What should a letter of claim for a defamation claim contain?

The Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation Claims sets out details as to what a letter of claim for a defamation claim should contain. The Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation Claims applies to all claims for libel and slander. The letter of claim should be sent at the earliest reasonable opportunity since the limitation period for defamation claims is only 1 year.

What are the requirements of the Protocol?

Information about the Claimant

The letter of claim should state the name of the Claimant.

Information about the publication or broad cast which contained the words complained of

The letter of claim should contain sufficient details so as to identify the publication or broadcast which contained the words complained of.

Date of publication

Where known, the date of publication of the words complained of should be stated.

Details of the words complained of

The letter of claim should state the words complained of. Where possible a copy of the publication or a transcript of the words complained of should be included with the letter of claim.

Details of any factual inaccuracies or unsupportable comments

The letter of claim should give details of any factual inaccuracies or unsupportable comment within the words complained of. The Claimant is required to give a sufficient explanation to enable the Defendant to understand why the words are inaccurate or unsupportable.

Any facts of matters which make the Claimant identifiable

Where relevant, the letter of claim should include any facts or matters which make the Claimant identifiable from the words complained of. This will be necessary where the Claimant is not named but the circumstances and facts identify who he is.

Any special facts

Where relevant, the letter of claim should include details of any special facts relevant to the interpretation of the words complained of.

Any special damage

Where relevant, the letter of claim should include details of any particular damage suffered by the Claimant as a result of the defamation. For example, where the Claimant has lost business as a consequence of the defamation.

The remedies sought

The letter of claim should state the nature of the remedies sought by the Claimant. Usually a Claimant in a defamation case will seek the following remedies: 

  • Damages (in some cases this may include aggravated and/ or exemplary damages);
  • An undertaking from the Defendant that he will not make any further defamatory statements (if the Defendant is not willing to provide such an undertaking the Claimant may seek an injunction from the Court preventing the Defendant from making any further defamatory statements);
  • A correction, retraction and apology.

Meaning of words complained of

The Protocol encourages the Claimant to identify the meaning(s) he attributes to the words complained of. This will include the natural and ordinary meaning of such words and, in some cases, any innuendo meaning.

Date for acknowledging the letter of claim

The Claimant should indicate when it expects the Defendant to respond to the letter of claim. Normally this will be within 14 days.