Rare action that is hard to prove: Keith Mathieson explains the background and pitfalls of the little-used legal process of slander
Tuesday 28 June 1994
The last jury award for slander was pounds 150,000 - reduced to pounds 50,000 on appeal - against Dr Alanah Houston who, in front of patients, had called her male colleague a groper. Lady Foster, wife of Sir Norman Foster, the architect, failed to convince a jury last year that she had been 'slandered by conduct' after a customs officer had escorted her through a concourse at Heathrow in a manner which she said would have meant to everybody that she was being arrested for a serious offence.
The distinction between libel and slander is that a libel must be in permanent form (eg, written or broadcast) whereas slander is transitory - the spoken word, conduct or gestures. The practical difference is that damage is presumed in libel, but has to be proved in slander, though that rule is subject to exceptions for certain kinds of allegation, including, as in the Wraith case, any imputation that someone is suffering from an infectious disease.
Historical accident appears to be responsible for the distinction between libel and slander which is unknown in Scotland and has been widely criticised. In 1975 a committee of experts recommended its abolition. That the distinction still exists may be partly due to fear that removing the requirement to prove actual loss might encourage a flood of 'garden wall' slander actions. That fear is misplaced. Most slander actions never get off the ground because of the difficulty of proving what was said in the first place.
Keith Mathieson is a libel specialist with the London solicitors, Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co.
- 1 Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
- 2 Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
- 3 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 4 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
- 5 Carol Vorderman reveals she is 'covered in burns' after she fell off her treadmill while running naked
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...
£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...
£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...