Under British defamation law, slander is a false oral statement that damages someone’s reputation. This may result in a financial loss as well as personal distress to the victim. An injunction against slander granted by the High Court orders the defendant to stop the defamation and pay damages to the claimant. But defamation may be difficult to prove to a British court, and the injunction will be expensive to obtain.
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The first step is to try to avoid expensive litigation. Contact the person who is spreading the slander about you and ask them to refrain from the comments. Write a letter to them, stating the same request. Alternatively, contact a solicitor who will write a letter on your behalf, request a correction to the allegedly slanderous statements, and an apology.
The defendant should respond promptly. Decide how to proceed depending on the response, or non response, from the defendant. If they accept your claim, they must indicate what kind of remedies – financial, written and verbal - they are prepared to offer. The defendant may ask for more information about the claim. If the defendant rejects the claim, they should explain why.
Analyse the defendant’s response, or do so with your solicitor. You have to prove to the court that the defamatory statements were made to a third person, and that the defendant can be identified from those statements as the person who made them. You cannot sue if you were insulted to your face alone. Collect evidence such as sworn statements and video and audio recordings from the third party or parties that uphold the statements. Ensure the evidence contains information of the locations, times, and dates of the slander. Include any evidence of financial losses you have suffered as a result of the slander.
Defamation proceedings are extremely expensive. Legal aid and any form of publicly funded legal services are normally unavailable for this type of action. So it's important to think again on how to avoid litigation. Continue to ask for an apology if you cannot afford to take legal action. If this fails, opt for mediation or arbitration that is cheaper than court proceedings. Ensure your claim against the defendant is not a trivial matter that could be best ignored. Defamation injunctions often draw more attention to the claimant's personal affairs than they would if the original defamatory statements were left to pass into obscurity.
If all fails, visit the High Court and request application forms so that you can file the injunction. Fill in the forms and submit your claim, or ask your solicitor to file the application for you. Only a High Court hears claims for defamation. Make sure that you file your injunction within 12 months of the defamatory statement. This is the time limit for all legal proceedings involving slander, libel, and malicious falsehood. The clock starts from the time the statement was made.
In defamation cases, the burden of proof is weighed against a claimant who is seeking an interim injunction to halt slander prior to future court proceedings. The High Court may judge a request for an interim injunction for slander as a restraint on a defendant’s freedom of speech and deny it; especially if the defendant claims they can prove in court that their statements are true.
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