Would this be libel?

I’m planning to write a letter of complaint to a service company that I use.  The complaint relates to the actions of one of their sub-contractors.  I’m concerned that the sub-contractor might threaten me with libel, or even sue me.  Could this happen?

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Alasdair Taylor's Answer

This sort of question isn’t really answerable, without a lot more information. To make even an preliminary assessment of the risks, a lawyer would need answers to these questions.

  • What are the nature of the relationships between you, the sub-contractor and the main contractor?
  • What did the sub-contractor do?
  • What evidence do you have to support this?
  • What do you plan to write in the letter?

Clearly, there may be a risk, inasmuch as you are planning to send a critical publication to another person.  To assess whether that criticism carries with it a defamatory imputation, a lawyer would need to see the statement and understand the context in which the statement is being made.  If the statement amounts to a defamatory publication, a defence might be available.  For instance, the defence of “justification” applies where a defamatory statement of fact is true, and can be proven to be true.  Similarly, the defence of “fair comment” may apply to a reasonably opinion based on facts that are true.

There is also, of course, the practical question of whether the sub-contractor is the kind of person/organisation that would make this sort of complaint.

In summary, speak to your solicitor.

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