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  • Stephen Iorns

Defamation in New Zealand

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

Defamation is a subject that almost everyone can appreciate. We all have reputations; some guarded more closely than others. Most of us have had things said about us at one point or another that have not been nice. When someone says something about you, in writing or verbally, the laws around defamation come in to play. Basically, there is a three step test for a claim of defamation.

1) There must have been the “publication” of a statement.

Publication includes simply saying something to someone in private, on the radio, on television, on the internet, in the newspaper. Get the idea? Basically, anything someone says or writes that can reach another human ticks this box.

2) The statement must have a defamatory meaning.

A statement will have a defamatory meaning if it tends to lower ones standing in the eyes of ordinary folk. Basically, if it makes you look bad, it will probably be defamatory. If you’re being called a liar, a fraud, a cheat, a criminal, this box is probably ticked. Even if they didn’t spell it out word for word, if they’ve said or written something that leaves the audience concluding something about you, this can be defamatory. It is not the exact words that are used but their “sting”. Innuendo and inference ticks this box, so long as your average reader would see the sting you see.

3) There must be no defence to a claim of defamation.

If the statement is true, and the person who made the statement can prove it, it’s not defamation. If it’s a matter of honest opinion, not an allegation of fact, it’s not defamation. If it’s a form of qualified privilege, like, something said by a politician in the House of Representatives, or by someone during Court proceedings, it’s not defamation.

If you’ve ticked all three of those boxes, you may have a valid claim for defamation. You can ask the Court to make the person stop, and award you damages.

When people that have been defamed approach us, the first step is often a letter requesting an apology, a retraction, and an undertaking that no further defamatory statements are published. Taking instructions and writing this letter usually takes under three hours, and more often than not results in settlement short of Court.

Whether the statement has been published by someone you know, or the media, it’s worth talking to us to see if you’ve got a valid claim, and if so, what can be done.

If you believe you’ve been defamed, and want to talk about your options, please contact Stephen today.

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