The differences between libel and slander


If someone has made false or damaging statements about you, there are a variety of actions which you may be able to make against them under UK law.

A specialist defamation solicitor can determine how much compensation you would be entitled to, as a result of the damaging statement made against you.

What types of action are there?

Libel, slander and malicious falsehood are the most common actions.

Libel and slander are types of defamation, involving damaging a person’s reputation or causing others to think worse of them.

Malicious falsehood is substantially similar, but it does not have to involve injury to reputation. You may also consider a criminal or civil action for harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

What is the difference between libel and slander?

Libel and slander both involve a statement being ‘published’, or communicated, to at least one other person, where that statement damages the person’s reputation. The primary difference between the two is the degree of permanence with which the statement is published.

If the statement is made with a degree of permanence, this may be libel. Slander, on the other hand, is characterised by its impermanence, or transience.

Generally, the distinction will be between oral and written statements, the former generally being slander and the latter libel. Slander, may, however, actually be libel if the oral statement is recorded, for example on tape or CD.

Is there a distinction in proof and damage?

The other central distinction between the two is what must be proved. For both libel and slander it must be proved that:

  • The statement was made and that it was made about the claimant
  • The statement was ‘defamatory’

However, for slander you must also prove that actual loss or damage resulted.  Actual damage does not need to be proved for libel. Slander is therefore more difficult to establish.

Malicious falsehood

Malicious falsehood is similar to defamation, except it involves an untrue statement that is made maliciously, and which causes special damage. It is rarer than defamation.

It is always recommended to seek legal advice from a solicitor specialising in defamation law, to establish if your claim is financially viable.

Are you unsure if the defamatory statement made against you is libel, slander or malicious falsehood? Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist defamation solicitor to help you reach an effective result. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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