Ex told me all about her abusive father for 10 years, since we have separated they have got back in touch and he now spends time with our daugther.
I have strong concerns as to my daughter’s safety but there is little I can do. I have expressed these concerns in an email and stated that you have told me he is violent and abusive and so i am not happy they she is around him. I do not want my daughter staying in his residence and she should not be left alone with him at any point. My ex has shared this email with her father and i have now recieved a cease and desist order direct from her father claiming libellous and slanderous remarks and that they have caused distress.
This was a private email meant for the recipient’s eyes only and not meant to be shared – and also it is the recipient who told me all about his past and why she had a troubled relationship with him. At no point did I state it was true; I stated that she herself had told me this information and that I had concerns for my daughter’s safety and was simply expressing those concerns and safeguarding my daughter. My ex then shared my solicitors details.
Is this libelous and are any claims really founded?
Alasdair Taylor's Answer
It is difficult to assess the legal position here on such limited information. That said, the following points may prove helpful.
- Assuming that the statements themselves were defamatory, then I’m not aware of any rule of law which means that the publication of those statements to the originator of the statements is not, in itself, a “defamatory publication” for the purpose of the law of defamation.
- However, s1 of the Defamation Act 2013 might be applicable here: “A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant.” You could argue that as the recipient of the letter was the originator of the statement, this publication couldn’t cause serious harm. However, it may be that s1 won’t apply where other publications could cause serious harm (by virtue of the words “is likely to”).
- Insofar as the statements are you make are statement of fact, s2 of the Act may apply: “It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that the imputation conveyed by the statement complained of is substantially true.”
- Insofar as the statements you made are statements of opinion, s 3 of the Act may apply. This protects certain “honest opinions”.
- In any case, the common law defence of qualified privilege might apply.