The new ‘serious harm’ test under section 1, Defamation Act 2013

By Amber Melville-Brown

The law of defamation assists a claimant, damaged by a defamatory publication, to remedy a rubbished reputation. But just what is a defamatory publication? Right from the get-go of the new Defamation Act 2013, which came into effect on 1 January 2014, it is clear that changes are afoot.

A defamatory statement used to be described as one that lowers the claimant in the estimation of right-minded members of society; also one that causes him or her to be shunned or avoided; or even that exposes him or her to ridicule or contempt.

But will these established definitions be shaken up by section 1 of the new act, which now provides that ‘a statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant’. Ah, there’s the rub. But what does ‘serious harm’ actually look like? …

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