a sufficient apology offered to the person against whom the statement was made
- Publication of the offer as is reasonable and practical in the circumstances
- Payment of a sum in compensation and such costs as may be agreed between the parties
Innocent publication is another form of defence against defamation where it can be shown that the Defendant;
(a) Took reasonable care in relation to the publication; and
(b) Neither knew nor had reason to believe that what he did caused or contributed to the defamatory publication.
This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute specific legal advice, which should be obtained at all times. For more information, contact Eamon Concannon of Concannon Solicitors on 091-744 567 (after Office hours on 086- 3297221) or e-mail email@example.com with any queries