Eric Descheemaeker, ‘Mapping Defamation Defences’

The general neglect of tort defences is most significant in defamation actions. This paper attempts to reduce to a few guiding principles the numerous, and apparently unrelated, doctrines recognised as defences by the law of defamation. Defining the cause of action as an injury to the claimant’s reputation, it argues that they fall into three classes: (i) defences which exclude unlawfulness because the injury was inflicted in pursuance of a right or liberty of the defendant; (ii) defences which exclude blameworthiness because the defendant was not at fault for causing the injury; (iii) defences which relieve the defendant of liability despite the injury being both non iure and negligent: this group, not being underpinned by recognised principles, deserves particular scrutiny. The rule of repetition should be qualified by recognition of a defence of ‘warranted republication’; the remainder should be abolished, being an anachronistic hangover from the old requirement of malice.

Eric Descheemaeker, Mapping Defamation Defences. Modern Law Review, Volume 78, Issue 4, pages 641–671, July 2015.

First posted 2015-07-02 05:04:34

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