The Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation Claims

The Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation Claims sets certain standards which prospective parties to a defamation claim are expected to observe before Court proceedings are issued. The Protocol encourages the parties to exchange information at an early stage and to consider using a form of alternative dispute resolution.

When does the Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation Claims apply?

The Protocol applies to all defamation claims, that is, claims for slander and claims for libel.

What are the requirements of the Pre-Action Protocol for Defamation Claims?

The letter of claim

As time is of the essence in defamation claims (the Claimant only has 1 year in which to bring his claim), the Claimant is expected to notify the Defendant of his claim at the earliest reasonable opportunity by sending to the Defendant a letter of claim.  

The Protocol specifies what information the letter of claim should contain.  

The Claimant should specify in the letter of claim when he expects the Defendant to respond. Normally the Claimant will give the Defendant 14 days to respond.

The Defendant’s response to the letter of claim

The Defendant should provide a full response to the letter of claim as soon as reasonably possible. If the Defendant believes that he will be unable to respond within 14 days (or such shorter time limited as specified in the letter of claim), he should acknowledge receipt of the letter of claim and in doing so should specify the date by which he intends to respond. 

The response should confirm whether or to what extent the claim is accepted, whether it is rejected or whether more information is required.  

If the claim is accepted, whether in whole or in part, the Defendant should state which remedies he is willing to offer.  

If the claim is rejected, the Defendant is required to explain the reasons why it is rejected. The Defendant should also provide an indication of any facts on which he is likely to rely on in support of his Defence. 

If the Defendant does not agree with the Claimant as to the meaning(s) of the words complained of as set out in the letter of claim, he is encouraged to set out the meaning(s) he attributes to such words. 

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For more information on:

  • Proportionality of costs
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • What happens if a party does not act in accordance with the Protocol?