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The Defamation Act 2009 refers to a defamatory statement (whether written or published) as:
• A defamatory statement is written or spoken and is heard or read by a third party
• A false statement is made
• A defamatory statement explicitly implies, refers/relates to a specific person.
The time frame in which you have to make a claim is called the statute of limitations. As per the Defamation Act 2009, an individual must make their defamation claim within one year of the defamatory act. This period can be extended to two years upon application.
Frank Buttimer & Company help clients take legal action against individuals or corporations who make 'defamatory statements' about another person. Our highly experienced defamation solicitors will be there to provide legal advice, guidance and support throughout the entire process.
The person who made the statement must prove the statement is true. Even an untrue statement can only be considered defamatory if it damaged the reputation of the person making the complaint. A statement is not defamatory if it is true or substantially true.
Statements made in an official capacity, or as part of a testimony, have the protection of absolute privilege and are protected against the claim of defamation. Examples of absolute privilege include:
• By a TD in the Dáil or a Senator in the Seanad
• By an MEP in the European Parliament
• By a judge in the performance of their duties
• By another person in a court as part of a court proceeding (for example, solicitors or parties to a legal claim)
• As part of an Oireachtas Committee
• In a tribunal of inquiry or commission of investigation
The privilege of a statement can be lost if the statement was made maliciously or if the person later refuses to correct an inaccuracy.
This includes statements made by you to:
• A person who had a duty or interest in receiving the statement or
• A person who you reasonably believed had a duty or interest in receiving the statement
Where you had a duty or interest in making the statement to the person or persons.
Provided the following conditions are met, the defence of 'honest opinion' may apply:
• The opinion is honestly held
• The opinion is based on allegations of facts that are set out with the statement or known to the person complaining of defamation (or that they could reasonably be expected to have known), or based on allegations of fact that are privileged (for example, based on the judgment of a court)
• The matter is of public interest
A statement may not be defamatory if it was made in good faith and is in the public interest. The court will consider:
• The seriousness of the allegations
• How much the statement was about the performance of a person’s public duties
• If the statement made it clear that when it was discussing allegations or suspicions, rather than facts
• If there were exceptional circumstances that made it necessary to publish the statement
• If the person who was the subject of the statement was given the opportunity to give their side of events
A person who contributed to the distribution of the statement may apply for innocent publication where they are not responsible for the statement or the publication of the statement. Eg. A printer of newspapers is not responsible for the content of the newspaper publication itself.