Possible Defences to Defamation Claims
Truth – Where a statement is true in all material respects a claim will fail.
Absolute Privilege – There are situations which are covered by absolute privilege which means that a person cannot succeed in a defamation claim even if there reputation is injured. This defence is applicable to witness evidence in a court hearing, statement in the dail, a report in tribunal etc.
Qualified Privilege – This is the most relied on defence by defendants. This arises when a person has a legal, moral or a social duty to communicate the information and the recipient has a similar duty to receive it. For example, if a person makes a report to the gardai that they suspected a person had committed a crime, and the suspect is subsequently proven innocent, a claim for defamation does not arise if the statement was made in good faith. This defence will not succeed if a party can prove malice on the part of the party who published the statement.
Innocent Publication – This defence arises if a party took reasonable care in relation to the publication. For example, if a shop keeper quietly and politely, makes a discreet enquiry if a person paid for goods, then this defence may arise.
Honest Opinion – This defence arises if a defendant, at the time of publication, believed in the truth of the statement.
Fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest – This defence is open to a Plaintiff who can prove that a statement was published in good faith and the subject of public interest. This defence often arises in the context of radio, television or newspaper publications. However, prior to making such publications, the defendant should make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of such publications.