Defamation- What Is The Damage?


All coppers are bastards, or at least that is what most football crowds would have you believe.  Yet, despite it being broadcast to the nation and repeated on Match of the Day, policemen do not tend to sue for defamation.

This is more because defamatory statements are usually ignored or treated in kind rather than police officers having a sense of fun.

As an alternative to violence (or a good kicking in the back of a police van), a court action for defamation comes as a poor second.  Most people want a grovelling apology and compensation.  They usually settle for an early apology and modest or no compensation even if they have a strong case.  Nevertheless, they can also enter into a death struggle with their intransigent defamer as they face the anxiety of a trial with their homes on the line, until both sides spend some money and decide it is not worth it, or their spouses tell them to knock it off.

As the defamed, you can claim for financial loss such as loss of business, customers, employment.  You can also claim for personal injury such as depression and your personal distress, anxiety, grief, annoyance, hurt feelings caused by the injury to your reputation which is presumed, even for financial planners. 

You do not need to prove that the defamer was being malicious but it can result in a bigger payout as would proof of their recklessness, indifference, lack of apology, or general stupidity. 

Unless you can prove financial or physical injury do not expect to make a killing.  Somewhere between $10k and $50k would not be unusual and over $100K is fairly exceptional.  The costs awarded against the losing side are usually a significant penalty.

The dead cannot be defamed and a defamation action dies with you.  This is a big incentive to hang around or to finish your enemies off.


Be outraged by insults against you but consider carefully the response. 

But sometimes the potential damage as a result of the defamatory statement is so great that you have no choice but to commence proceedings to protect your reputation. For instance, being accused of sexually abusing your child. Sun Tzu advised that on Desperate Ground there is no alternative but to fight or be destroyed.

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


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