Defamation: What Can You Do If You Are A Victim

 General damages of up to $407,500 can be awarded in Western Australia

Types of Injuries

It can inflict serious injury to the Defamation statement made in a public forum can have severe adverse impact on a person. victim’s personal and professional reputation.

Additional adverse implications will flow on from the injury to reputation, including social damage where the victim may, in a social context, be subject to being avoided or singled-out by peers and associates.  In more serious situation, a group of people influenced by the defamatory conduct may humiliate, abuse, ridicule or even “bully” the victim and the victim’s family.

Unfortunately, the impact does not stop there.  The defamatory statement can cause injury to feelings, such as grief, distress, anxiety, and loss of self-esteem.

All of these injuries (reputation damage, social damage, and injury to feeling and health) are commonly known as non-economic damages.

The Court has the power to order the culprit to compensate the victim for non-economic damages and the maximum award (as at 2019) is $407,500.

Aggravated Circumstances

In addition to the non-economic damages of $407,500, the Court has the power to award further damages in aggravated circumstances.

For example, where the person making the defamatory statement was warned to retract the statement or asked to make amends, the person refused but instead continued to make further defamatory statements.   The Court will order aggravated damages in this instance over and above  the compensatory damages.

What Can You Do If You Are a Victim?

It can be very costly to be involved in litigation.  However, statistics show that only 97% of cases in Court eventuate to a trial.  Most civil cases will settle out of court.

If you believe you have been defamed, the least you should do is to reserve your rights, protect yourself from further injury, and “set it up” such that if the culprit unreasonably continues in his or her defamatory conduct, you have the option of commencing legal action.

This is done be issuing a Concerns Notice under the Defamation Act (WA) 2005.   For more information about what the Concerns Notice should contain, please contact us.

Criminal Defamation

In Western Australia, defamation can constitute a criminal offence.  Section 345(1) of the Criminal Code (WA) states:

A person who, without lawful excuse, publishes matter defamatory of another living person (the victim):

  • knowing the matter to be false or without having regard to whether the matter is true or false; and
  • intending to cause serious harm to the victim or any other person or without having regard to whether such harm is caused,

is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 3 years.

Summary conviction penalty: imprisonment for 12 months and a fine of $12 000.

About Writer

Kelvin Tang has over 18 years’ experience practising law in Western Australia. He is the founder of Tang Law based in Perth, Western Australia. Kelvin is a Registered Migration Agent (MARN: 1386452) and has extensive experience in providing migration advice to clients, advising on “Eligible Businesses” within the definition of the Migration Regulations. Kelvin also has extensive experience in civil litigation, commercial and corporate law matters.

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