What the claimant must prove
In order to bring a defamation claim the person bringing the claim (“the claimant”) must prove that the person against whom the claim is brought (“the defendant”) has published a defamatory statement about him or her.
A defamatory statement is one that tends to make right-thinking people think substantially the worse of the claimant. In addition, statements that would lead people to avoid the claimant or expose the claimant to ridicule may be defamatory even if they involve no moral blame.
Publication means communicating the statement to another person or persons. It could be one person, as in the case of a letter, or millions, as in the case of a national newspaper. There is no restriction on the medium in which the statement is published. It could be published in writing, electronically or, in one instance, by putting a waxwork of the claimant in the Chamber of Horrors.
Reference to the claimant
Generally the claimant will be named and the issue will not arise, but an unnamed claimant who can be identified by other means as the target of a defamatory statement will be able to sue. So too might a person who shares the same name as the intended target of the publication.
The difference between libel and slander
Defamation is the generic term for libel and slander. Where the defamation is in writing or in some other permanent form it is a libel. Where it is spoken or in some other temporary form it is a slander. In certain slander claims it is necessary for the claimant to prove financial loss.
A claimant who proves these matters will win the case, unless the defendant can establish at least one of the available defences.