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GDL Law Notes GDL Tort Law Notes

Defamation Liability Notes

Updated Defamation Liability Notes

GDL Tort Law Notes

GDL Tort Law

Approximately 591 pages

A collection of the best GDL notes the director of Oxbridge Notes (an Oxford law graduate) could find after combing through applications from top students and carefully evaluating each on accuracy, formatting, logical structure, spelling/grammar, conciseness and "wow-factor". In short these are what we believe to be the strongest set of GDL notes available in the UK this year. This collection of GDL notes is fully updated for recent exams, also making them the most up-to-date GDL study materials ...

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  • Introduction + General Principles

    - Defamation: to protect c. from untrue statements that harm his reputation.

    • (cf. malicious falsehood: untrue statement that does not damage reputation but does harm).

    • balance between 2 interests:

      • 1. public interest: freedom of expression.

        • large variety of defences: to protect d’s freedom of expression.

      • 2. private interest: maintaining reputation.

    • + Human Rights Act 1998: Art 10 ECHR – guarantees freedom of expression vs. Art 8 ECHR – right to private + family life.

    - Definitions:

    • [Winfield]: publication of a statement which reflects on a person’s reputation and tends to lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally or tends to make them shun or avoid him.

    • Sim v Stretch [1936]: [Ld Atkin]: statement which tend to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, and in particular to cause him to be regarded with feelings hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear and disesteem.

    2 Torts: Libel + Slander

    - Libel: statement in some permanent form – e.g. pictures, printed words etc. actionable per se.

    • radio + TV – s166 + s201 Broadcasting Act 1990.

    • public plays – s4 Theatres Act 1968.

    • waxworks – Monson v Madame Tussaud’s Ltd [1894]: waxwork of c. placed in chamber of horrors; c. had been tried for murder but acquitted [Ropes LJ]: statues, caricatures, effigies, chalk marks, signs, pictures also.

    • films – Youssoupoff v MGM Pictures Ltd [1934]: film suggested c. had been raped by Rasputin

    • internet – Godfrey v Demon Internet [1994].

      • inc. social networking (even if semi-private) – Applause Stores Productions Ltd v Raphael [2008].

    - Slander: statement in temporary/transitory form actionable only with proof of special damages (but 4 exceptions).

    • transient forms: e.g. spoken word, gestures, mimes, impressions, noises.

      • debate: audio stored on CD, tape, DVD [Winfield]: libel; vs. [Street]: slander (libel inherently visual).

    • 4 exceptions – slander actionable per se if:

      • 1. imputation of imprisonable offence: Gray v Jones [1939]; Webb v Beavan [1883].

      • 2. imputation of having contagious/unsociable disease: Bloodworth v Gray [1844].

      • 3. imputation of unchasity of adultery in female: s1 Slander of Women Act 1891.

        • Kerr v Kennedy [1942]: inc. suggestion that c. is (sexually active) lesbian.

      • 4. imputation of unfitness for trade, profession or appointment: s2 Defamation Act 1952.

        • e.g. Jones v Jones [1916]; Hopwood v Muirson [1945]; McManus v Beckham [2002]: Victoria Beckham told customers in shop that David Beckham’s autograph for sale fake.

    Locus Standi: Who Can Sue?

    - Natural + legal persons can sue.

    • natural persons: but not dead – if c. dies before trial, action dies with him.

    • corporate bodies: where statement defames corporate reputation.

      • McDonalds Corporation v Steel [1999]: McDonalds succeeded in libel suit vs. environmentalists.

        • (N.B. Steel v UK [2005]: ECHR – UK infringed ECHR by not providing ds. with legal aid, but confirmed that corporation had locus standi).

          - Public authorities may NOT sue – Derbyshire CC v Times Newspapers [1993; HoL].

    • rationale: protect political speech – threat of civil action would inhibit freedom of speech.

    • inc. political parties – Goldsmith v Bhoyrul [1997].

    • inc. trade unions: unincorporated bodies.

    • N.B. individuals within govt. can sue in own right – for remarks about personal, not professional lives.

      • BUT: ECtHR: politicians must expect greater criticism + scrutiny – Lingens v Austria [1986].

      • public interest defence usually prevails: e.g. Reynolds [1999].

        Elements of Defamation

        - Claimant must establish 3 elements on balance of probabilities:

    • 1. statement was defamatory: a. capable of being defamatory; b. actually defamatory.

    • 2. statement referred to the claimant.

    • 3. statement was published (communicated) to 3rd party.

      - Other considerations:

    • 4. slander not actionable per se: special damage must be proved.

    • 5. defences.

    1. Defamatory Statement

    - Test: do words in ordinary + natural meaning defame the claimant? – 2 questions:

    • 1. what is meaning of words used?

      • ‘sting’/bane: defamatory meaning c. wishes to rely upon.

      • antidote: some fact that counters the ‘sting’.

    • 2. is that meaning defamatory?

    - Who decides?

    • judge: det. whether statement capable of bearing suggested meaning + defaming claimant – s7 Defamation Act.

    • jury: det. actual meaning of words + whether it is defamatory.

      • must establish standard: right thinking members of society – Byrne v Deane [1937].

    Meaning of the Words

    - 1. Ordinary + natural meaning.

    • Harvey v French [1832]: [Ld Tenterden CJ]: ‘in the sense in which ordinary persons … would understand them’.

    • Lewis v Daily Telegraph [1963]: [Devlin LJ]: what is the meaning the words convey to the ordinary man?

    - 2. Innuendo: ordinary + natural meaning not defamatory but statement defamatory because of secondary meaning.

    • a. false (popular) innuendo: extended meaning, e.g. sarcasm, puns, colloquialisms, slang.

      • Allsop v Church of England Newspaper Ltd [1972]: d. referred to c. (BBC host) as having ‘preoccupation with the bent’; c. claimed this meant ‘sexually perverted’, d. claimed it meant ‘bizzare’.

      • Plumb v Jeyes Sanitary Compounds [1937]: policeman sued d. for using photograph of him to advertise foot bath defamatory: implied feet so disgusting that ordinary soap not enough.

    • b. true (legal) innuendo: defamatory meaning understood by persons with additional extrinsic knowledge.

      • c. must prove at least 1 of audience actually possessed required extrinsic knowledge.

      • Tolley v JS Fry & Sons Ltd [1931]: d. published cartoon of c. (amateur golfer) to advertise chocolate defamatory: suggested c. had compromised amateur status by accepting payment to appear in advert (meaning only derived by those who knew c. was amateur golfer).

      • Cassidy v Daily Mirror [1929]: d. printed picture of c’s husband with young woman described as engaged defamatory: implied c. mistress, not wife.

    - Must consider meaning in...

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