Produced in partnership with 5RB

The following TMT practice note produced in partnership with 5RB provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Defamation
  • Brexit
  • Libel and slander
  • Statement must refer to the claimant
  • Meaning
  • Serious harm
  • Publication
  • Parties to an action for defamation
  • Limitation
  • Defences
  • More...


The tort of defamation is governed by a mixture of statute and common law. The relevant statutory law is contained in:

  1. the Defamation Act 1952 (DA 1952)

  2. the Defamation Act 1996 (DeA 1996)

  3. the Defamation Act 2013 (DA 2013)

There is no statutory definition of what is defamatory. The conventional common law test is that the imputation must tend to lower a claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. However, DA 2013, s 1 introduced a threshold requirement that a statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant, giving statutory effect to the common law threshold tests in Thornton v Telegraph Media Group and Jameel (Yousef) v Dow Jones & Co but raising the threshold bar from the common law requirement of 'substantial' harm to 'serious' harm. In Lachaux, the Supreme Court held that DA 2013, s 1 also introduced a requirement that a claimant must demonstrate as a fact that they have suffered, or are likely to suffer serious harm (see News Analysis: Supreme Court interprets ‘serious harm’ test in Defamation Act 2013 (Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd)).

The ingredients of the cause of action in defamation are the publication to third parties of words or other matter that are defamatory and convey an imputation capable of causing

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