Defamation – has what you have said, gone too far?

August 1, 2013

in Litigation & Dispute Resolution

iStock_000018766927SmallDefamation is a word people often use as a vague threat of action against others.  However defaming someone without a legal defence is a serious issue, which can result in proceedings against you for damages.  The increasing use of web based sites such as Facebook and Twitter can also increase the chances of you being accused of defaming another individual.

Essentially defamation is an unjustified attack on a person’s reputation.  There is a fine line between the right to freedom of expression, contained within the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and defamation.  If you are unsure you should obtain legal advice prior to making any statements about others.

In order to assert and prove that someone has defamed you, you need to be able to prove the following;

  • That a defamatory statement has been made in verbal or written form;
  • That the statement was about you; and
  • That the statement has been “published”

You should not be caught out by thinking that “publication” relates only to the written word, it does not.  Publication covers verbal statements made to another person.  However it is not sufficient that the statement alleged to be defamation against you, was said only to you.

You should be aware that there are four legal defences to a claim of defamation that you could argue.

  • Truth – which is a complete defence if you can satisfy the Court that the statement was true;
  • Honest opinion – you will need to provide the factual basis on which your opinion was based.   This can be difficult to argue, because it is not sufficient if you simply got the information wrong;
  • Privilege is a defence to limited groups of people which can offer a complete defence in some instances;
  • Consent is a defence if you can prove that the person against whom the statement was made, consented to you “publishing” that statement.

If you require any advice or further information on the matters dealt with in this publication please contact the lawyer at Farry and Co who normally advises you, or alternatively contact:

Kirsten Maclean

(03) 477 8870 or (09) 379 0055


The information contained in this publication is intended as a guide only.  It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances.  While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, Farry and Co. does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. 

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