Get acquainted with slandering laws
Slandering laws are the area of defamation that deals with spoken comments. Defamation is a civil matter aiming to protect the reputation of individuals and organisations whilst recognising the importance of free speech.
Libel and Slander
Defamation is divided into two main areas, libel and slander. Traditionally libel referred to written comments and slandering law to spoken ones, however, thanks to modern technology this line has become somewhat blurred and the issue of temporary or permanent statements becomes relevant. For example comments broadcast on television are classed as libel, because they are constructed and similar to newspaper reports, whereas comments written on internet chatrooms or forums come under slandering law because although written their nature is primarily conversational.
The principles of the law are the same in both libel and slander, everyone has the right to express an honestly held opinion, but when this descends into a damaging attack on another’s character the slandering party should make amends for the damage caused.
Because of the fleeting, temporary nature of conversation, claims made under slandering laws can be difficult to prove. There must be proof that the defendant made the statement, that it was overheard by someone other than the claimant and the defendant or other ‘privileged parties’, that the slandered individual is clearly identifiable in the comment and that the intent was malicious.
It most cases it is also necessary that some form of damage occurred as a result of the slander, this could be in the form of financial losses by a defamed business, or it must be proved that the comments would make a reasonable person think less of the defendant. For specific comments there is said to be enough evidence in the comment to prove its damaging nature. These are:
- Accusation of a crime carrying a prison sentence
- Allegations that an individual has a certain type of disease
- Vilifying a person in their office or profession
- Accusing a woman of adultery or promiscuity
In cases where one of these comments have been made legal action can be taken straight away without the need to prove what damage has been caused. Contrary to most other UK legislation, slandering laws place the burden of proof on the defendant, meaning that statements made by an accused individual are presumed to be false, and therefore slanderous, unless the accused can prove otherwise.
Slandering Law settlements
A successful claim under slandering laws will mean that the defendant has to pay general damages for the emotional trauma they have caused, specific damages for any financial losses incurred as a result of the slander and both sides legal costs. The size of a settlement will depend on the level of maliciousness present in a comment and the number of people who hear it. It’s advisable to seek advice from an experienced solicitor before taking any action with regard to slandering laws.