Defamation in Victoria is defined by the Defamation Act 2005 (Vic) (‘Defamation Act‘) . Defamation is where someone has reputational damage by someone else ‘publishing’ defamatory material. Publishing is a catch-all term under the Defamation Act which includes spoken ‘oral utterances’, text placed on social media bulletin boards [like Facebook], text messages, printed letters or classically published materials [like a movie, book, newspaper or magazine] or even drawings [like a cartoon].
In Victoria, an individual is permitted to sue in this State for damages in respect of anything published of or concerning him or her that is defamatory of that person. In order to succeed in a Defamation claim, the person who sues (called the plaintiff) needs to establish:
(a) the matter was published to at least one other person, which matter was published of or concerning the plaintiff (that just means it is matter published about the plaintiff); and
(b) the matter was defamatory of the plaintiff.
Once the above points are made out or proven in a proceeding for Defamation, it then becomes the Judge or Magistrates’ responsibility to assess damages for the Defamation [the link is to the Judicial College of Victoria’s materials on defamation and Jury direction].
Accused of Defamation?
If you are accused of defamation, you will receive a Concerns Notice from the person that claims you have published defamatory material about them. If you receive a Concerns Notice, it is important to receive legal advice immediately to determine if you have truly engaged in defamation or if your behaviour has an appropriate defence.
Historically, the defences available for defamation claims were found in the common law of the tort of defamation in Australian Courts. However, the Defamation Act now clearly describes the defences available.
If you have no defence, it is important to make an Offer of Amends to the aggrieved person. Legal advice is important in this respect as well to assist you in determining what potential loss you may face from a court judgement if the matter proceeds to a hearing.
Cogent Legal’s solicitors have demonstrated success in assisting clients in Defamation matters.
Case Law on Defamation
Some recent cases to observe are:
Harbour Radio Pty Limited v Trad  HCA 44 [Grounds of qualified privilege giving rise to defence – in response to defamation in thee public forum];
Bauer Media Pty Ltd v Wilson (No 2)  VSCA 154 [Non-economic loss damages]; and
Stuckey v Australian Medical Association (Victoria) Ltd  VSC 275.
Give us a call for assistance or legal advice. We will provide an outline of next steps with you before the call ends. (03) 7022 6707