Defame And Be Defamed-Insult And Be Insulted.

Libel is the written word.  Slander is the spoken word.  If you must defame someone then it is best to choose slander as it is harder to prove that you said it.

However, with the advent of email most people prefer to write their insults down. This is exceptionally good evidence or exceptionally bad evidence depending on which side you are on.

It is not enough to insult your enemy to their face; someone else needs to hear it to make it defamation.  It needs to be “published”.  A letter in a local newspaper or post on Facebook is a perfectly adequate way to publish a defamatory statement as is shouting it at the top of your voice.  Both popular methods.

Saying a few bad words about someone is one thing.  But the important question is how much damage have your words done, as that will determine the “damages” (the amount of money to be awarded by a court).

Another factor to take into account is how big the audience is.  If you are keen to raise the defamation stakes, then a comment in the local newspaper is not a bad place to start.  Nonetheless, you do risk the newspaper culling your statement as they too could be liable for defamatory statements appearing in their newspaper.

Sending a personal email to someone at work where their boss, a small but important audience, reads it is also a step up in the defamation game.  For suggesting that one of your competitors is going out of business, you get full marks.  

If you are an employer, then you are at the mercy of your employees as you can be vicariously liable for their defamatory statements. 

But what if you are the person who has been defamed?  First, spend a sleepless night imagining court scenes of cross-examination with you playing a part not unlike Joan of Arc.  Next, go to your lawyer and he will write a letter.  Defamation proceedings are expensive, so after the initial upset you may think of other, more important ways to spend your money.  Your lawyer will advise you to be satisfied with an appropriate apology and move on. 

For once, just do what your lawyer says. 

(c) Paul Brennan 2020. All rights Reserved.

 Extract from "The Art of War, Peace & Palaver: The Contentious Guide to Legal Disputes" by Paul Brennan


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