Claims relating to defamation are now governed by Ireland’s Defamation Act of 2009. Within this legislation, all questions regarding defamation of character are covered, including definitions of the two main legal areas, libel and slander.
If a claimant feels that they have suffered damage to their reputation as a result of a third party’s spoken or written actions, the 2009 Act will effectively rule on whether there is a case to answer.
Slander vs Libel vs Defamation
In defamation of character cases, all of the above terms can appear. Essentially, when we ask what is defamation of character, this can be broken down into three separate sections – defamation, libel and slander.
Slander relates to the spoken word so, if defamation has occurred due to words that were voiced by a third party, this is covered by slander.
Due to new rulings, which are explained in greater detail below, slander claims generally involve informal conversations where there are witnesses but, not necessarily, any recordings or documentation.
Defamation of character via the written word is defined as libel under the Defamation Act 2009. This means that any damage to a person’s reputation that had appeared in print would be dealt with under relevant libel laws.
The advent of digital media has led to some changes to traditional rules on slander vs libel. For example, if spoken words originate from a radio broadcast, they are now considered as libel rather than slander.
Effectively, if there is a record available relating to that spoken word, e.g. via radio or podcast, libel laws step in.
So what is the defamation meaning? The exact definition of defamation confirms that this is the action of damaging the good reputation of any person.
That defamation, as we have seen, can be carried out in two distinct ways. Whether it’s a case of slander vs libel, the question of what is defamation of character can be summed up by that legal definition.
Defamation Act 2009
The law itself was brought in in 2009 and replaces all previous pieces of legislation. Since the Defamation Act of 2009, all defamation cases in Ireland have been dealt with using this piece of legislation.
It seeks to define the difference between libel and slander while identifying what is classed as defamation under Irish law.
One important point to note under defamation law in Ireland relates to the statute of limitations. This is defined as a specific period in which claims should be made. In the case of defamation cases in Ireland, there is a time limit of one year.
This is a relatively brief period of time when compared to other types of claims and it is vital for any potential claimant to be aware of this ruling.
In very exceptional circumstances, this period can be extended for up to two years, but this extension cannot be relied upon. We would always advise submitting a claim for defamation of character in Ireland as soon as possible but the standard one-year limit will apply in the vast majority of cases.
Proving a Defamation Claim
Proving defamation of character is clearly going to be pivotal in terms of completing a successful case. In this case, libel can be easier to prove because words are in print – physically or digitally – and records are kept.
Slander, unless it is recorded, is more difficult to prove. In all cases, if lies have been told about a person or their business, there can be a case to answer. This can be defined by ‘right thinking people’ believing that a reputation has been damaged and that they trust a person less as a result.
With that in mind, third party testimonies are going to be important here. Potential claimants are advised to collect all reports and information before speaking to a solicitor.
Defamation of Character Damages
The amount of compensation reached via a successful defamation claim will vary depending on the circumstances of the individual case. There have been average payouts since the Act of 2009 was brought in but they will also be subject to certain criteria.
If, for example, there is a provable loss of income due to an individual’s reputation being harmed, those figures will be taken into account. Otherwise, the compensation involved will be dependent on the individual circumstances.