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Defamation

Brisbane and Sydney Mob: 0402 227 498

Internet defamation of character is on the rise, especially with the growth in popularity of Facebook, Twitter and Google. Alex Nelson is a Brisbane Defamation Lawyer specialising in the law that deals with Defamation of Character.

Defamation trials are often run with a jury and that gives Alex an edge over many other practitioners who have never run, let alone won, a jury trial before.  Alex had great success in criminal jury trials including acquittals in murder and other serious charges and he brought that experience with him when he began to specialise in defamation law.

Defamation of character is both a civil and criminal wrong and is a combination of the old actions for slander and libel.  

A person is defamed when the Defendant:

1. Communicates (or publishes):

2. Material (in spoken, written or pictorial form):

3. About the Plaintiff (a living individual, non profit organisation or company with less than 10 employees which is not related to another company):

4. Which is defamatory because it:

▪ Injures their reputation by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule;

▪ Causes people to shun or avoid them; or

▪ Lowers their estimation in the mind of right thinking members of society.

At law a statement can convey a defamatory meaning (an imputation):

▪ By their natural and ordinary meaning;

▪ By a false innuendo, when there is a secondary meaning which comes from reading between the lines.

▪ By a true innuendo, where the insult comes from reading the words used in light of other facts known by the recipient of the words or pictures used.

If these elements are met, and provided no valid defence or privilege exists, then a Defendant will be liable to compensate the Plaintiff for damage caused by the defamation to his or her reputation (character) and for the emotional hurt (or sting) of the lies or the insults.  An injunction may also be obtained to prevent further defamatory publication so as to protect your character.

Some common fallacies:

1. You do not have to be famous – in fact, it could work against you if you were;

2. You do not have to prove that the statements are false;

3. You do not have to prove that you suffered any actual losses because damages in defamation are often compensation for embarrassment and hurt feelings.

Time Limits

A claim for damages for defamation (the old actions of slander or libel) must be commenced within 1 year after publication of the offending lies or insults, although in some circumstances that timeframe can be extended to three years.

If you want to start a claim for defamation of character then you should consult a lawyer (barrister of solicitor) because the law is quite complex.

Damages

There is a statutory cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded for non economic loss in defamation proceedings (hurt feelings and loss of reputation). currently $398,500.  If aggravated damages are awarded, that statutory cap no longer applies.

In 2017 the Supreme Court of WA awarded $600,000 general and aggravated damages for defamation arising from a series of media conferences about the murder of the Plaintiff’s wife.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.