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seriously! whatever defamation is, it is not trivial

17 June 2010

In the High Court recently, the Telegraph Media Group Limited successfully defended a claim of defamation made by Dr Sarah Thornton, the author of Seven Days in the Art World. The Telegraph successfully argued that the words complained of in its review of the book were not capable of being defamatory. 

The judge recognised that any definition of “defamatory” must incorporate some qualification or threshold of seriousness, so as to exclude trivial claims. He preferred the following definition: 

“the publication of which he complains may be defamatory of him because it substantially affects in an adverse manner the attitude of other people towards him, or has a tendency so to do”.

This interpretation provides defendants with another weapon in their armoury. Plus in an increasingly pro-publisher environment, coupled with the prospect of claimants not being able to recover success fees and ATE insurance premiums from defendants, it may make potential claimants think twice before commencing an action.

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