Unintentional defamation

Operates as a response to an action in defamation where the defendant is unaware of the defamatory nature of remarks made.

Section 4 of the Defamation Act, 1952 provides that this defence shall operate as a response to an action in defamation where the defendant is unaware of the defamatory nature of the remarks made.

The defence is probably best illustrated by reference to cases such as that of Hulton v Jones and Cassidy v. Daily Mirror 1929.


A proviso is that a statement must have been innocently made.


The defence takes the form of the defendant offering amends by a suitable apology with a payment into court supported by an affidavit explaining why the publication was innocently made Nail v News Group Newspapers (2005).


If the claimant accepts this course of action then he can not take any further action.

 

In the event of the offer of amends is not accepted, the defendant may still have a defence if he or she can show that the publication was innocent and

  • that they were not negligent in making it:

  • that the offer of amends was made as soon as possible;

  • and that the statement was made without malice.

The defence has been the subject of criticism by the Faulks Committee but at present unintentional defamation is a refutable presumption of innocent publication under Sections 2 to 4 of the Defamation Act 1996.

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