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Criminal defamation

Criminal defamation has been abolished in the UK since 12 January 2010 when the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force. Section 73 of this Act abolished the criminal defamation offences, which were the offences of sedition and seditious libel, the offence of defamatory libel, and the offence of obscene libel.

Criminal defamation was a controversial law that turned defamation, which is a civil tort, into a criminal matter. A defamation offence was defined by law as the publication of inaccurate information which devalues the reputation of another. It was almost never used in the UK since civil law usually provided enough recourse for claimants.

One difference between civil and criminal defamation was the defence available to defendants of a criminal defamation claim. Under civil defamation it is enough for the defendant to prove that the information published was accurate, whilst under criminal defamation there was a need to prove that there was a public interest in the publication of the information, even if it was true.

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