Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

The law relating to defamation

Defamation, unlawful under the common law, occurs when there is publication to a third party of words or matters containing an untrue imputation against the reputation of individuals, companies or firms which serves to undermine that reputation in the eyes of right thinking members of society generally, by exposing the victim to hatred, contempt or ridicule.

There are two “types” of defamation: libel and slander. Libel is the publication of a defamatory statement in permanent form (i.e. on television, in a newspaper, on the internet etc.). Slander is the publication of a defamatory statement in a less permanent form (generally by word of mouth). In slander claims the Claimant must show proof of damage that has been caused whereas in libel the Claimant simply has to show that the libellous statement was made (i.e. that the statement “could” have caused damage).

A Claimant (the person defamed) must therefore meet the following three elements to succeed in a claim for defamation:

  1. Was a defamatory statement made?
  2. Did this defamatory statement refer to the Claimant?
  3. Was this defamatory statement which referred to the Claimant published?

If the Claimant succeeds in proving on the balance of probabilities that the Defendant (the person doing the defaming) has five potential defences:

  • Consent: that the Claimant consented to the publication of the statement (rarely successful)
  • Truth: that what they said was true
  • Fair comment: that the comment was a matter of legitimate public interest and objectively fair
  • Qualified privilege:  successful where the Defendant has a legal, moral or social duty to communicate and the reader has a legitimate interest in the communication (i.e. a solicitor-client letter)
  • Absolute privilege: absolute defence but extremely limited (i.e. a statement in Parliament would count as an absolutely privileged statement)

The facts in Citation PLC v Ellis Whittam Ltd

Having had a brief look at the law relating to defamation claims, we’ll now take a look at the facts in the case at hand – Citation PLC v Ellis Whittam Ltd.

Both firms provide legal services to clients and are in competition. The Claimant (Citation PLC) alleged that a representative of the Defendant (Ellis Whittam Ltd) made defamatory statements to a potential client of the Claimant.

The alleged words spoken were:

  • “Citation’s guarantee is not what they say it is… because Citation is self-insured and not insured through a broker”
  • “[Citation] is unable to pay out on claims”; and (among others)
  • “Citation does not have any qualified lawyers working for the company”

These allegations were communicated to Citation PLC and they subsequently issued a claim for defamation.

The main substantive issues in the claim related to whether the alleged defamatory statement had been published to a third party and whether the statement itself was true. The main procedural issue was whether there were reasonable grounds for bringing the claim as there was no real or substantial tort. The Claimant was seeking an injunction against the Defendant making further such comments.

The High Court’s judgment in the defamation case

The High Court did not make a judgment on whether the statement was defamatory or whether the alleged defamatory statement had been communicated to a third party. The Court refrained from doing so as it believed that the claim itself was an abuse of process – it felt that the seeking on an injunction by the Claimant was an unsuitable remedy in the circumstances.

Our thoughts on Citation PLC v Ellis Whittam Ltd

This is an interesting case on defamation. It (clearly) revolves mainly around the issue of the appropriate remedy that should and can be pursued in the courts in claims involving defamation. As the Claimant had not obviously suffered damage from the alleged slander (and the Court commented on the difficulty of doing so) the Court believed that the remedy of an injunction was an unsuitable one.

This case illustrates that both individuals and companies must be careful about what statements they make in public. Potentially defamatory statements can, such as in the present case, result in an action for defamation in the courts.

UPDATE: “We understand that Citation will be seeking to appeal the High Court Judgment”

Tagged with →  

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Our awards

Request a callback

Your first name (required)

Your last name (required)

Your email (required)

Your telephone number (required)

Brief details of your enquiry

Contact us

Please feel free to discuss your own position and concerns. Contact your nearest office on:

T: 020 3397 3603
E: enquiries@redmans.co.uk
W: www.redmans.co.uk


4.76 Average

204 Reviews


Excellent advice and customer service.

Posted 4 weeks ago

Aneet G

I would definitely recommend Redmans. Very impressed with service provided. They were extremely proactive in handling my case which made things easier for me. Provided sound advice and resolution. Special credit for this goes to Chris who dealt with my case with great determination and consideration.

Posted 1 month ago

Fern M

Very efficient and friendly

Posted 1 month ago

Neville S

A professional and friendly service, which I would highly recommend.

Posted 1 month ago

Daniel T

Extremely helpful and made a bad situation much more manageable. Where other solicitors seemed disinterested in my situation Redmans immediately made me feel like it was a team effort to achieve a more favourable outcome

Posted 1 month ago

Paul T

Excellent, quick and informative. Chris was a real star and gave me confidence during the uncertainty if a redundancy settlement.

Posted 1 month ago

Marina E

Felt in very capable hands was listened to and given excellent advice. Would not hesitate to recomend and use again if needed.

Posted 1 month ago

Rosa B

Fabulous service all round.

Posted 1 month ago


Redmans were quick to respond to my enquiry and dealt with my case professionally and personably. I received sound advice and was put at ease by Chris Hadrill, Partner.

Posted 1 month ago

Alkhas K

Excellent service.

Posted 1 month ago

Mathias G

Contacted them regarding my end of employment agreement. Chris Hadrill dealt with it and was done and handed back to employer same day more than happy with there service.

Posted 2 months ago

Mark W

Most professional from start to finish offering very a personal service. Most impressive and quick when dealing with the matters in hand.

Posted 3 months ago


Posted 3 months ago


I am very glad I came across Redmans Solicitors. Fantastic service!

Posted 3 months ago


Fantastic communication, always happy to answer queries, highly recommended.

Posted 3 months ago

Wavenie B

They were very straight to the point, friendly and understanding people. I felt they had my best interest. They were easy to get hold of, replies were almost instant. 5/5 for customer service

Posted 3 months ago

Christina P

Caroline was fantastic to work with - extremely knowledgeable, supportive, thorough and honest. I definitely recommend Redmans!

Posted 3 months ago


Very well done and fast support. Professional and reliable. Highly recommended!

Posted 3 months ago

Helene L

They were very knowledgable in the respected area in terms of change in law/regulations that is crucial for the clients who are seeking for legal arvice.

Posted 3 months ago

Sara R

Very helpful and wonderful advice

Posted 3 months ago

Marie D

very good service all digitalised

Posted 3 months ago