What is defamation?


Under Australian law, both individuals and businesses are protected from defamatory comments; both written and verbal defamation. If a comment about a person or entity is seen to sabotage their reputation in the eyes of the public, then it is seen as defamatory. However for the comment to be seen as defamatory, you must first prove a number of things, including:

  • That the comment is not supported by any truthful facts
  • That you or the entity were clearly identified in the comment
  • That is was written or said with a clear intention to damage reputation and character

Defamatory comments do not necessarily offend or insult the person or entity. The issue is that if a comment is seen as defamatory, it has been seen to clearly harm the reputation and perception instead.

Both small businesses and individuals should be wary about making defamatory comments.

It is important for both individuals and businesses to be wary about what they should and shouldn’t say.

By making defamatory statements, you may land yourself on the wrong side of the law and be ordered by the court to pay compensation.

The compensation can range from a small amount, all the way up into the millions of dollars, depending on what was said and badly it impacted the plaintiff. Even for cases where the plaintiff suffered no economic losses, you may still be ordered to pay up a maximum of $398,500.00.

What constitutes defamation?

Defamation can be in the form of oral or published content.

Practically any comment which is slandering, insulting, ridiculing or damaging the public opinions and views of that person is classed as defamation.

Next time you make a comment about someone, even a friend, just remember, it may actually be defamation of character; if the comment is not supported by factual evidence.

How to avoid defamation

The best way to avoid defamation is to not say anything that is not supported by evidence.

However, here are some tips to avoid defamation:

  • Always be wary of what you say
  • Make sure your message and language is clear
  • Have supporting evidence and facts
  • Always say you don’t know, and so you’re not alleging
  • Always state an opinion (however be careful; opinions can still be defamatory)
  • Know who you are dealing with

You’ve said something wrong, now it’s time to defend yourself

If you have said something wrong, and appear in court, then there are a number of defences you can use to stand your ground.

Defence claims:

  • The material was truthful, and not a statement
  • The material was of public concern
  • The material was required for legal, moral or social reasons
  • The material is unlikely to bring harm to the plaintiff
  • The material was made during a context, such as a court proceeding, parliamentary debate or tribunal judgement
  • You did not know the material was defamatory

But, what about defending yourself against a defamation claim?

If you find yourself on the other side of the issue, where someone has said or published defamatory material against your character or your business.

In this situation, if the material has impacted you in either financial or wellbeing or your businesses reputation or earnings, then you should seek legal advice immediately.

You must seek advice immediately, as there is an appropriate timeframe for responding to the material.

Your lawyer may be able to negotiate an outcome that avoids court and ensures your reputation is not damaged.

However, you may have to send the case to court to sue the defendant for damages.

Contact TY Lawyers

Need help with a legal issue? Has someone said something false about you, that is damaging your reputation or causes financial losses? Or did you say something wrong and need legal assistance?

If so, contact TY Lawyers, we are here to help you no matter your issue. Please click here or call our team of experienced lawyers on (02) 8007 0135.

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