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Sanford Legal provides expert advice and support for individuals who feel they have been defamed. We also advise and assist people and organisations who have been threatened with, or sued, for defamation. At Sanford Legal, our extensive experience in Defamation law has resulted in many years of success in a variety of cases.

What is defamation?
Defamation occurs when a person publishes or makes a statement about you that is false, and damages your reputation. Untrue information can either be communicated as libel, a permanent record such as a photograph and writing, or slander, a verbal statement. The statement is regarded as defamatory when,

  • An individual (other than you), observes or hears the defamatory words or published information, and
  • If an ordinary, objective person was to view or hear the information, their opinion of you would be reduced.

It can also be defamatory for someone to imply something bad about you.

What if you have been defamed?
Defamation law exists to protect the reputation of a person by restricting the communication of false material that can’t be proven. If the information about you has already been spread, you can sue the person who has defamed you and anyone else involved in publishing the false information – for example a TV station or a newspaper.

If the material is deemed defamatory, a court may award money to compensate you for your damaged reputation. You can also be compensated for any hurt feelings you have suffered. In some circumstances, if the material was published with “malice”, you can be compensated for any economic loss you may have suffered because of the publication (this is called “injurious falsehood”).

If you believe that you are about to be defamed, you can bring an urgent court action to stop the material from being published, although obtaining an injunction from a court in this situation can be difficult.

Once the material has been published you have several choices –

  • Do nothing
  • Launch a lawsuit
  • Ask for an apology
  • Ask that a statement be published clarifying the information was false.

If you believe you have been defamed, please contact Sanford Legal who will provide you with advice and assistance in what is a complicated area of law that changes constantly to encompass innovative technology.


What are the defences to defamation?
Even though you may have been defamed, unfortunately you are not automatically entitled to compensation. In order to succeed, you have to have been defamed, and then overcome any defences that the publisher may raise. In everyday life, people are defamed all the time, but in many situations, the publisher is permitted to say the things they said because they have a defence.

One main defence to defamation is justification, otherwise known as “truth”. Your claim won’t succeed if the defendant is able to prove the material communicated is for the most part, “substantially true”. Also, if the information is published with your consent, it will not be against the law.

Secondly, the defence of “comment” applies where the publisher who communicated their opinion made a fair comment to the public at large. For the defence to succeed, the comment must have been made without “malice”.

Lastly, a comment made as part of parliamentary, court and tribunal proceedings, as well as their corresponding reports, broadcasts and transcripts cannot be considered defamatory, and is regarded as having “absolute” privilege. Here, absolute freedom of speech prevails, and even if the publisher of the defamatory comments knows that the information is false and can cause damage to reputation, there is no liability for defamation.

Additionally, “qualified privilege” acts as a defence where material is published specifically for the interest of another where the comments are reasonable. This defence is often difficult to prove as the harm of the comment must be weighed against the public interest.

There are many and varied situations where people are defamed. Defamation claims are not restricted to situations where information is published on TV, in newspapers or in magazines.

Our Expertise
Our expertise is substantial in this area of law. Here are just some of the defamation cases where our lawyers have achieved successful outcomes:

  • “Gypsy Fire”, was alleged by the (now defunct) Truth Newspaper, to have been Bob Dylan’s “sex slave” – this was untrue. After many years battling in Court, Ms Fire was successful in her claim, and received a substantial amount of damages from the Supreme Court. The damage to her reputation by the publication was vindicated.
  • A professional sportswoman was photographed for a charity calendar; her images were then used, without her permission, in a “lads” magazine where disparaging and offensive comments were written about her. Following a court-appointed mediation, she achieved a very favourable result.
  • Our client was shopping at a local fruit shop – he was falsely accused, in front of staff and customers, of stealing strawberries, and trying to leave the store without paying. We sued the store manager and the owners of the store alleging that he had been defamed, both by the words that were used in front of the customers, and by their actions. The case settled on terms that saw our client receive substantial compensation.
  • The parents of a four year old student at a school came to us seeking compensation against a number of teachers of the school who had made disparaging comments about them in a conversation on a social media website. An agreement was reached with the school and the teachers which included an apology and compensation.
  • A sight-impaired client (who was also a national champion athlete) was filmed by a national TV broadcaster leaving a nightclub, requiring the assistance of his brother to walk down a set of stairs. The footage was used in a documentary about alcohol use and abuse in late night Sydney; we claimed that the footage alleged that our client was drunk which was untrue. We sued, and the claim was settled on very favourable terms for our client.
  • The mother of a high-profile horse trainer sought advice, when a cheque she used to pay for repairs to her car was returned “unpaid”. A national tabloid newspaper published details of the cheque, alleging that she was a person who intentionally bounced cheques. She sued the newspaper and the claim was settled on terms that made the client very happy.
  • A young lady was bailed up by security staff in a major city shopping mall. The security officers alleged that she was inappropriately dressed, as she was wearing a denim mini-skirt that they deemed to be “too short”. She sued the owners/operators of the shopping centre, and the security company alleging that she had been defamed and also “imprisoned” without her consent. A very favourable settlement was achieved.
  • A member of a bowling club complained that an article had been written about him in the internal club newsletter, saying that he had been cheating in the Tuesday night pool competition. It turned out that the club secretary had been on leave when the newsletter had been printed, and it had not been properly proof read before publication. He sued the club, and obtained an apology in Court together with a very satisfactory settlement.
  • A lady was working in administration for a manufacturing company where she was the victim of bullying and intimidation by her supervisor. She sent an email describing this behaviour to other staff and management in her company – her supervisor then sued her for defamation in Court. In the District Court she ran a successful defence and her case settled after an Appeal was lodged.
  • An engineer came to us, saying that ASIC had published a press-release on their website about him that (incorrectly) stated he was disqualified from running a company. Following negotiations with the lawyers for ASIC, the website press-release was changed and amended, much to our client’s satisfaction.
  • A high profile Australian artist had a portrait he had painted of Dr Victor Chang (the famous Sydney heart surgeon) published in the Woman’s Day magazine. However, the magazine (wrongly) attributed the painting to someone else. He successfully sued the magazine in the Federal Court, claiming that his artist’s moral rights (to attribution), and his copyright had been breached. Damages were awarded. This was the first case in Australia where findings such as this were made.


If you feel that you have been defamed, we invite you to contact us on (02) 9747 5244 today to arrange an appointment with our experienced defamation solicitors.


Contact Sanford Legal today for a free case assessment.

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