Claiming for libel

Everyone in the UK has the right to defend their reputation if it is brought into disrepute by something another person has said or written. Under English law, you have the right to go to the High Court if you feel something that has been written or said about you is defamatory, and make a libel claim for damages.

What is libel?

To make a successful claim in libel, you must prove that:

  • The comments have damaged you in some way
  • The comments are not fair comment
  • The comments are not in the public interest

The definition of these terms can be highly complex, which is why you should always have a specialist libel solicitor to support your case.

Often, libel and slander are used interchangeably when in fact they relate to the format that the alleged defamation took. If someone says something about you that you think is defamatory, this is slander.

If something is written about you, this is called libel.

Also, it is incorrect to say that you can only libel a person, as you can also libel a business. Your libel claim can be brought against an individual and/or a business. For more information about this, see our section on the differences between libel and slander.

Taking your claim to court

You and your solicitor must prove to the High Court that what was written is defamatory.

Newspapers and television stations have what is called qualified privileges. This means they can write or broadcast information that may initially seem to be libel or slander, but that isn’t under the Defamation Act 1996. Your solicitor can help you define the foundations your case will stand on to ensure your libel claim has the best chance of success.

In most cases, if the court finds you have been libeled, a level of compensation - called damages - will be awarded. Also, a jury and not a single judge will usually decide upon your libel claim.

Any damages you have been awarded can be reduced or quashed if the defendant appeals their case and wins. Specialised solicitors must handle any libel claim you want to make, as the court will want to hear qualified argument about your libel claim. With these types of cases, never attempt to handle your claim alone.

For more information on using a defamation solicitor, see our information page.

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