A cautionary tale: Defamation during the course of a presentation

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29 November, 2019

Background

We recently acted for an organisation which received notification of a claim pursuant to the Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation (now replaced by the pre-action protocol for media and communications as of October 2019). It was alleged that during the course of the two day conference a number of PowerPoint slides were shown to delegations containing unflattering and doctored images of a prominent figure whom all delegates were familiar with. Supplementing the images were captions and verbal dialogue from the host. Despite the claimant not being present, the individual eventually learnt of the course of events which unfolded at the conference and thus initiated the claim.

What is defamation and the law

Defamation is governed by the Defamation Act 2013 (''the Act'').

Defamation is any intentional false communication, which can also be either written or spoken, that harms a person's reputation, typically lowering the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, or is likely to affect a person adversely in the estimation of reasonable people generally.

To constitute defamation, a claim must generally be false and must have been made to someone other than the person defamed.

One can be defamed by way of spoken word (slander) or alternatively by way of written publication (libel).

In the above case study it is the case that instances of libel and slander would have transpired.

If the 'serious harm' test (section 1 of the Act), can be satisfied a claim for damages would likely to be successful.

Learning points

  • Don't include images with captions and comments that could potentially give rise to a claim for defamation.
  • It would be prudent to always have the content of any presentation checked and verified before being delivered;
  • If you are subject to a defamation claim seek legal assistance at the earliest opportunity.
  • Despite the claim being intimated, we managed to dismiss the claim at the very outset without proceedings being issued by putting the claimant to strict proof to determine that the individual had suffered loss and damage and therefore met the strict criteria of the 'serious harm' test.

For more information contact Faraz Naqvi in our Education department via email or phone on 0333 207 1146. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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