Defamation: Is it Libel or Slander?

Within the tort of defamation there are two primary actions that can be pursued. These are known as libel and slander. If you had to explain the differences between the two into one sentence it is probably best to say that libel concerns written statements about an individual or company whilst slander is to verbal comments.  What this short article will try to do is examine some more of the differences between the two actions and hopefully give you an idea of whether you have a potential case.

If you suspect you do have a case please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 014 8727.

The main basis of defamation is that there has been a publication to a third party of words or matters which hold untrue statements against the reputation of an individual or company.


This is the publication of defamatory allegations in a permanent form. This is often in the form of written word but it is not limited to that. There can also be libellous allegations in photographs, cartoons, works of art etc. It is also accepted that defamatory material that is published on TV or radio (as long as it is permanent-i.e. there are copies on archives etc) will also be covered under libel and this is confirmed in s.166 Broadcasting Act 1990. Finally anything that is published on the internet will generally be considered as libel (for example: emails, websites and message boards)[1] 

With regard to photographs, these are often the clearest way in which a non written article can be defamatory. If for example they wrongly identify the subject of the photograph as being someone else or having links with some nefarious organisation or ulterior purpose this could be considered libellous. So to if the image is altered will it be libellous, one of the clearest examples of this is Charleston v News Group Newspapers Limited[2] in which the News of the World posted an altered image of two actors from Neighbours to appear semi-naked. In this case although the images were defamatory the rest of the articles when read with it did explain the reason for the pictures and that there was no ridicule linked with it and so the action was defended.

So if there has been a publication of an image, tv/radio broadcast or written words that has damaged your reputation there is potentially an action for libel that can be taken within the UK courts. If you think this is the case, please contact us on 0800 014 8727 and one of our team members will be able to run through your situation and let you know if your case is one we can assist with.


The legalese definition of slander is the publication of defamatory words or actions in a temporary or transient form. What is boils down to is when defamation is published by it being spoken (not within a TV or radio broadcast as that would likely to be covered under libel).

For example if you are accused of shoplifting in front of other people could be potentially defamatory.

However unlike libel there requires proof of special damages for slander (i.e. you need to prove that there has been financial loss before you can make a claim for slander). There are 4 exceptions to slander in which you do not need to prove special damages. They are:

  • Guilt of a criminal offence
  • That a woman is unchaste
  • That the claimant is suffering from a contagious disease
  • Matters likely to damage the claimant’s reputation in relation to his office, professional trade or business

The reason for these exceptions are so that in certain occasions slander will be treated as seriously as libel to avoid people being able to say whatever they want about an individual without any repercussion.

What next?

If you have been a victim of a libellous comment or someone has said something defamatory which has caused you financial loss contact one of our defamation solicitors on 0800 014 8727 where we will be able to discuss your situation with you and give you an idea for whether you have a case that could be taken forward.