Introduction (to defences to libel)

It is often the media that are confronted by libel allegations by the very nature of them being publishers. Anyone receiving a libel threat needs to cooly and careful analyse the crux or core of the allegation, its context, meaning, and circumstances; and then apply the law to the specific situation. Sometimes there is no substance to the complaint but simply someone letting off steam or someone offended by a revelation which is damaging but true. There is no "one size fits all" - each case is unique to its circumstances and the result will often depends on the players as much as the facts of the case.  Mr Sahota, a former journalist, has decades of experience but recognises that each case brings fresh challenges; there is no room for complacency.

There is an emphasis or expectation on parties to attempt to compromise by attempting alternative dispute resolution where possible, so a "trigger-happy" claimant, could be penalised in costs; and a recalcitrant or stubborn defendant could be penalised in higher damages and costs if the defendant refuses to co-operate and explore possible compromise.   

Sometimes a technical defence can be found for a libel (which are outside the scope of this website) but broadly speaking the most common defences available are that:

  • the offending words were true;
  • the offending words were honest comment;
  • the offending words were privileged;
  • the offending words were a matter of general public interest

Even if you think you have a good defence it still needs careful thought to decide how best to deal with the situation so as not to inflame matters - a compromised resolution should be the target where possible. There are of course other situations where cases have to be fought all the way to trial, either because of the claimant's attitude, or on principle, or both. 

To learn more about how we can help you, visit our advising on the first letter of complaint page.


There are 3 stages to the work we can do for you, please see below:



Stage 1

Advising on the first letter of complaint

Stage 2

Negotiating and attempting to settle prior to issue of court proceedings

Stage 3

Defending AFTER court proceedings issued