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Damages, Interim Injunctions & Retractions

If defamation can be proven, various remedies may be available. 

These can range from an order for compensation, an injunction to prevent further publication and/or a voluntary apology.

The decision as to which remedy is most suitable depends on the specifics of the claim as well as the priorities of the person who suffered the defamation.

Damages are perhaps the main means by which somebody who has been defamed can seek redress. An example of a recent case where considerable damages have been awarded is that of Peter Cruddas, the former Conservative co-treasurer, who won £180,000 over allegations in the Sunday Times that he took donations in exchange for access to David Cameron.

Injunctions have been used in cases such as that of Solicitors From Hell, a website on which reviews of law firms from disgruntled customers were published.

Defamation damages

The law considers damage to a claimant's reputation to be sufficiently exonerated by an award of financial damages, which means that the plaintiff cannot force the defendant to retract or publish a repudiation of the defamation.

There are two types of damages that can be awarded: general damages, which compensate for a loss of reputation; and special damages, which compensate any financial loss incurred as a result of the defamation. Though financial loss may not have occurred, a victim of libel can always be awarded damages; a victim of slander, however, needs to prove that they have suffered as a result of the slander to be awarded damages.

Juries are the people who decide how much the award for damages should be if the plaintiff is successful. This at first led to a huge variance in the figures awarded, and occasionally they can be excessive; to remedy this, judges and council are now free to inform the jury about past awards of compensation in similar cases, and to give them a scale from which a figure should be selected for the award of damages.

Interim injunctions

An interim injunction is a court order obtained before the publication of libellous material that prevents the material from being published.

There are certain strict barriers that need to be leapt before a court will grant an injunction against a libellous publication. These are:

  • that the words or images are definitely libellous;
  • that the libellous information has no chance of being proved true;
  • that no set defence would succeed for the defendant;
  • that there is no doubt as to the possibility of the defendant repeating the claims.

The exact content of the libel should also be known; a lack of knowledge as to what exactly will be said may make it difficult to determine if the information is libellous or not, thus making it difficult for an injunction to be granted.

Press Complaints and the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) replaced the Press Complaints Commission after that organisation closed on 8 September 2014. If anyone has a problem with the ethics or behaviour of a newspaper or magazine which is a member of the IPSO then they can lodge a complaint with them. It will investigate when there is a possible breach of its Code of Practice (as published on their website). If it finds that the code has been breached, it can order the publication of its adjudication  and/or a correction.